Wesley College Melbourne Australia
Wesley College Melbourne

Supporting student transitions

24 April 2019 Wesley Glen Waverley

How do our students transition through school? Richard Brenker explores why and how we support students through the transitions they encounter as they progress in their learning and development.




the process of changing from one state or condition to another


undergo the process of change

The journey all children take through their 15 or so years of formal education not only involves multiple transitions, it is defined by them. It’s a journey that includes the transition into school, transitions as they progress through school and transitions into further and higher education, and the workplace. Described in this way, transition describes the moments at which each child moves from one discrete ‘block’ of their experience to another. It’s a way of looking at transition through an organisational lens. But there’s another way of looking at transition, through an educational lens, in which transition is the continuous learning and development of each student as they progress along the curriculum continuum.

Seen through the organisational lens, transitions are the gates that students pass through; seen through the educational lens, transitions are the many little steps that students take as they learn and grow in knowledge and skills, attitudes and values. The one looks like moments of change; the other looks like a continuous process. These two views of transition are not mutually exclusive, though: our students’ learning journeys involve lots of little steps of development and growth and their passage through various gates as they progress.

The continuous process of learning and the moments of transition that occur along the way essentially involve change and continuity, which is this year’s College theme. Change and continuity is a useful way to think about not only the ways that we support students through the transitions they encounter but also why.

An overlapping curriculum and mini school structure

There are many significant transition milestones during a child’s development. Children start by moving from their first place of learning, the home, to an early years learning centre or childcare centre. For most Australian children, from there they move through their formal schooling, including the significant transition from primary to secondary school.

At Wesley, our students’ progression from primary to secondary education isn’t actually a transition from primary to secondary school. This is because our carefully planned curriculum, induction programs and the unique structure of our mini schools provide our students with a more graduated experience of change, especially for those entering Year 7 – using the term ‘graduated’ in the strict sense of a scale of regular, small or gradual stages.

A key part of this graduated experience for students is the overlapping of our curriculum programs and mini schools – Junior, Middle and Senior School.

Why this overlapping structure?

We use this overlapping structure to provide our students with multiple opportunities to adapt as they progress in their learning, as described in the curriculum, and through the specific learning environment of our mini schools, each of which is tailored to their developmental stage and needs.

What does this look like in practice? Students begin the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP) in the Junior School during ECLC and Prep and complete this in Year 6 – in the Middle School. This means that their learning progresses along the curriculum continuum of the PYP as they transition from Junior School at the end of Year 4 into Middle School at the beginning of Year 5, while they continue through the PYP until the end of Year 6. Equally, Year 7 students’ learning progresses continuously through the MYP within the familiar learning environment of Middle School.

A similar overlap occurs when students transition to Senior School in Year 10 – with a year in a learning environment tailored to their developmental stage and needs as young adults before they transition from the MYP to one of our Senior School pathways.

Transitions through cocurricular and experiential programs

Students who enter the College at Years 5, 7 or 10 find that the strong pastoral structure within our mini schools and year levels helps support their transition to Wesley, socially and academically.

By considering our students’ transitions through an organisational and an educational lens, we’re also able to design our extensive cocurricular and experiential programs in terms of transitions, which has a positive and profound effect on our students as they learn and grow in knowledge and skills, attitudes and values.

Early in Year 7, our students transition into our compulsory sport program, expanding their learning experiences about and through sport, learning about teamwork, goal-setting and so on but also learning about themselves and developing productive attitudes like resilience and values like respect. By introducing compulsory sport in Year 7 while our students are still in the middle of Middle School, we ensure that the transition into the world of Wesley sport is part of a gradual experience of schooling and learning.

Likewise, the first school camp for Wesley students, which may even be the first night spent away from their family, is the Year 3 camp to Chum Creek, in this case while still in the familiar environment of Junior School.

In Year 9, the vast majority of students enjoy a school term in the Clunes eight-week program, part of their developmental journey to becoming mature and responsible young adults as they transition from their regular routine of home and school to communal residential living and learning in Victoria’s goldfields region. Interacting with students from other campuses, learning through a unique curriculum and experiencing life in a small country town broadens their perspective during a key developmental period of their lives.

In the following year, many Year 10 students then experience the Yiramalay/Wesley Studio School in the Kimberley in Western Australia, another opportunity to put their own life and expectations in perspective.

The multiple, gradual and overlapping transitions each student experiences at Wesley foster their emotional, social and intellectual growth. At its heart, these transitions speak directly to a true education – presenting opportunities for students to grow and develop knowledge, understanding, skills, resilience and the ability to think creatively and contribute productively to our world.

Richard Brenker is Acting Principal at Wesley College and Head of the Glen Waverley Campus

Wesley’s curriculum continuum and tailored learning environment across our mini schools are designed to support all students as they progress in their learning

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