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This time of year is such an exciting time as we commence our Orientation Programs for new students into Camberwell Girls and for those moving from Ormiston to Senior School.  Within our year levels we also conduct transition programs and for those studying VCE, our Headstart program. It is an interesting time for students as they are simultaneously reaching the peak of, or concluding programs as well as looking with excitement to the possibilities of the year ahead.

In our lives we experience many transitions, a number of which are also important milestones. Commencing school, moving through adolescence, starting tertiary education or work, moving interstate or overseas, finding a partner and having children are all examples of significant times of change in our lives that often require some planning, preparation and understanding of what is happening to ensure they proceed successfully. For many young people, major times of transition are connected with their experiences of moving through school.

Students beginning schooling need to have developed the necessary skills to manage the demands of their new environment and be able to begin to work independently. At this age children often need a lot more practical help from parents and teachers to deal with their new daily routines such as managing their snacks and lunch, as well as having the correct clothes or uniform to wear each day. Schools aim to create continuity between the early childhood experiences and the new school experiences in order to help students make the necessary adjustments. 

When moving from primary to secondary school, students need to manage the change from a one classroom/one teacher setting to one with multiple classrooms/multiple teachers.  Managing lockers, taking different books and resources to different subjects and moving to an environment where they are once again the youngest students can lead to challenges for many. In addition, puberty and adolescence are, in themselves, transitions – physical and emotional. At this time adolescents are focussed on the development of their relationships with peers whilst developing greater independence from adults. The increasing maturity of their brains means they are in the process of acquiring the ability to plan, judge, problem solve and regulate their emotions. 

When entering a new year, engaging your child in a discussion about the day can be useful, but sometimes it can be hard to elicit more than one word responses to questions like “How was your day?” You might like to ask your child more open-ended questions such as what type of co-curricular activities they have found out about, and whether they are interested in trying them, or questions about how it is different from the year before.

If your child raises concerns, remember it is very important to listen at this point rather that ‘jumping in’ with suggestions to solve their problems. They need to know that you are trying to understand the situation. If they propose a solution that you think may not work, acknowledge it, but also ask questions that help guide them to other options. 

Finishing secondary school and moving to a tertiary environment can also involve a period of negotiating new situations, as students need to manage different expectations and often work within less structured environments.

It is important to guide your child to how they may seek the information they need such as attending open days and orientation programs as well as seek out support services in their new environment if required. Similar assistance is also useful for young people entering the workforce where they may need guidance on dress requirements, understanding the expectations of employers or how to seek support. 

Transitions are journeys that have an ending and a new beginning and it is important to acknowledge both of these aspects of the journey. They are a chance to look forward to what is ahead while, at the same time, looking back and acknowledging that what we are leaving may be missed. It can be useful to think of transitions in stages:

  1. Preparation – gaining information about the transition, considering emotional needs and providing appropriate time to prepare.

  2. Starting the leaving – acknowledging the transition, discussing the key parts of the transition, linking with others making the same transition, choosing what connections to retain with the past.

  3. Beginning the arriving – participating in the structure and processes of the transition, developing transitioning skills through mentors, teachers and parents.

  4. Consolidation – seeking support through maintaining contact with relevant people and structures, giving feedback to refine the processes and marking the transition with a significant event or ceremony.

During transitions, students may experience a range of emotions depending on their personal situation and stage of development.  Emotions can include feelings of anticipation, excitement, hope and happiness combined with stress, anxiety, grief and nervousness and these feelings can be due to the uncertainty associated with altered circumstances as well as to the physical and emotional changes that are occurring within young people at this time in their lives.  It is important to acknowledge these feelings and try to help make sense of them for each individual.

Research has shown that successful transitioning depends upon a number of factors which include:

  • Academic preparation: Higher levels of school readiness means that children will find the new work easier.Take an interest in your child’s school work and ensure that older students have appropriate places to complete homework.

  • Emotional stability: Happier people are more able to adjust to being in a new school or entering work. Talk through any issues as they arise to prevent them from becoming bigger for your child. For young people of all ages, starting routines before school commences, especially sleeping patterns and proper eating habits – including a good breakfast, are essential to wellbeing and effective learning.

  • Family situation: A supportive family environment assists young people in preparing and adjusting to a new situation. Young people benefit from being able to discuss the changes taking place during transitions.  Parents and carers are in an ideal position to help them to normalise any feelings of anxiety or uncertainty.  For young children, reading stories about starting school is a great way to start conversations.  Help your child get ready for the year by preparing any stationery or text book requirements as early as possible.  If your child is catching public transport, cycling or walking for the first time, have some practice runs. Make sure that they have the correct uniform and that they are able to dress themselves according to the requirements of the school.

  • Ability to build positive peer relationships: Students who are able to relate easily to their peers tend to settle into school more readily. If necessary, parents can assist their child by talking through ways to initiate conversations with people they do not know. They can also provide friendship opportunities by inviting other students to socialise outside of school hours as well as encouraging their child to become involved with co-curricular activities so they can meet peers with similar interests. It can be beneficial for young people to broaden their social network and not just focus on one best friend.  If you feel that your child is dealing with problems of isolation it is important to contact the school to discuss it.

  • Sense of belonging: Young people who feel that they ‘fit in’ tend to adjust more easily. For younger children, meeting their new teacher and spending time in their new surroundings to become more familiar with them is very helpful.  Attend orientation and transition days as these are designed to allow young people to get to know other students and find out about the kinds of opportunities available to them. 

  • Family-school cooperation: A good working relationship between families and their school can help provide support for young people starting school. Attending information nights and learning conversations enables parents to gain a perspective on how their child is progressing academically and hear about how they are settling into the school and developing friendships.  Family involvement in the school community has been linked to positive student-teacher relationships as well as to improvements in a young person’s attitude towards school.

  • Building Resilience: Young people who can manage change undergo less stressful transitioning experiences. It is important to assist your child cope with times of uncertainty or disappointment by being supportive and listening to their concerns. As children develop it can be wise not to ‘jump in’ at the first instance to try to fix the problem but instead help your child keep disappointments in perspective and assist them to identify ways or strategies to move forward. As well as establishing new friendships and completing their studies, students will need to continue to develop organisational and time management skills.

At Camberwell Girls we recognise the importance of successful transitions. Whether your child is commencing in Foundation, Year 5 or Year 7, moving up a year level or preparing for tertiary education or work, students are more likely to experience change as positive and fruitful when there is good planning and understanding of the process by all members of the family.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

With best wishes,

Debbie Dunwoody

CGGS School Council – Expressions of Interest

Camberwell Girls Grammar School is currently inviting expressions of interest to join the CGGS Council to fill an upcoming vacancy. The CGGS Council invites membership from within the community and external to the school community, and seeks to maintain a breadth and balance of skill-sets. 

For further information and to complete the nomination form, please visit the link below.


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