'Culture shock': Report on transition to high school

At Homebush West Public School, students have their own timetables, they move classrooms for different subjects with different teachers and can choose where they do some parts of their school work throughout the day.

It could be any year of high school. Except students are in years 5 and 6, which is called middle school at the inner west primary.

The principal, Estelle Southall, said the school does not run a specific high school transition program because students are always preparing for their move to secondary school.

Ms Southall said the middle school program was designed to remove the "culture shock" that often hits students when they first start high school.

"With the middle school, we talk a lot about the transition from being a kid to a teenager and with that the students need to be able to manage their resources, manage their timetable as well as setting their own personal learning goals," Ms Southall said.

The school also has some single-sex lessons because most students move on from Homebush West to the single-sex Strathfield Girls or Homebush Boys high schools, and NAPLAN data shows that, unlikely many of their peers, Homebush West students continue to perform well once they start year 7.

Ms Southall said Homebush West had good relationships with feeder high schools so students felt comfortable with the schools before they even start.

But the positive experience of starting high school is often very different for many students, according to new research from the NSW Department of Education which found a decline in student engagement when students move from primary school to high school.

Using data from the Tell Them From Me survey, which captures the views of hundreds of thousands of students in years 4 to 12 at NSW public schools, the research report found a decline in the effort students put into learning as well as their sense of belonging at school when they start year 7.

The report, released by the department's Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, found that students who enjoyed primary school are more likely to have a more successful transition to high school.

Students who have positive friendships and teacher-student relationships in primary school are more likely to report feeling accepted and like they belong in early secondary school, and students who are bullied in year 6 are less likely to have a positive experience in year 7, the report says.

It says strong relationships between high schools and their feeder primary schools, including collaboration between teachers and aligning the curriculum and assessment, can help students in the transition. Buddy or peer-support programs, which can ease concerns about students being separated from their friends, are also useful, the report says.

At Homebush West, Ms Southall said the school set high expectations for all students, starting from kindergarten.

"But this isn't about wearing a uniform and sitting up straight. We want our students to be adaptable and independent and resilient," Ms Southall said.

This story 'Culture shock': Report on transition to high school first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.