Connecting schools, key to school transition


​St Benedict’s Year 6 students Xavier Fanti and Ava Clarry learn first-hand about laser cutting using the College’s specialist woodwork equipment as part of the schools’ Primary to Secondary Pathways program.

Brisbane Catholic Education primary and secondary schools are working in partnership to navigate school transition and provide a seamless Catholic education pathway from prep to year 12.

St Benedict's Primary School and St Benedict's College at Mango Hill have two separate school campuses, but when it comes to providing students with the best education outcomes possible, the schools work hand in hand to share their expertise, teaching and specialist learning resources.

St Benedict's Primary School Principal Patrick Davis said around 85% of students from the primary school transition to Year 7 at St Benedict's College next-door because of the successful school's Primary to Secondary Pathways program run by the College.

“The program helps the primary students get a feel for their new learning environment and the new teachers they will encounter at the College," he said. “It ensures that everyone is certainly less anxious about the big change ahead."

When Xavier Fanti tasted a day of college life participating in a number of dance, woodwork, cooking, visual arts and Mandarin language workshops at the College's orientation day recently, he certainly felt more comfortable.

“I'm not as nervous anymore," he said. “All the College teachers were very welcoming, and I feel very supported."

The Year 6 student from St Benedict's Primary School said he was now excited about starting high school and was amazed by all the different curricular and elective activities on offer having had the opportunity to experience a transition day, which is one of the final steps of the Catholic education school pathways program.

Over the last seven years, more than 550 primary school students have taken part in the program, which was designed to assist and improve student achievement outcomes in early secondary years to ensure success in high school.

"It's a very solid, well-organised curriculum program, not just an orientation program," says Claire McLaren, Principal at St Benedict's College.

"The purpose is to bridge the gap between primary and secondary learning - not just ease that transition."

Ms McLaren says that the program is about enhancing understanding of a P-12 curriculum to allow teaching and learning to be “the best it can be".

“Good quality teachers have an understanding about where their students' level of learning is at, and how the curriculum can be adjusted to better cater to their learning needs and achieve academic success."

Ms McLaren who initiated the program with the College executive meets with them every year to strategically plan and consolidate the transition program and focus on explicit teaching within the prep-12 context.

“These opportunities allow us to bring specialised knowledge to the table and look at where there are gaps or overlaps, and determine what skills need to be developed to help primary students with their transition into secondary school," she said.

“There is regular collaboration with the primary school and information data gathering with our College's Learning Enhancement team. This may involve observations, discussions with classroom and support teachers, sharing of information, and identifying any additional learning needs."

The program allows the two schools to share knowledge and expertise and gives the primary students a chance to experience specialist resources and facilities.

Benjamin Sitarz, the College's Year 8 Pastoral Leader who is also involved in the program, says the College offers several events over two years, including meet and greets, information sessions about pastoral care, guidance counselling, and curriculum and learning opportunities, to make sure that all incoming students get off to a good start early in their secondary school years.

“It helps reduce their anxiety as they become familiar with the College's routines and structures, giving them a sense of security," Mr Sitarz said.

On orientation day, primary students are greeted by friendly staff, provided with information about after-school activities and clubs, receive a timetable for the day and are ushered by their allocated senior peer mentors to their first workshop. The group activities can include cooking in the College's commercial kitchen or testing acids and alkali substances in the science laboratories or making laser cut bag name tags using state-of-the-art woodwork tools and equipment.  

​The students in Year 6 who return in Year 7 are mentored and welcomed by the same senior student on the day before their first day of high school in the following year.

Mr Sitarz says that senior College students are chosen to be mentors as they are able to show the leadership opportunities available to the younger students.  

"It also gives the primary students intellectual peers and gives the College students a chance to develop their leadership skills," he said.

“It builds a sequence of learning opportunities and creates new connections.

“The positive feedback we receive from families about how we support each student individually during this period of transition is a real testimony to the success of the program."

Across Brisbane all students enrolled in Catholic primary schools can transition to Catholic secondary systemic colleges, providing lasting friendships and a sense of community through a continuous Catholic education pathway. 

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