Home   Bury St Edmunds   News   Article

How Abbeygate Sixth Form is giving a platform to its students

As new students to a sixth form college with structures already polished and passed down, embedded with expectations and traditions, student voice with genuine individuality behind it can be daunting to find, write Katherine Nash and Aaron McIntyre.

This is something both our year groups have found even without the additional uncertainty of how to establish these structures in a brand-new college as students that will set a precedent for Abbeygate’s future.

Something that defines the essence of this college is the opportunity we, as students, have to decide what we want to achieve in our years here and what can be carried on.

Abbeygate Sixth Form College (43997104)
Abbeygate Sixth Form College (43997104)

As far as creative freedoms go, the possibilities for how we want Abbeygate to present student voice were limitless, and freedom we hope can be encouraged throughout the year and indeed for future leadership.

What is always quintessential for leadership is, of course, democracy, and despite our elected roles as president and vice-president of the Student Union, it is important to us both to maintain that sense of collaboration and community for the college to thrive in.

It was obvious from the outset that, in order to navigate a path for students to take in voicing concerns and suggestions, we would need an open space for anyone, no matter what that opinion may be, to feel confident and secure to do that. Where many institutions fall short is the outdated preconception that education should be a one-way-system (not the Covid kind!), for the sheep to follow the shepherd with no room for collaboration. Calls for change through the recent rise in various social movements and political activism have demonstrated the dedication and enthusiasm young people have, not to mention the ability, in wanting to shape a better future.

This year, more than ever, we want to make sure the opportunity for changes within a small community is not dismissed. Regardless of our rural surroundings, giving young people a platform in a community that not only provides the means, but also holds the compassion to listen, allows us to take the same confidence in having a voice to be heard after leaving the security of education.

Shaping the Student Union with designated leaders means actively rejecting any sense of a dictatorial atmosphere and ensuring sub-categories for students to take on roles and causes important to them. We hope that the Union will grow and change depending on the passions of future year groups. For this year, we have taken areas ambassadors and any who have voiced matters important for a collective body and created five subsections of the Union that we hope can embody student opinion. Charity, Social, Environmental, Curricular, and Well-being will be student-led bodies that represent key issues and promote the significance they each have on us as young people.

As part of a wider team of students, the Student Union aims to do everything an outdated education system has failed to do: care about the people rather than the statistics. A-levels have never been more demanding and, as such, it comes as no great surprise that mental health issues and isolation is crippling those who simply want to learn and thrive. Through the power of numbers, we aim to have these issues discussed, debated and resolved; nobody should have to suffer alone. Our body may not be the union of old – coal miners in brown coats stood on a picket line, but as they did, we campaign for what is moral, what is just and what is right.

In leadership we will be setting up roles that build conviction, responsibility and represent what Abbeygate truthfully means to students.

Having a college built with the foundations of inclusivity, community morals and an honest presentation of how students want their environment to be considered, whether critical or supportive, we will be reflecting Abbeygate’s core values.

- Katherine Nash and Aaron McIntyre form the new Student Leadership Team – Aaron is president and Katherine is vice-president.

Katherine is in Year 13 and studies A-levels in Drama and Theatre Studies, English Literature and History. Aaron is in Year 12 and is studying A levels in Economics, Government and Politics, French and Maths.

Read more: News from around Suffolk

Read more: Opinion

Read more: Education news