When it comes to transitioning schools, most families believe the best time to make the move is at an education milestone: Prep, Year 1, Year 7, Year 10. After all, switching schools part-way through primary or secondary is thought to be a stressful experience. However, recognising that Year 5 is a pivotal year for students joining the College, Matthew Flinders Anglican College is turning that belief around, creating a warm and innovative Year 5 transition program that is making the mid-primary switch a refreshingly positive one for families.
“One of our major intakes now is actually Year 5,” says Trudi Edwards, Head of Primary at Matthew Flinders Anglican College. “Students adapt very well at this age. Year 5 students embrace the ‘adventure’ of new offerings, particularly with our co-curricular programs. This attitude often results in our students finding a new talent or interest.”
“Most importantly, students coming to Flinders in Year 5 have the distinct advantage of knowing the Flinders Way, embracing the Flinders Learner Traits and being known and connected, with a strong sense of community, and this enables them to embrace all that the College has to offer before moving to secondary school. Our teaching and learning programs prepare students for secondary school in a very intentional way, so that they can thrive and feel confident in their first year of secondary school and beyond.”
“Also, these two years of learning in the Primary School means our students are growing in a culture of high expectations and one that focuses on developing both positive dispositions for learning and the character traits required to excel in life beyond school. The new routines and expectations of secondary school are easily adopted by our students on the basis of strong friendship and a known culture.”
To provide students with a sense of belonging and connectedness, Flinders introduced a broad range of orientation and transition processes.
“Relationships are key to providing such a platform and we know that learning only occurs once a sense of security is developed. Each new student entering Flinders in Year 5 is welcomed by two students who have elected to be buddies for new students. Our buddies write letters of introduction and welcome, and support our new students on Orientation Day and throughout the first few weeks of the new year to ensure our new students are well taken care of. After meeting their buddies at our Term 4 Orientation Day, many of them organise a catch-up during the Christmas holiday to further build the relationship between the students and their families.”
The Years 5-6 program at Matthew Flinders
The Years 5 and 6 program that Matthew Flinders Anglican College now delivers helps to facilitate a successful Year 5 transition.
“Students in Years 5 and 6 are guided and encouraged to take risks in their learning and accept greater responsibility, so they may enter our Flinders Secondary School with the confidence, skills and knowledge to flourish,” says Trudi. “We encourage students to engage in all aspects of school life and to pursue their personal best in a dynamic, motivating
and ‘adventurous’ environment, where excellence is valued and learning is at the heart of all we do.”
“We are very intentional about transitioning our Year 6 students to Year 7 with visits to our beautiful, newly refurbished Year 7 Precinct to meet both teachers and students, informal lunch gatherings with current Year 7 students and the use of some of our Secondary facilities, including the Science Labs. This proves to assist our Year 6 students with becoming familiar with both the facilities in our Secondary School and also the staff there. A number of our Year 6 and Year 7 students are also in the same sporting teams at a Club, Regional, District and State level and this, too, assists them in feeling known when they move to Secondary School at Flinders.”
Treating Years 5 and 6 as their own ‘Senior Primary School’ extends the number of facilities that the students enjoy, which is all part of the Flinders Masterplan.
“Our strategic and master building plan provides for our students today, but also well into the future,” explains Trudi. “Those joining our school in 2021 will be the beneficiaries of two very exciting new Flinders Masterplan projects in the Primary School – our new Years 5 and 6 Precinct opening in 2021, along with a newly refurbished library.”
The Years 5 and 6 Precinct provides Flinders’ Senior Primary students with a modern and inspiring space to learn and to gather, with flexible furnishing, a digital zone, and breakout spaces that leverage the natural environment—aptly called ‘tree-houses’—where students can sit amongst the tree tops.
“The new Years 5 and 6 Precinct is vibrant, high energy and about ‘the head’,” says Trudi. “To provide students with a genuinely agile learning environment, the space will feature a large year-level gathering space on each floor, homerooms for classes and a full range of richly integrated technology, including iPads, drones, multi-level display capabilities, shared laptops and smart TVs, to complement our one-to-one iPad program.”
Also part of the Flinders Masterplan, the newly refurbished Library will be a place to engage ‘the heart’ as much as the head and aims to provide a sense of awe, connection and inspiration.
“Called the Wonderarium, the refurbished library will be a place for students, staff and parents; a space that draws people from the operational aspects of school to the inspirational – a place of wonder!” explains Trudi. “It’s a space which connects with the natural environment and welcomes students to explore more than just books. A place where creativity and literature are at our core.”
What the families say
With the support of the transition program, the Everson family moved their three children to Matthew Flinders Anglican College at the start of the 2019 school year, joining Years 2, 5 and 7.
“It was a very clean integration and all three kids responded really well to the change,” says their dad, Dan Emerson.
“What’s been really impressive has been the positive shift in Hugo, our Year 5 boy,” Dan continues. “Where he was struggling in some areas at his previous school, he is absolutely thriving now.”
Dan believes that this is because the College looked at each child as an individual and encouraged and inspired them differently.
“I think one of the things about the school is that they genuinely understand each child,” Dan says. “All three of my kids are different types of learners. The school profiled each child very specifically, finding where each of their interests are and knowing how best to encourage, whilst also finding a way to work on their weaknesses.”
“The buddy system worked really well too. But in the bigger picture, I think the success has been due to the overall culture at the school,’ says Dan. “Their culture is a college culture. They encourage a child’s curiosity; they instil in the students that learning is a challenge, an opportunity, and that there is potential in everyone. This culture makes joining the College really refreshing, as the students are all incredibly positive about school life.”
What the Year 5 kids say
What most concerned you about starting at a new school?
Lachie: I was most concerned that I only knew a few people in my year level. Knowing those few people, though, really helped me settle in and enjoy the transition.
Chelsea: When I first started at Flinders, I was most concerned about not being able to make new friends.
Lucy: The thing that most concerned me was not being able to catch up academically because I had been taught in a different way at my old school.
What has been the best thing about joining Flinders?
Lachie: The best thing about joining the Flinders community was having the chance to make lifelong friends. I have made heaps of new friends and we play together every day. Chelsea: The best thing about joining Flinders is that it has a lot of sport. I love to play games and to have fun with my friends doing Health & Physical Education.
Lucy: The best thing about joining Flinders is all the different co-curricular opportunities. Flinders has given me the chance to try things I couldn’t at my previous school, like debating, Opti-minds and more.
What is your advice to other students who may be worried about starting a new school?
Lachie: Find people you want to play with. You meet a buddy who may help you to settle in and then you can make new friends too.
Chelsea: Do not change yourself for other students to like you. You will be liked as you are a good person.
Lucy: Moving mid-way through primary school isn’t as scary as it seems. Teachers and students are willing to help you to achieve your goals. Just be honest and be yourself.