Perth teachers and students say this year’s inaugural introduction of Year 7s to high school across Western Australia has been quite the challenge.
Planning for the transition started almost four years ago, and Principal of Mount Lawley Senior High School Milton Butcher was part of a Department of Education team that administered the change.
“It was jut a massive project that had an impact on virtually every part of the education program and virtually every school in Western Australia” Mr Butcher says.
He explains that the decision to move Year 7s into high school was based mainly on the new Year 7 curriculum, which required Year 7s to have access to specialist teachers and resources in secondary schools.
However, State Teachers Union of WA case manager Jacqui Macliver says that lost among “getting through the curriculum” was the welfare of the Year 7 students.
Mrs Macliver says that as 2015 has progressed there is a common story being fed back – that Year 7s are not “physiologically or emotionally ready” for high school.
She says that the current Year 7s missed out on being “top of the school” and having crucial “leadership roles” that help them mature. She adds that this year’s Year 7s have a lack of critical “social and emotional preparation”.
Mrs MacIver says the 2015 Year 7s have entered high school unprepared, and are not adjusting.
“There’s real behavioral management issues with them” she says.
“A lot of them are very disengaged and that’s a real concern because if they’ve disengaged at Year 7 there’s going to be major problems for them by the time they’ve got up to Year 12.”
Year 7 student at John Forrest Secondary College in Morley, Kelly Lin, says she would have preferred the extra year in primary school to prepare socially and academically.
“There’s too much [academic] pressure,” Kelly says.
Cher Blight, whose daughter is in Year 7 at Mount Lawley Senior High School, was adamant that Year 7s are just “not prepared” for high school.
“I was really concerned,” she says.
“I still am because I’ve got my son going into high school next year.”
Despite this, Ms Blight says she is impressed by the middle school model employed at Mount Lawley as a transition specifically for Year 7s and 8s.
Sharlene Barlow, a Year 7 student at Mount Lawley Senior High School, agrees the middle school offers a “really nice” and “positive” community, and that she is “very happy” there.
But for schools without this model, the socialisation and integration of the Year 7s was a key concern that led to significant changes in some schools such as John Forrest Secondary College and Morley’s Hampton Senior High School.
John Forrest Secondary College principal Judy Salisbury explains that for first term the school had slightly different period changes so Year 7s could get used to moving around the school. The school also has a Year 7 councillor and new Year 7 and 8 deputy principal.
Steve Beaton, Principal of Hampton Senior High School, says his school adopted a structure that would “broker a deal” between primary school and high school, where the Year 7s had their four main subjects taught by two main teachers.
Mr Beaton also says a new outdoor Year 7 outdoor area was built.
He says there is a “false divide” between primary schools and high school that should be resolved, to help not just the Year 7s but all students.
“I think to try and eradicate that boundary between primary and secondary, if we could be tracking the kids’ performance from kindergarten right the way through that would be pretty positive in terms of moving them on academically and socially” he says.
Another vital issue all schools faced was accommodating the Year 7s.
Of 151 schools, only 29, including Mount Lawley Senior High School but not Hampton Senior High School or John Forrest Secondary College, received funding.