The Student Council
The most innovative feature of James Ruse School democracy is almost certain to be found in the formation and development of the Student Council. James Ruse was one of the first schools to introduce such a body and it has been in constant operation from the school's earliest years.
The Minutes, which have been kept meticulously since the beginning, reveal a history crammed with discussions, disagreements and resolution, but above all with a fellowship of boys striving to serve their school.
The obvious questions asked about a Student Council are "what does it do?", and "do students have any real say?". The role of the Council at James Ruse is summed up in the words of the Headmaster: "Because of its nature it must be a recommending body. Usually things are thrashed out in Council and 90 plus per cent of the recommendations put are adopted. Much of the progress of the school has been through suggestions of the Council. We try to give students the opportunity of having their say in the organisation of the school so that they will feel that they are in part, deter- mining the policy of the school."
Many of the physical attributes of the school which now go unheeded are a direct result of an impetus which originally came from a Council Meeting. The range and extent of these can only be realised if one peruses the Minutes of the meetings which now run to several volumes. It is impossible to cover the discussion and work of twenty years in a review article of this nature. Matters large and small are recorded there in all their detail of discussion, some extending over many meetings. But always there is a definite conclusion, usually in the form of a recommendation followed by a later report from the Headmaster that the change has been effected. In the Minutes we can see recorded for discussion such items as buses for sport or a problem with pens, a new farm shed, or the repair of a power point, new tennis courts, or a new heifer, Romney Marsh sheep, or the problem of bee stings, school uniforms, or the lily pond, a shearing shed, or pencil sharpeners, the building of a rifle range, or a yo-yo problem. These combinations of trivial and major issues all come crowding from the pages of the Council's Minutes, and they show, in fact, not only the definite progress made in long term and immediate matters, but also the point that many students over the years have learned to work together and have seen a need to respect the beliefs and attitudes of others.
The inaugural meeting of the Student Council was held on 12th October, 1960. The first record of the names of students attending the Council Meeting however, is not supplied until the Minutes of August 1961. There were 12 students present out of a membership of 20. Today's Council is well over three times that number, consisting of two representatives from each class, together with senior student executive members and representatives from student bodies who wish to address the Council.
In the early years of the Council, discussions rather than debates seemed to dominate the meetings and naturally enough, the chief concerns were material aspects, vital to a new school lacking so many things. But as the years progressed, a greater emergence of personalities and consequent spirited debating are noticed. From the beginning a sense of freedom and spontaneity is seen as a dominant feature of Council discussions, the only restrictions being that the chair and the Council be properly addressed and that the rights of one's fellows be respected.
The Student Council will continue, its concerns almost certainly as varied as those of the past. One of the most recent recommendations looks forward to the completion of the Assembly Hall for which the Annual Appeal will be used to provide necessary equipment for this new project.
The guiding spirit of enlightened and liberal debate, it is expected, will also continue as a tribute to the Headmaster, Mr. Hoskin, in whose mind the idea of the Council was begun, and under whose careful policy the general progress of its members' education has been fostered. No better tribute can be paid to Mr. Hoskin than the continuance of this spirit which he has so effectively nurtured over the years.
From the 1978 School Magazine.