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News > School News > An insight into the Bishops SRF

An insight into the Bishops SRF

Nikolaos Augoustatos (2023K) explains how the Bishops Student Representative Forum operates and shares details about their activities over the past year.
23 Feb 2024
School News
Chairman of the SRF for 2023 Nikolaos Augoustatos (2023K)
Chairman of the SRF for 2023 Nikolaos Augoustatos (2023K)

A second to none leadership opportunity, that Bishops is at the forefront of.

Leadership has consistently been a fundamental element of the culture instilled by Bishops, extending from the preparatory stage through to college. Drawing from my 13-year experience at Bishops, I can attest to this aspect. It is evident that Bishops aims to cultivate leadership skills in all its students, regardless of their pursuits. The Student Representative Forum (SRF) stands out as a particularly noteworthy facet of the leadership opportunities offered by Bishops. I hope to provide some insight into the recent dynamic year of the Bishops SRF and my role as Chairman.

Firstly some history, the inception of the Bishops College Student Representative Forum (SRF) dates back to 1999, emerging from a comprehensive restructuring of the leadership system that was previously based on prefects. The current Student Leadership Executive comprises the three Head Boys, along with the Chairman of the SRF. This group convenes on a weekly basis with the Headmaster and the Deputy Headmaster. The role of the SRF Chairman, albeit less familiar, holds significance, and I aim to shed light on this position through this article.

The Bishops' Student Leadership system closely resembles the democratic structures found in many countries. It consists of an executive branch, led by the Head and Deputy-Head Boys, complemented by a legislative branch in the form of the SRF. Additionally, there are devolved leaders in the form of Heads and Deputies of Houses. In his role, the SRF Chairman collaborates closely with the headmaster and the Head Boys. Conducting and presiding over SRF meetings. The Chairman is assisted by a Secretary (a grade 10 member) who plays an important administrative role. A very positive aspect is that this boy is always in grade 10, which incentivises boys to be in leadership roles before they get to matric or grade 11. The Chairman is also able to represent the SRF at other meetings or events.

The SRF in session

The SRF in session

 Chairman, Nikolaos Augoustatos (2023K) and Secretary, Chis Du Toit (Grade 11)

The SRF is made up of 42 boys

The SRF comprises of a boy from each house from grades 9-12, including the Heads of House and the four executives. This ensures that the SRF channels a wide range of opinions from juniors and seniors and boarders and dayboys. The SRF's role involves debating, voting, and deciding on proposals put forth by members. These proposals, covering a range of topics such as reinforcing existing rules like mandatory sports participation or attendance at first team fixtures, are then submitted to the headmaster for approval or rejection. The Executive holds the unequivocal authority in this regard. In 2023, the SRF deliberated on 28 proposals, approving 21 of them, addressing issues related to discipline, appearance standards, and the election process for the Head Boy.

The SRF also worked closely, for the first time, with the Prep Student Council of 10 Grade 7 boys. The Prep boys were invited for a lunch at the College with Senior Members of the SRF followed by the Prep boys attending a College SRF Meeting. The College passed a proposal to continue this practice annually as well as work more closely with the Prep in future.

The Prep Student Council for 2023

 Signing of the Prep/College Relationship Proposal with Prep Chairman James Gray

 Signing of the Prep/College Relationship Proposal with Prep Chairman James Gray

Through my position at Bishops I was extremely lucky to have met some truly interesting and inspiring people along the way. Bishops is frequented by public figures often via invitation of its societies. We are also invited from time to time to exclusive events, particularly our close relationship with the FW De Klerk Foundation, which aims to foster youth involvement as well as literacy when it comes to the constitution and politics. It is as a result of Bishops' distinguished reputation that we are invited to these events and so me and others have been able to meet some truly remarkable people, who we often invite to come and speak to the boys on campus.

Member of Parliament, Mr Brett Herron

The Mayor, Mr Geordin Hill-Lewis with Principal Tony Reeler following his address at the Memorial Theatre

Professor Thuli Madonsela, Former Public Protector

Mr Moeletsi Mbeki, commentator and brother of Former President Thabo Mbeki

Entrepreneur and Michaelhouse Old Boy, Mr Rob Hersov, following his address in the Memorial Theatre

There is a great need for and importance of forums like these within schools, so long as they know their place. The Bishops SRF has achieved a healthy understanding and balance for advising, suggesting and sometimes challenging, however not interfering or disrupting. The SRF is the recognised link between the boys and the Bishops Executive that's main purpose is to contribute to Bishops in a respectful and positive manner. Its legitimacy is integral as it is the only body that can give the official seal of approval or disapproval from the boys themselves.

Mr Peter Westwood, former Deputy Principal, oversaw the SRF from its establishment until 2023. And so in his honour, the Westwood Gavel was built by Mr Walsh. This ceremonial gavel is to be handed from Chairman to Chairman and to be used in SRF meetings mirroring the use of gavels in many national parliaments.

Mr Peter Westwood served the SRF diligently for over twenty years

Mr Peter Westwood speaking to the boys

SRF meetings are formal where boys are encouraged to wear their maroon and gold striped SRF ties. Boys sit in a half-moon parliamentary shape and do not interrupt or speak out of turn. This is very beneficial as it mirrors parliamentary behaviour, which our own National Assembly has not exactly always achieved. The SRF has a modern new website as of 2023, whereby all boys at Bishops are able to access records of meetings, proposals as well as voting records of their representatives. A student is able to almost fully experience the role of a representative politician, by representing his grade from his house at the SRF.

Perhaps by exposing boys to these systems from a young age, Bishops can incentivise more interest in politics in its students when they leave school. It is clear how in need South Africa is of politicians.

To conclude, the SRF is a strong and necessary opportunity for leadership at Bishops. It was an enormous honour to serve as Chairman for 2023, and I wish my successor Caden Chuang all of the best in his endeavours to come.

The Westwood Gavel handover ceremony following the election of the incoming Chairman for 2024, Caden Chuang (2024M)

Watch this video for more insights into the SRF.

Article written by Nikolaos Augoustatos (2023K)

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