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Making the jump from primary to secondary school can be tricky at the best of the times, so Rob Duncan is ready to throw the kitchen sink at supporting the year 7s who will join his school next year.
Cranbourne West Secondary year seven students Juan, Lachlan, Angel, Alice and Alexia with principal Rob Duncan.Credit:Jason South
“I think that transitional stage, where a kid’s moving from primary and secondary, it’s always potentially problematic,” said Mr Duncan, principal of Cranbourne West Primary School in Melbourne’s outer south-east.
“There’s a lot more focus on it now because it’s such a jump based on the uncertainty they’ve had in the two years previously.”
Victoria’s 1 million students and school staff have needed resilience and support to cope with six lockdowns, extended periods of remote learning and COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the pandemic.
As term four draws to a close, Tina King of the Australian Principals Federation said the mental health and wellbeing of students would be a priority for schools next year, with particular focus on students who have started primary or secondary school since COVID-19 emerged.
Hampton Primary, a school of 620 students in Melbourne’s bayside, will use its tutoring funding to provide catch-up and extension work. It has also teamed up with another school to appoint a psychologist, a profession in huge demand.
“There’s a massive shortage,” said principal Josh Sheffield. “We know that mental wellbeing is a precursor to academic success.”
Mr Sheffield said year 2s were the cohort of most concern after their disrupted start to school. “We’re initially triaging most of our support to years 2 and 3 because they’ve been our preps and 1s in the past couple of years, and then we’ll filter it down,” he said.
Under an Andrews government program, each state school will receive a minimum $25,000 to fund programs, staff and resources that promote positive mental health, and provide early intervention and targeted support.
Options include bullying prevention and cyber safety programs, Koorie Education Co-ordinators, headspace counselling, Smiling Mind VCE support, animal therapy and arts therapy.
Ms King said the $200 million in funding over four years would help address and validate the trauma experienced by many young Victorians since 2020.
At St Peter’s Primary School in Epping, teachers are briefing each other on the academic, emotional and social characteristics of each student, and will interview each child in the new year to check their status.
The Catholic school in Melbourne’s north will deploy tutors and intervention teachers to help students in maths and literacy, as well as support students in the classroom.
Maths leader Erin Whitbread said schools would be looking to harness the understanding and appreciation of teachers that many parents developed during remote learning.
“I think moving forward that’s something that schools need to think about … [how] parents felt more included in remote learning than ever before, and they valued that, so how we can keep up those strong home partnerships?”
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