Moving to Senior School is one of the most significant times in the growth of our young people. Not only is it a time of incredible physical, social and emotional growth, it is also a time of significant change in their school experience.
Some parents worry whether their child will cope with the increase in the number of subjects, potentially different requirements and expectations of different teachers, managing changes in homework and other deadlines, all while developing and expressing their individuality and autonomy.
It is pleasing to know that most young people adapt quickly to the more immediate changes inherent in a move from Junior to Senior school, such as finding their way around in the school, moving classes and becoming familiar with different routines. Few students would say that they want to go back to how things were in their junior years.
At NAC, we recognise moving from a junior school environment to formal secondary schooling does require special transition strategies. In our P to 12 environment, the benefits of students knowing the orientation of the campus is evident. However, students need to know more than the physical map. They actually need to know where, who, why and when things happen.
“Transition to Senior School is not a point-in-time event. It is an experience that we have been preparing our students for, for many years.”
We see successful transition as the process whereby students are able to seamlessly shift into the Senior School environment while continuing to grow in their learning, developing their confidence and a secure sense of social and emotional wellbeing. Transition to Senior School is not a point-in-time event. It is an experience that we have been preparing our students for, for many years. At NAC we have adopted a “Middle School” philosophy in Years 5 and 6 and the following practices have been implemented to assist our students prepare for the Senior School.
Our students are close to all of the major facilities in the school; our gymnasium, sporting facilities, Multi-Purpose Chapel, STEAM room, Science laboratories and Technology rooms. In addition, our students have spent two years watching and learning from their older peers. I particularly remember one of our College Captains regularly speaking to the younger boys as he moved around the campus. This sort of influence is seen again and again as we foster an environment where our older students look after the younger students.
Our Year 5 and 6 students get to know the teachers that they will meet in the Senior School. Students participate in the subjects of French, Creative and Performing Arts, Technology and Christian Studies. Our Year 5 and 6 students regularly interact with specialist Senior School teachers who are passionate and experienced in dealing with young adolescents. In addition, students participate in specialist STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) lessons, utilising our specialist technology and science facilities.
Two of the major changes in a Senior School environment are student movement to specialist classrooms and having a greater number of teachers. In Years 5 and 6 at NAC we have introduced a special approach to English and Mathematics learning. The main reason for our program is to cater for the specific needs of our students in literacy and numeracy thus preparing them well for the requirements in Senior School. In addition, this program has a secondary benefit of preparing our students for movement between classes and experiencing different teachers.
Students participate in pre-testing of new topics to see which areas individuals know well and specific areas on which they need to focus, in order to improve. Students are then placed into differentiated groups with one of the Year 5 and 6 teachers. Through this approach, students can be extended to work above grade level through our EDGE (Enrichment, Differentiation and Gifted Education) program and it also provides support for those students needing intensive instruction through the Diverse Learning team.
Secondly, through the implementation of this program, our students move from their home class to another Stage 3 classroom to participate in the literacy and numeracy lessons. This allows students to become familiar with the concept of moving to another familiar teacher in our middle school precinct for a short lesson and then return to their main class and teacher to continue their day.
Our students are much more settled in the Senior School as a result of this managed, age-appropriate approach. Our Head of English and Head of Mathematics have been involved in the development of these programs and provide their expert support to our Stage 3 staff. The Senior School Mathematics and English teachers have also commented on the improvement in the knowledge of students as they commence Year 7.
Students participate in Wellbeing Wednesday which is organised along House group lines, mimicking our Homeroom approach in the Senior School. During this time, learning is designed around appropriate topics in order to help our young people grow socially and emotionally. Our students participate in the U R Strong program which specifically deals with the development of supportive friendships through this key time of change.
In Term 4, students in Years 5 and 6 are able to select their sport in the same way that our Senior School students choose their sport. A variety of sports are provided including Tennis, Indoor Sports, and Soccer. This provides our students personal choice as well as the ability to experience sports off-site.
Each year our Year 6 students attend special Senior School events such as Artwars, Leadership selection assemblies and other special meetings.
During Term 3, Year 6 students in House groups meet with the Principal and Executive staff members for a special lunch to discuss what Senior School will be like.
In Term 4, Year 6 students meet with the incoming Year 7 students from the surrounding schools for a special orientation day. On the first day of their incoming year, Year 7 commence with a special program. Year 7 are the only group in the school for this day and they are assisted by their Year 11 Peer Support leaders. The focus of the day is helping our Year 7 students to fit in well and be comfortable with the requirements and structures of the Senior School. These events are designed to create intentional opportunities for positive peer network development. At the start of this article I mentioned the concerns some parents have regarding student movement from a Junior school to a Senior School environment. These transition strategies fit in well with the “Middle School” practices that have been proven to be effective in helping our young people be successful in their move into the Senior School.
Finally, our Building Learning Power approach to learning is applied across the entire school. The expectations of our staff regarding the culture of learning is promoted in every classroom. Our students are taught clearly about the expectations of behaviour both within and outside the classroom making the navigation of the Senior School experience easier to understand and manage.
Parents are welcome to contact our College and discuss our transition approach with our expert teaching staff.