Over my time in education, we have seen a greater emphasis placed on the finishing of one school year and the commencement of the new school year, before the year is actually finished. Confused? The vast majority of secondary schools conduct a period of classes at the end of the school year in preparation for the year ahead. Whether they are called “Up week,” ‘Commencement Program,” or in Galen Catholic College’s case “Headstart,” these programs can go for anywhere under a week to 3 weeks.
Our two-week program gives our students an opportunity to experience a full two- week cycle of their new subjects for the following year. In the early stages of such programs, they were traditionally for just senior school students, but today most secondary schools see all their year levels roll up into the new year. I have been involved in this style of programs since 2004 and I see a number of benefits to the students and the staff.
Firstly, our students have the opportunity to fully engage in learning, at the same time understand the expectations of the course they will be participating in the year ahead. A clear advantage of this is the ability to prepare senior students for their year ahead e.g. such as reading set novels and participating in related activities, but it also allows the staff and students to develop an understanding of expectations so that the new year can get off to a flying start.
Secondly, all students have the opportunity to make sure that their subject choices do directly align to their passions and pathway post school. This opportunity also allows us to modify any selections or pathways, before the full year gets underway. For myself, as a teacher of Vocational Major Numeracy in Year 11 in 2023, I will have the opportunity to meet my students, better understand their learning styles, interests and needs. This will allow myself and the staff I work with create engaging and innovative learning opportunities, aligned the pathways our students hope to move into post-secondary schooling.
A significant advantage of such programs is the ability to transition students into our community before the full school year commences. Whether that be the traditional Year 7 transition activities or participating in a full two-week program from Year 8 to 12, each students has the opportunity to know our college, our traditions and expectations as well as their teachers. The long 6-week angst that can be built up over a Christmas holiday period is lessened and students can enter the new school year knowing where their locker is, where the classrooms are, who their teachers are and have the opportunity to create new and lasting relationships with their peers.
As the year comes to a close, we now have the opportunity to reflect upon our achievements of 2022 and re focus to create goals for 2023. A continued passion and goal from myself will be again to create learning pathways for all students to achieve success based on their gifts and talents. One clear success for Galen in 2022 has been the significant number of senior students accessing apprenticeships and traineeships with local businesses throughout this year including Stamps Electrical, Justin Byrne Plumbing, Trail Master, Webb Cabinets and Jack Amery Construction to name a few. We thank these companies for their ongoing commitment and support.
Interestingly, the North East of Victoria consistently has a high rate of senior students accepting apprentice and traineeships. In 2021 17% of Senior Students received apprenticeships/ traineeships and we anticipate this to be higher for 2022. In 2023 we will continue to explore our learning pathways and review our current curriculum against the feedback we have received from our students, which tells us that they are keen to engage in pathways which are aligned to their skills and talents. Year 8 students of 2023 are the first group to have had the opportunity to explore a larger elective structure and we will continue to develop these pathways as they move through into the senior school.