Wednesday, 22 January 2014

An "extra year" of high school

is being proposed by the Opposition in the lead up to the state election in March.
The idea is bound to be debated at length but it should just happen.
We are out of kilter with the rest of the country - and a good deal of the rest of the world.
It has taken a while but Western Australia and Queensland finally joined the other states and have ended the "primary school" years at year six. We continue on to year seven.
Having "skipped" a year of school - what else did you do with a kitten who could read before it started school? - I was always much younger than everyone else. Nobody bothered too much back then about "extension" programmes. They just bumped you up a year. I was not the only one. There were three other children who moved up a year with me. Were we in the genius class? No, definitely not. It was just a way of handling what was seen as a problem.
I went on being a problem I suppose. School often bored me. There was not enough going on. I suspect there were other children who felt the same way. I was constantly in trouble for "reading under the desk" - even though I would be finished whatever tasks I had been set to do. We were glad to get to high school and be given something a little more challenging.
But there is another problem for children who move here from interstate at the crucial crossover point. Do you send a child who has started secondary school back to primary school so that s/he can be with his/her peer group? It is a dilemma more than one family has faced.
The private (fee-paying) schools in this state tend to end at year six and move the students into secondary school at year seven. This is what happens in the Whirlwind's school. She started French when she started school but other languages start at year seven. That means an extra year of language learning. Science becomes more complex then too.
There is also the advantage of specialist teachers - especially in maths and science. If they happen to be good teachers - and hers have been - then there are further advantages for the students.
I know the Whirlwind, who is a bright and enthusiastic student, looked forward to the move from "juniors" to "seniors". She was ready for it - and so were most of her classmates. There might have been one or two at most who would have benefitted from spending another year largely with one teacher but the rest were definitely ready to move on.
Looking around at the local students I know who will be in year seven this year I think most of them are ready to move on as well. In some ways they are more mature than I was at their age. Possibly I knew more than many of my peers because my father encouraged me to read articles in the paper and would then discuss things with me to ensure I understood - but I did not have the same access to information that many students have now. 
Their access to on-screen information means they know - or should now - a great deal more about the world than I did. They are ready for a much greater variety of learning experiences.
But, if we do make the move to start the senior years at year seven then I believe there is something else we should do. We should offer the option of transferring to another setting for the last two years of the secondary school. Just as England has some sixth form colleges and the Americans have senior high schools we need to consider that some students don't want to be "at school" any more. They are ready for something else. Perhaps it is time to specialise and those aiming for university or other studies can head off in one direction and those aiming for other things - perhaps of a more technical nature - can head off in another.
We used to have technical high schools. They were disbanded in the name of "equality" but perhaps it is time to reconsider them for 16+?
It might just help everyone grow up a bit.


Anonymous said...

Yes, bring back the technical schools ... not everybody is cut out to go to university and there are a multitude of jobs that need doing which require a more hands on approach to learning.

Judy Edmonds said...

Oh, do I know this one. Me, and my daughter. Neither of us mature enough to endure the later years of school socially. She repeated a school year, I repeated a university year. It mattered in the end. During primary school? We would have killed people if we had had to put up with the 'dumb ones'!!!