Starting Well at Girls Grammar

From the Head of Lilley House

It has been a torrid start to 2011 with floods, cyclones and humid weather but hopefully the start of secondary school has been a little breezier for our Year 8s. The sight of new Grammar girls with crisp white shirts, shining shoes and eager faces is always heart- warming and after three weeks that bright exterior may even be matched with a more confident interior. We should not underestimate however, the challenges that our Year Eights face as they embark upon the next phase of their educational journey.

For most students, the transition to secondary school may coincide with their transition into adolescence. Twelve-year-old girls who were once responsible, open and chatty with their parents and accepting of their parent’s values may be turning into awkward, self-conscious teenagers who find their parents and most adults embarrassing to be around. They have to adjust to some profound changes – physical, social, emotional and intellectual – and it’s not surprising that some Year 8s can swing from being restless and hyper-active to being tired and lethargic. Adolescence can also be sharp and sudden for some, rather than gradual, and this can cause students to withdraw from usual activities that would normally keep them engaged and happy. While this might sound rather dreadful, the redeeming qualities are that young adolescents are growing in independence and gaining experience in decision–making. Their peer relationships become important but they are also seeking deeper relationships with adults, developing personal values and beginning to search for meaning in life (Eyers, 1992).

There have been many studies into how young adolescents have coped with the transition from primary to secondary school and it is interesting to note that some of these have clearly pointed to a decrease in academic, personal and interpersonal functioning. Typically, primary schools are quite different places to secondary school. The primary school environment offers a sense of belonging to a human-sized group (something our House system creates for us) and the one group/ one teacher model allows deep familiarity with the student and family. Additionally there is often greater parental involvement in the running of a primary school, which may decrease during secondary school. High school culture can be seen as oriented towards teaching academic subjects and emphasizing the differentiation of students according to achievement. It is generally a higher density environment with multiple teachers and a greater focus on whole group instruction. Something as simple as having to adjust to a higher density environment can be the cause of a Year 8 student’s mood change.

A few studies suggest that entry to secondary school need not be a problematic time and that, in fact, many students enjoy the transition. Here at Brisbane Girls Grammar School, the Heads of House concur that when interviewing Year 7 students heading into Year 8, many say that they are looking forward to the challenges ahead. High school is seen as more important than primary school and the fact that they will be studying multiple subjects with specialised teachers is a source of excitement rather than dread. Some students even go so far as to comment that they found the final year at primary school to be quite boring and are well and truly ready for a bigger, more complex environment.

No doubt Year 8 parents have heard all about their daughters’ ups and downs as they settle into life at Brisbane Girls Grammar School. It is a large campus with numerous stairs and many students feel scared about getting lost and arriving late to class (reading timetables and maps may not be a skill possessed by the average twelve-year-old girl) Dealing with lockers, sorting out text books and coping with public transport are other areas which may cause angst for the newest members of our community. This is all on top of the number one issue for Year 8s which is, of course, making friends.

Rest assured that we have strategies and support systems in place to ease the Year 8s into the School. House Group Teachers, House Prefects and Year 12 buddies are all keenly aware of the issues affecting Year 8s and all Year 8 teachers of a particular class meet as a team at least once a fortnight to discuss the class’s progress. Last but not least, all of the Heads of House are on hand to help with any problem that may arise. Please do not hesitate to discuss any issue, great or small, that is troubling your daughter. Starting high school can be a tricky time not only for students but sometimes for their anxious parents.

Mrs S Edwards


Eyers, V (1992) The Report of the junior Secondary Review, Education Department of South Australia

Ganeson, K (2006) Students’ Lived Experience of Transition into High School: A Phenomenological Study

Geoghegan P, (2007) Give ‘Em LIP Year Seven Induction Programme, Sunbury College, Victoria

Hornery S (2006) Surviving the Transition to High School, Learning Links

Howard S, Johnson B, (2001) Transition from Primary to Secondary School: Possibilities and Paradoxes

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