Concern over Year 7 move

CONCERNS have been raised from both West Coast schools and the State Government about the Liberal Party's plan to shift Year 7 students from primary to high school.

Shadow Minister for Education, Families and Training David Pisoni said South Australia signed up to the National Curriculum in 2008, which was designed for specialist teaching in maths, science and history from Year 7 and many subjects are delivered over a two year band.

"South Australia is now the only state that either doesn't, or isn't transitioning to offer Year 7 in high school, Queensland and Western Australia have started the process beginning 2015," he said.

"States that have traditionally had Year 7 in high school continually out perform South Australia in national and international testing, for example NAPLAN and PISA."

Mr Pisoni also said the response from education stakeholders to their policy has been very positive, most recognising the potential benefits and agreeing the need to move is inevitable.

However, small schools across South Australia have raised concerns about what the move could mean for school numbers.

Penong Primary School is one of these schools, who have expressed concerns about how the change will affect numbers, funding and leadership options.

Principal Karen Murray said the school could lose a large number of students from this move.

"The concern is we could lose up to 12-15 percent of the school population any one year, with only 23 kids this can be concerning and this is an issue for small schools across the state," she said.

"Taking away this portion of the student population will certainly have an impact on funding, based on the student centred funding model (SCFM)."

Mrs Murray said the move could deny the students leadership opportunities, as Penong Primary School participates in a small schools group primarily for Year 7 students, where students of schools across Eyre Peninsula meet once a term to listen to guest speakers and participate in activities together.

Mr Pisoni said however the Liberal Government will be in communication with small regional schools during the transition, which is expected to be rolled out over an eight year period from 2016, after a full audit of facilities and staff.

"Small regional school communities will be afforded an extended and comprehensive consultation period on the proposed movement of Year 7 students from primary school to secondary school," he said.

"If smaller regional primary schools decide that they wish to continue offering Year 7, that choice will be supported by the deparment."

Minister for Education and Child Development Jennifer Rankine has echoed the sentiments of small schools, and how fewer students poses a greater risk of schools being vulnerable to closure.

Ms Rankine said the Liberal Party closed 45 schools when they were last in office, and this latest thought bubble is likely to result in further closures.

"There is no evidence that bringing Year 7s into high schools delivers better educational outcomes and there hasn't been any significant demand from parents for such a move," she said.

"This will put unnecessary pressure on primary schools in the country and the families of the children that attend them."

Ms Rankine said there are about 11,300 Year 7 students enrolled in South Australian primary schools this year, and the cost of moving them to high school and building infrastructure for them is estimated to cost around $300 million.

Mr Pisoni said this claim is false, and Ms Rankine has refused to release any documents to support this figure.

"Documents obtained by the Liberal Party through FOI have the latest costs arrived at by the Education Department at $134 million, based on 2011 figures," he said.

"More than half of SA high schools already have capacity to take Year 7 and there are 160 schools, such as area schools, that have Year 7 students on a campus that offers high school.

YEAR 7S: Two of Penong Primary School's Year 7 students, Danika Davis and Blae Dunn.

YEAR 7S: Two of Penong Primary School's Year 7 students, Danika Davis and Blae Dunn.

This story Concern over Year 7 move first appeared on West Coast Sentinel.