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Preparing for a new school year- Secondary focus

16th January 2019

Preparing for a new school year - secondary focus 

Another historic day for secondary schools in Queensland this Tuesday when all Yr 11’s in the state begin the New QCE (Queensland Certificate of Education) System. No more OP scores, no more QCS Tests for them, instead an ATAR score at the end of Yr 12  and external assessments for most of their subjects. Like anything new, there will be a feeling of the unknown for all involved but we are as ready as we can be and excited to begin.

Secondary schools will also welcome a new intake of Yr 7’s to their communities. It’s always great to see these excited young men and women walk into our colleges (usually in oversized uniforms) ready for the new experiences that secondary schools offer. They are always keen when they begin and the challenge for all secondary schools is to keep them enthused and motivated along the journey. I know it’s a challenge for parents too.

Parenting has different challenges as children develop, so for what it is worth, here are some tips for parents based on my experience as a teacher and as a parent of three children now in their early 20’s.

  • Be connected to your school. There is a fallacy that when a child begins secondary school, parents are less welcome. Kids want you think that but trust me, stay interested, ask questions, attend events and be present as best you can.  
  • Set a routine that enables family time, down time and study time. A big challenge for secondary students is juggling time. Many have jobs, do sport or cultural activities, then try to juggle study and some down time. Set some routines and be prepared that some activities might have to go. Timetabling study times during the week is important for a child to keep on top of things.
  • Monitor social media and gaming time. This is a real challenge today, so much time is wasted and much of the social media content just causes stress that could be so easily avoided. Put some rules or restrictions in place. Be tough here, this is something worth standing your ground on. Like any moments of tough love, your children will thank you later.
  • Encourage them to be a good classmate. We all want our kids to be good people and treat others respectfully. Encourage them to include other children into their games and conversations. Being inclusive and looking out for those children that are sometimes on the outer is a beautiful quality to foster. Encourage them to be a person who can say sorry and be empathic to the feelings of others.
  • Foster a strong work ethic. I have seen so many intelligent kids do just okay at school and so many not so gifted children perform outstandingly at school because they knew how to work and push through when things get tough. This is another challenging one for parents and I’m sure we would all like a switch we could flick. Suggestions would be to make sure children contribute to the jobs needed doing around the house. Importantly have the expectation that their job is done well and completed properly. Again a bit of tough love required here but over a period of time some good habits will be formed that hopefully permeates through all facets of their life. No guarantees here as this the quality we would all like to bottle.
  • Have a go and worry little what others think. I see so many secondary children not having a go at things because they worry about being shamed. Congratulate your children when you can see they have gone outside their comfort zone and taken healthy risks. 

I know all these tips are easier said than done and it makes parenting one of the most challenging things we can do. Stay positive, try to remain calm when you discuss these issues with your kids. Importantly, remember they will all make mistakes and do the wrong things at times. Be there to dust them off and put your arm around them when needed.

I wish all students and their families a smooth start to 2019 and trust it will pave the way for great year.


About John Nuttall

John Nuttall has been a teacher in the Townsville Diocese since 1988. He has been principal of primary, secondary and P-12 schools and currently is principal of Gilroy Santa Maria College in Ingham. His wife Tracy is principal of St Peter’s Halifax. John and Tracy have three children all in their early twenties who are all graduates of our local Catholic schools.

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