By Justine McNaught-Conroy
Context specific: distinctive schools (Classroom First Strategy 2007) clearly states the expectation of secondary and primary schools to develop collegiate partnerships. It is expected that ‘our secondary schools work cooperatively with their cluster of feeder primary schools so students in a local community have a seamless transition from the beginning of their primary schooling to the end of their secondary schooling.’ This is a challenge that Clarkson Community High School has always been committed to, however in preparing for the dual intake of Year 7 and 8 students in 2015 to our school, we are obliged to ensure that these students and their families are welcomed in to a supportive and caring learning community. It is fundamentally important that students are invited by our school to flourish and lead happy and fulfilled lives.
Learning at Clarkson is a journey that gives students’ lives meaning, greater well-being and opportunities to develop as young adults. A key part of that journey is Invitational Education: a practice to create, maintain and enhance human environments that invite people to realise their potential (Purkey 2008). Invitational Education centres on improving students’ self-concept and has a focus on CARE (Consideration and Respect for Everyone) and creating an inviting school that engages students in learning and positive behaviours and skills that become character strengths.
CARE, linked to the CCHS positive behaviour support plan, underpins every aspect of the school and is the foundation for building strong relationships that are founded on trust, respect and responsibility. Clarkson is at the centre of a thriving community and the school’s participation in the community enriches all learning opportunities. We embrace the concept of the school as a community resource by encouraging community use of school facilities and encouraging community access to school facilities. Mentoring and volunteer programs enhance student-teacher relationships and community links and the school has a very successful State Emergency Services Cadet Corps and a Bush Rangers Unit coordinated by members of the local community. There is particular value in the relationship between the school and senior members of the community through our students’ association with local retirement villages.
At Clarkson we encourage students to enjoy and value learning through developing understandings and skills to fulfil their potential and contribute confidently to the development of society. We aim to widen horizons by presenting curriculum that prepares students for life. The curriculum reflects our desire for students to become responsible and flexible thinkers and we are dedicated to the provision of a caring and friendly learning environment. Clarkson is committed to evidence-based teaching and learning and there is constant evaluation of curriculum and lessons to create improvements in curriculum and teaching programs.
Clarkson awards include Top Public School awards, a Prime Minister’s award for ‘The Shed’ vocational program and many Vocational Excellence awards and West Scheme Vocational and Training awards. Clarkson has strong links with West Coast Institute of Training, Edith Cowan University and a broad range of employers who provide structured-workplace learning opportunities. The school has a high level of technology with Apple computers across the school and an industry-standard commercial cooking centre. Trades North training institution is co-located on the school site, providing $26 million of outstanding facilities and trades training. School sporting activities have been recognised in State championships and in recent years Clarkson was a finalist in the Swan Excellence in Education Awards for inclusive practices and professional learning.
Opening in 1996, Clarkson Community High School (CCHS) provides a comprehensive education (Years 8 – 12) for students in the north-western suburbs of Perth, including Clarkson, Somerly, Ridgewood, Merriwa and Quinns Rocks. The school has approximately 600 students. In 2015, students will enter Year 7 and 8 from three partner primary schools including :
Clarkson Primary School
Merriwa Primary School
Somerly Primary School
Competition for students in the area is high with a number of low fee private schools in close proximity to the school, however increasingly CCHS is becoming a school of choice for families both in and outside the geographical boundary with students wishing to access the extensive resources and programs on offer.
Preparing for 2015 twin-cohort transition
Although the transition from primary school to high school can be a very exciting time for some students, for others it can be a time of great anxiety and stress. Herlihy (2007) states that it is ‘a time when they move from often smaller and more supportive schools to larger high schools, where the academic and social demands are higher.’ Clarkson Community High School has historically been committed to building strong partnerships with local primary schools and parents to support students in their transition to high school. In 2010, a position paper was written as a contribution to the CCHS Learning Journey, charting eight recommendations as outlined below to improve primary to secondary transition.
Since the publication of that document, staff at CCHS have worked steadfastly to create a plan for transition linked to Invitational Education, ensuring that every aspect of the school is investigated and adapted to ensure that students are encouraged to engage and be active participants in their learning. Clarkson is several years into this process and gaining the benefits from improved student engagement. Using a data-systems-practice approach, the 5 Ps of Invitational Education, People, Places, Processes, Programs and Policies have been examined by a team of people to ensure an invitational learning environment.
