Surviving Year 6

Year 6 Thursday, 01 June 2023

The move to Year 6 can be a daunting prospect for families. It is a crucial year in a child’s education, as it prepares them for the transition to secondary school learning. Not only that, for some children, it marks the start of their journey through adolescence – physically, emotionally and socially.

At Helena College’s Glen Forrest Campus, we run a dedicated and tailored Year 6 program that caters for the specific needs of 10 to 11 years olds.  Our Year 6s are housed in a dedicated Year 6 ‘zone’, complete with their own classrooms, exclusive access to an extensive nature play area and a covered multisport courtyard. It has distinct primary school feel, albeit based within the grounds of our Senior School campus.

We spoke to two of our current Year 6 families and asked them for their thoughts on how they dealt with transitioning to a new school at this tricky time in their child’s life.

Mellisa and Daniel have two children at Helena, both of whom have now settled in well at the College after moving to the school part-way through the 2022 academic year.

Mellisa said that the decision to move the eldest child mid-year into the Year 6 program was not straightforward.

‘Like most parents, we wondered whether our kids would be too young to be at the Senior School Campus, how would they fit in at a new school after being at another for so long, and will they be accepted, welcomed and looked after’.

‘All of these concerns were answered at our first meeting with the school. We could immediately see that all fees, staff time and energy go directly into the children and the learning facilities. Helena College is about the child, and child-safe schooling. It has a calm, relaxed feel with enrichment to learning available to children like ours, who were hungry learn more, belong and feel welcome.’

‘The Year 6 area at Helena is a fantastic concept, where they have their own space that older kids can’t come into, but the Year 6s can venture out when they feel ready to mingle. They are still in a primary school setting, but they feel part of part of the bigger ‘senior life’ in a sense.’

Amy and Simon also have two children at the College – one on the cusp of moving to the Upper School program, and the other joined Helena at the beginning of the year.  Amy says that the transition for each of her daughters were different.

‘With support and strategies provided by the classroom teacher, our eldest transitioned smoothly into Year 6. It was evident to us that having a year to get used to the school before starting Year 7 was extremely beneficial for her.'

‘Our youngest daughter found the change easier. Having an older sibling at the school and being familiar with the grounds were a big help.’

‘As parents, we found the change was seamless. The high level of communication and the information provided on school processes and events were helpful as new members of the College community’.

Both families feel strongly that the Year 6 program had a positive flow-on effect for the start of Year 7.

Mellisa says that her eldest simply ‘hit the ground running’ when she started Year 7 this year.

‘Because of her time in Year 6, she was familiar with the College’s policies, procedures, Canteen, laptop, and class times. One thing that also stood out for us is that even the simple things were covered – such as practising using the combination locks ahead of the move to Year 7.  It was just brilliant. It feels like our daughter wasn’t that small fish in the big pond, due to the excellent Year 6 area and its integration into the Senior School.’

Amy concurs: ‘It has been extremely useful for our daughters to learn how to access their learning online, to become familiar with the use of rubrics, work submissions, utilising written feedback and various learning support platforms before starting Year 7.’

We asked Amy and Mellisa for their advice to parents on supporting their children through the change of schools.

Mellisa says that communication is the absolute key. Communication with the College first, and letting them know any concerns about your child, and they will help in any way possible.

‘Helena did exactly that for us.’

Mellisa also notes that communication with your child is essential. 

'Take them with you to view the school – especially showing them the Year 6 area. Our children also had trial days, which was something not offered to us anywhere else. Our children LOVED these trial days. This gave them a lot of insight into subjects they not tried before, and they were so excited to tell us at pick up time.’

Amy said that her advice is to be patient and present, and understand that the experience for each child will be different, and it may take some longer than others to settle.

‘Take an interest in what your child is learning at school, discuss upcoming assessments, look at the assessment rubrics with them, and encourage them to seek feedback from their teachers.’

‘I would also encourage you to get them to join one of the many clubs/groups at Helena. When children are part of a group/club, they feel a sense of belonging, which is important when starting at new school.

‘I also suggest encouraging help-seeking behaviours – talk about what strategies your child can use if something happens that upsets them. Encourage them to talk to you, or their teacher if they have any concerns.

The families both agree that their children are thriving at Helena, each able to find their place, in their own way and own time.

If you would like to know more about our Year 6 program, we invite you to explore our campus in person, by attending one of our upcoming tours - simply book online today.