Published on April 8, 2020
You may have seen recent articles in the media attesting to the growing number of families who are choosing to change to independent schools in Year 5. The Sydney Morning Herald (22 February 2020) states that Year 5 enrolment has grown by almost 14%, and the trend shows that these figures are increasing.
Changing schools in Year 5 can happen for a variety of reasons. Often, a change in family circumstances prompts the change, or dissatisfaction with the current school, or for parents choosing independent schooling in a K – 12 environment, strong enrolment demand for Year 7 warrants much earlier consideration to guarantee a high school place.
Naturally, the decision to change schools can feel worrying for parents. Some may wonder how their child will cope academically. Others may feel concerned about the social implications – will they make friends easily and will we fit in? Many will be driven by the fear of missing out on a Year 7 place at their preferred school. This is a valid consideration; in fact, Hunter Valley Grammar School continues to experience strong enrolment demand for high school places – sometimes years in advance!
But when considering an independent school for Year 7, there are several benefits in moving earlier in Year 5, other than that of a guaranteed high school place.
Shaping the formative years
Burgeoning adolescence is an exciting and challenging time for many families. The move from the certainty of the primary classroom to the complexities of high school (not to mention all the developmental changes!) requires a caring and responsive approach. This is often a significant consideration for parents when choosing a high school, and for many, the culture of a school drives their schooling preference for this reason.
The primary years are formative and transitioning children into Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6) at their preferred school means that the positive effects of that school’s culture are felt at a very impactful time in a child’s life.
Children who change schools earlier are surrounded by other students who have also benefited from a positive school culture for a sustained period; so strong cultural alignment with their peer group already exists before they transition to the tricky high school years.
A Sense of Connectedness
It makes sense that changing schools presents concerns for a family around a child’s sense of connectedness and community. Feeling connected, and part of something bigger than themselves, is very positive for a child’s development and sense of self.
When kids feel safe and connected, they are more likely to have a go at learning something they find tricky, to try a new sport or to make a new friend, for example.
The transition to Year 5 can be less intimidating than the transition to Year 7 – with a larger cohort of new people to meet and connect with. Transitioning earlier can assist children in finding their niche group of friends as they move into high school together.
Year 5 Academics
Stage 3 academics lay the foundation for high school. Students who have specific learning requirements can benefit from being in an environment that already understands their unique learning needs before they start high school. For confident learners, increased opportunities found in a rich co-curricular program (like that at HVGS) or a challenging and engaging upper primary curriculum, helps keep them switched on to learning during a time when some may disengage in the classroom.
Furthermore, many independent schools adopt a learning framework (like the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme) which is often very explicit on who the learner is to be, what their disposition to learning should be like, and what skills make a successful learner at that school. When a student joins in Year 5, they understand that approach, so they hit the ground running when Year 7 arrives.
Familiarity with the broader school campus, school expectations and senior teachers also facilitate a less daunting and smoother transition to Year 7.
Year 5 Friendships
No two children are the same, and every child has different skills and strategies in making and keeping positive friendships. In general, children at around 11 or 12 years of age are still quite open and flexible in their friendships, making friends quite easily.
Being the “new kid” can also bring an air of excitement and mystique, making the challenge of making new friends a little easier for a child ready to give that a go.
Without a doubt, school friends are important. A school that accepts new students into Year 5 should have programs in place which assists them to build positive friendships and peer relationships, supported by staff willing to go out of their way to help and care for a new child.
Parents should feel confident in inquiring about wellbeing programs that support social and emotional learning – like the Friendly Schools Plus Program or the Better Buddies Framework run at Hunter Valley Grammar School. This may help ease parental concern over children’s ability to build new friendship groups.
Hunter Valley Grammar School has limited places available in Year 5 2021. Due to strong enrolment demand for Year 7 places, we’d encourage parents considering Year 7 for 2023 to contact our Director of Enrolments to discuss a place in Year 5.