St Mary’s principal John O’Connor with seven-year-old Travis Sage, who could be starting high school in four years instead of five.
St Mary’s principal John O’Connor with seven-year-old Travis Sage, who could be starting high school in four years instead of five.

Is aged 12 too young for high school?

HE has a vested interest as both a father and an educator, but John O’Connor believes there are some practical hurdles to be jumped before Warwick’s Year 7 classes can be shifted to high school.

The St Mary’s Primary School principal was speaking out after this week’s open forum at Warwick High School discussing an Education Queensland proposal to integrate Year 7 students into high school from 2014.

The debate comes in the wake of a Federal Government move to nationalise the education system.

The move would bring Queensland in line with several other Australian states and territories where secondary school starts in Year 7.

While Mr O’Connor welcomed discussion on the topic he said serious consideration needed to be given to the “bricks and mortar” impact the proposal could have on Warwick.

“I have concerns about the infrastructure required if this is to happen; do we have the space at local secondary schools for a significant enrolment increase?” he asked.

“I think we also need to look at the staffing components of a major change like this.”

The Warwick educator’s other major concern is the age of students entering the secondary school system.

“If this proposal goes ahead some students will enter high school as 11-year-olds, which is a concern,” Mr O’Connor said.

He raises the point from a father’s perspective: his eldest daughter will be one of the first to start secondary school as a Year 7 student.

“My eldest daughter would turn 12 in the January she starts high school so I think she would cope,” Mr O’Connor said.

“But my second child would start as an 11-year-old, which I think could be challenging.”

Warwick State High School (WSHS) Parents and Citizens Association member Leon Bruggemann is also a parent concerned about the proposal.

His concerns are primarily practical: “Where would the high school fit a whole another class of year sevens?”

The father and local businessman said WSHS was at capacity with expansion limited because of the school’s geographic location.

“WSHS has been a great school for my sons, both have gone onto study at university after receiving a very good education through the State system,” Mr Bruggemann said.

“But what concerns me is infrastructure limitations, just how would the education system do it.”

He also queries whether younger students would cope with the independent study and learning demands of secondary education.

“I am sure some children would adjust okay, but the step from primary to secondary school is huge and I think the older students are, often better and more maturely they deal with it,” Mr Bruggemann said.

However, the move towards a national curriculum was one he supported wholeheartedly.

“We live in a transient nation and I think it makes sense to have a standardised education system so families can move from state to state without children’s education being compromised,” he said.

Jackie Robertson from Southern Downs Industry Education Association had similar concerns about infrastructure limitations and age-based maturity.

“WSHS does not have room for another cohort of students; so before we can truly consider this proposal Education Queensland has to provide the practical infrastructure,” she said.

“We also have to weigh up whether the majority of year seven students will be able to cope with secondary school.”

The proposal opponents supported Mr O’Connor’s call for more debate about the topic and in-school trials to ensure a smooth transition.



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