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Year 7 Transition to Secondary SchoolPosted in Secondary,Wellbeing on Tuesday, 17 March, 2020

High school can be a wonderful time for children to make friends and further develop a love of learning. The transition to Secondary Schooling is a pivotal time which can either set students up for success in the years ahead, or delay their learning if they have trouble adjusting socially, emotionally or to the greater academic pressures. Transition can be further complicated as it comes at a time when students may be experiencing developmental changes as they move into adolescence. As a result, the Transition to Secondary School at Mandurah Catholic College has been developed and honed over many years to ensure a smooth passage for students, with as little disruption as possible.

Year 7 Camp

The Year 7 Camp for 2020 took place at Serpentine Camping Centre between 10 and 14 February. Mrs Reynolds said, “Camp is a crucial part of transition. Even if students are nervous of the camp and being away from their families; If we can get them through that with the students, then they come out at the end of the camp with such a feeling of growth and achievement.”

The girls had a great start to the week coming up to camp for Monday – Wednesday, while the boys bought the energy from Wednesday – Friday. Head of Year 7, Mr Justin Chalwell offered, “The camp was a huge success due to the students wonderful behaviour and participation. A real highlight was the students’ obvious respect for the beautiful environment they were by keeping their dorms and surrounds extremely tidy. The students were able to participate in many activities. Their first activity allowed them to form bonds and friendships with both their peers and staff members while getting into the House Spirit, identifying what the House system is all about as well as creating hands of personal qualities for the year group ‘New Beginnings’ tree.”

The students also enjoyed a great day of activities where they were able to swim in the pool and participate in wall climbing, archery and flying fox as well as watch and be informed by the ‘Birds of Prey’ and ‘Animal Ark – Reptiles’.

Here’s what the student’s had to say:

“Activities were enjoyable, especially the birds and reptiles. Team building activities such as ‘lost pilot’ helped [me] to make new friends. I got to know more people and learn their names. Swimming in the pool was fun”. Grace Anderson

“Being placed in dorms with people I hadn’t met before helped me to make new friends. My dorm mates are now my school friends. Rock climbing helped me develop resilience as my new friend Harvey coached me to making it to the very top. Camp was fun. The swimming pool was the best activity!” Sean Gregory

Mrs Reynolds said, “It has been found, from many years of practice here, that if the transition to Secondary School is done well, with a highly structured and supportive start and attendance to the Camp, then there is little fuss after the transition period and they feel like they are part of the community.”

Transition Strategies

Transition for the Year 7s began late in 2019 when our current Year 7s attended their Orientation Day. The day was well attended by both students, and parents who were present for the Parent Information Session in the afternoon.

Transition for the Year 7s continued over the first half of the term, with students undertaking structured activities, based around College procedures, Values and systems, allowing students to develop support networks including friendships with peers and connections with key members of staff. Mr Chalwell elaborated on the other ways in which the whole structure of the year was transitional for Year 7s. “Classes in Year 7 are structured so that the students are with the same core group of students for their key classes, and in the same classroom, similar to the structure in Primary School. The Year 7s also have a dedicated Block for these core classes, with their lockers situated close by. This allows them to be somewhat sheltered within the Secondary School environment.”

The College introduced a staggered start back in 2012, whereby Years 7 and 12 students started the year a day earlier than the other year levels. This allows students to find their feet on the first day without the overwhelming throng of students finding their way through the College. It also allows teachers and support staff to clearly see when a Year 7 has lost their way or needs extra support. The focus Is on them. Our director of Learning Support is also a huge help in transitioning those students who require learning support.

Deputy Principal of Pastoral Care, Mrs Mary-Anne Reynolds said, “At Mandurah Catholic College, our pastoral care system is like a net; there to catch students who are having issues and gently support them through their challenging time. It is very difficult for someone to fall through that net because there are so many people looking after students, their transition and sense of belonging. From our Education Assistants and teachers in the classroom, to their Heads of House and Homeroom teachers who connect with students each morning, to the Heads of Year who liaise with all departments to see the bigger picture of what is going on with students and looking at patterns of behaviour.”

Maintaining Standards

Now that transition has been successfully undertaken, the next big step for Year 7s is to look to maintain standards set. With the first lot of assessments being undertaking recently and now being handed back to students, it is a time of reflection and practice adjustment. Head of Year 7 Mr Chalwell will be working together with teachers to pick up children who are struggling in class. Mrs Reynolds said, “Our parents know they can contact us if their child is still struggling with any aspect of Secondary Schooling, and they know we will follow through and support their child as best we can. I am very proud of the Pastoral Care system at our College, and I know it is something that we do very well.”

The key aspect for the remainder of the term is moving students’ focus from fitting in and learning the basics towards the Academic aspects of Secondary Schooling. Teaching and support staff will assist with this. For Mr Chalwell, the focus is on developing resilience and independence in students.

After a great start, the confidence is there that students will continue to settle in well, and have the best chance of going on to have a successful Secondary Schooling career.