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Middle Years of Schooling (Years 5-8)

Middle Years of Schooling (Years 5-8)

How does your state/territory define the 'middle years'?
What initiatives/programs are currently being implemented in the 'middle years' in your state or territory?
What are some of the current issues being addressed in your state/territory?

How does NSW define the 'middle years'?

For the purposes of curriculum development the NSW Board of Studies acknowledges that the term ‘middle years of schooling’ is typically seen to apply to Years 5 — 8. However, given the Board’s legislative requirements and existing school structure, middle years initiatives need to be accounted for in K-6 and 7-10 syllabus development activities.

The NSW Department of Education and Training defines the 'middle years' as Years 5 to 8, that is, the last two years of primary education and the first two years of secondary education.

What initiatives/programs are currently being implemented in the 'middle years' in NSW?

NSW Board of Studies initiatives to revitalise the middle years of schooling include:

  • developing curriculum framework and criteria to guide revision of syllabuses for Years K-10;
  • establishing principles to guide syllabus writers in ensuring continuity between courses across stages, particularly across Stages 3 to 4 and across Stages 5 to 6;
  • commencing development of new Years 7-10 syllabuses for English and Mathematics as well as a new K-6 Mathematics syllabus.

The NSW Department of Education and Training is implementing a new Linkages Project, which aims to create strong links between high schools and their feeder primary schools, to ensure that:

  • the literacy and numeracy skills, knowledge and understandings of all students are known in the transition from Stage 3 (Years 5 and 6) to Stage 4 (Years 7 and 8)
  • primary students are well prepared to engage in learning in secondary subjects
  • appropriate secondary programs are developed for students to achieve syllabus outcomes.

Under the project, 25 Linkages consultants will be appointed and funds will be provided to support district initiatives. The focus of the role of Linkages consultants will shift from an initial emphasis on literacy to an equal emphasis on literacy and numeracy. They will also have a key role in supporting broader improvement in early secondary education.

Linkages consultants and district literacy consultants will support teachers in developing consistency of judgement about student achievement of syllabus outcomes, and support the use of KIDMAP, as an efficient means of recording students' achievement of syllabus outcomes in Years 5—8.

Several previously discrete programs have combined under the Linkages Program. These are:

  • Current middle years literacy consultancy
  • Development of a policy statement: Focus on Linkages Years 5-8
  • Literacy and Numeracy Plus materials development
  • Literacy and Numeracy Plus follow-up training
  • TAFE accredited peer tutoring program
  • Links to the Counting On numeracy program.

A policy statement, to be called Focus on Linkages, will be developed to inform teaching practice in Years 5-8 in NSW government schools.

In addition to the Linkages program, there are activities which are designed to support either Years 5 and 6 or Years 7 and 8. The Lifeskills program, for example, is currently being piloted in ten primary schools. The program involves the implementation of a microsociety with a government and economy being set up in a school and run by students. The students design and establish a currency and banking system. The students run many businesses in the Lifeskills economy including recycling ventures.

The literacy needs of all students in the middle years are identified each year through statewide tests. Students in Year 5 sit for the Basic Skills Test and students in Years 7 and 8 sit for the English Language and Literacy Assessment (ELLA).

Monitoring the numeracy achievements of students in Year 5 is also carried out through the Basic Skills Test. This year the Department of Education and Training conducted a pilot of a new statewide Year 7 numeracy test in 113 secondary schools.

These tests are designed to provide better quality information on the literacy and numeracy achievement of students at crucial transition points. The tests are complemented by school-based assessment of syllabus outcomes.

What are some of the current issues being addressed in NSW?

Some of the broad issues in syllabus development for Years 7-10 include:

  • designing curriculum to meet the current and future learning needs and interests of adolescent students;
  • ensuring a continuum of learning K-12;
  • continuing to provide strong foundations through a core curriculum.

Other issues include:

  • Continuity of students' engagement in learning from Stage 3 to Stage 4;
  • Understanding of the needs of adolescent learners as a discrete developmental period;
  • Ensuring that primary students are well prepared to engage in the subject-specific learning required of secondary schooling by articulating KLA learning more clearly in primary classrooms, where an integrated approach is popular;
  • Ensuring that teachers have a clear understanding of the literacy and numeracy demands of subjects, and how to teach these to students;
  • Ensuring that prior learning is known and built upon;
  • Ensuring equity; that all students are taught all syllabus outcomes;
  • Developing an understanding of organisational structures that support students' learning.

These issues are being addressed by the Department of Education and Training through the introduction of four Linkages curriculum guidelines that guide teachers in helping their students develop as learners. These guidelines are:

  • Maintaining high expectations of all students;
  • Addressing the needs of adolescent learners within the mainstream classroom;
  • Teaching explicitly and systematically;
  • Teaching subject-specific literacy and numeracy.

These guidelines will form the basis of the policy statement, Focus on Linkages.

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