Transitioning students for a head start to secondary

The leap from primary school into secondary school presents a period of rapid change for children. The expectations and environment are vastly different as students are required be more independent, mature and organised. We asked Head of Years 5 & 6 at Mentone Grammar, Jacqui Cartwright, how schools can help to transition students, so they have a running start into their senior years. 

Stepping into senior school can be a daunting experience for some students, especially if it is their first exposure to timetables, navigating a campus, increased homework demands and a high level of organisational skills. However, schools can help to transition students by slowly introducing them to these new concepts and fostering the skills they will need to thrive in their secondary years.

Mentone Grammar’s Head of Years 5 & 6, Jacqueline Cartwright, said the middle years program (5 - 8) is specifically designed to transition students from the primary school environment to secondary school by cultivating independence in a supportive environment. 

Setting up for success: The power of organisational skills  

Organisational skills are something that we as adults often take for granted. The process of planning your day, getting into the right headspace and preparing yourself with all the necessary resources are skills that need to be acquired.

“As early as Year 5, students are introduced to the concept of timetabling,” Jacqui said. “Students take their core subjects with their homeroom teacher but also have specialist teachers for subjects such as Science, Technology, Music, the Arts, Sport and Languages. As a class, students manage their timetable and homework requirements together, keeping each other on track with a communal task board. We also teach students how to use a school diary to organise their week and make notes to help them remember important events.  

“We use an incredibly effective system of colour-coding subjects and all their relevant materials to make it easy for students to setup for each lesson and pack things away properly. When they forget something or bring the wrong materials, they can easily rectify it and they gradually build habits that will set them up for life.

“The improvement throughout the year is incredible. We get to a point where the students know what subject is next and set themselves up for the start of the lesson without the teacher saying a word!”

Cultivating independence: The game of trust

Cultivating independence is a really important aspect of preparing students for secondary school, where they will be entrusted with greater autonomy and will need to be self-motivated and responsible for their own learning.

“Our Years 5 & 6 program is hosted in our newest building, the Keith Jones Learning Centre, which is purpose-built to facilitate our approach to developing independence. Our break-out learning spaces are the ideal way for teachers to give students varying levels of independence based on their individual needs and the trust they establish together. Students really rise to the occasion because they are proud to be given some responsibility and autonomy.”      

Making more of leadership opportunities

“Leadership opportunities are a brilliant way to foster a sense of responsibility and maturity in students – but they have to be more than just a badge.

“We have worked really hard to build a leadership program which is comprehensive, meaningful and delivers tangible outcomes for students. In addition to class captains, we have four specialist committees: sustainability, sports, art and wellbeing. These committees are given a responsibility to make a positive change in their portfolios and demonstrate value to their peers. For example, the sports committee have set themselves a target to get students more active at lunch time. They have developed a plan of events and initiatives which they need to work as a team to deliver, measure success and report back to their peers at the end of their tenure.

“Each year, there are 80 leadership opportunities available in the cohort, governing different aspects of school life. The program empowers the student body to not only take action for the greater good of the community, but also to measure and validate the progress achieved. It forms a foundation for understanding positive politics and ethical leadership.”

See inside our Years 5 & 6 program with their student-led video below. If you would like further information about Years 5 & 6 at Mentone Grammar, contact us at or book a school tour.

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