1. Develop relationships with partner primary schools and the local community
Progress to date -
- • Ongoing Clarkson cluster transition meetings have been held at CCHS with administrators from partner primary schools since 2010
- • Parent forum sessions run with primary school parents to collect information regarding their concerns about primary to secondary transition
- • Development of Transition 2015 information brochure to address primary student and parent frequently asked questions
- • 1st National Aboriginal Community Partnership was developed involving students, families and staff from CCHS, CPS, MPS and MESC
- • Breakfast club run in collaboration with volunteers from local retirement villages
- • Establishment of partnership with Joondalup Police Academy to allow for the development of a WAPOL career pathway for CCHS students and improved relationships
2. Allowing primary school students the opportunity to experience high school
Progress to date -
- • Clarkson Challenge academic competition (2010 – 2014)
- • Science extension allowing access to laboratories for primary students (2011 – 2014)
- • Maths extension for GATE students (2012-2014)
- • Orientation Day – separate days planned for Year 7 and 8 in 2014
- • School Production matinee performances (2010 – 2014)
- • English speech competition (2014)
3. Use ICT to improve transition
Progress to date -
- • Provision of MacBook for all students at no charge, including Year 7 students in 2014
- • Development of a positive CCHS social media presence to allow for the promotion of Clarkson as a school of choice in the community
- • Introduction of 3D design and printer technology to primary GATE students
4. Increase opportunities for peer support and mentoring by older students
Progress to date –
- • Upper school students attending lower school reward excursions to act as mentors to their younger peers.
- • Year 10 students mentoring primary school teams involved with the Clarkson Challenge
- • Coaching of primary school students by secondary students for sporting events linked to Certificate II Sports and Recreation competencies
- • Introduction of vertical form for the student council leaders from Years 7-12 (2013-2014)
- • Formalization of student council meeting processors and development of student leadership program
5. Develop CLIPS and Professional Learning Communities that build on best practice and improve curriculum delivery
Progress to date –
- • Diagnostic testing of incoming students in Term 1 since 2011 allowing for development of IEPs, GEPs
- • Best performance data analysis of NAPLAN Year 7 data since 2011
- • Backwards and forwards mapping of Australian Curriculum with primary school teachers, Years 5-12
- • Development of de-privatised practice model based on Instructional Rounds implemented across the school
6. Establish CCHS as a professional learning HUB for partner primary schools
Progress to date –
- • Clarkson Cluster transition conference at Clarkson CHS on July 21st 2014 involving 200 staff from CCHS, MPS, SPS and CPS
- • CMS Foundation program involvement from four partner primary schools since 2010
- • CMS Conferencing from CAT trained staff at two partner primary schools since 2010
- • Professional learning at CCHS opened up to partner primary schools including Restorative practice, Autism, ADHD and Self-harm
7. Promote pro-social behaviours based on the ethos of CARE to encourage positive relationships and conflict resolution skills.
Progress to date –
- • Development of PBS plan and establishment of behaviour matrix linked to CARE ethos (2010-2014)
- • Shared PBS professional learning with primary schools allowing for sharing of best practice and alignment of positive behaviour expectations (2013-2014)
- • Restorative practice training to all staff and students (2011-2012). Parent workshops also provided in 2011.
- • Ongoing analysis of bullying intervention data showing positive outcomes
- • Design and construction of Year 7 nature playground in 2014 for 2015
- • Additional chaplain employed in 2014 to support primary school students in their 2015 high school transition
8. Promote regular attendance
Progress to date -
- • Home visits by chaplains of primary school students who are late to enrol at high school
- • Collection of primary school student contact information to allow Clarkson staff to make contact with students and families prior to starting high school
- • Individual plans developed in collaboration with parents
- • SAER plans developed for incoming Year 7 and 8 students in collaboration with primary school staff
- • Collaboration with primary schools for incoming Year 7 and 8 students with previous history of non-attendance
- • Establishment of good-standing program to promote high levels of attendance linked to the Clarkson reward program
- • Establishment of online VIVO reward program
- • Establishment of automated SMS attendance information system
In conclusion, the transition to high school from primary school offers both challenges and opportunities to students. The support that we as a school provide these students in this transition can have a major impact on their emotional, academic and social development. Building upon the historically positive relationships that Clarkson Community High School has established with its partner primary schools, we continue to be committed to achieving the vision of a seamless transition from primary to high school.
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