By Emilie Ng
CLAIRE Schmeider never imagined she would be making history at the tender age of 12.
In less than three months, the Our Lady of Dolours School, Mitchelton Year 6 student will start a new life chapter when she and 12,000 other Catholic primary school students start high school in Year 7.
Claire will leave her beloved primary school in December to start Year 7 at a nearby high school next year.
Claire said it was “a bit of a shock” to think she would be leaving Our Lady of Dolours one year earlier than expected.
“I thought I would be spending a lot of more time because I love it here,” Claire said.
“It’s a bit nerve wracking but then again, it’s exciting.”
Claire leaves primary school along with Year 7 students Allan John and Genevieve Ryan.
Allan and Genevieve are from the last Year 7 student cohort to enroll at Our Lady of Dolours.
Our Lady of Dolours’ principal Patrick Davis said there was a sense of excitement in the school community knowing their students were moving on to the next stage of life.
Claire, Allan and Genevieve are part of what Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Mike Byrne described as an “historic and exciting development” for Catholic education.
More than 20,000 students are expected to begin Catholic secondary education for the first time next year.
Catholic secondary schools would also welcome more than 500 more teachers to classrooms across the state.
Mr Byrne said students beginning high school a year early would not be disadvantaged.
“Children of this age are becoming young adults and we believe are ready for the new learning opportunities that the secondary context can provide,” Mr Byrne said.
Student pastoral care has been a major focus in planning the move, Mr Byrne said.
“It is vital that the students feel safe and welcome in an environment where they will be the youngest members of the school community,” he said.
Queensland Federation of Parents and Friends Association executive director Carmel Nash said parents were initially concerned about pastoral care when former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced the education reforms had dissolved.
“But now most parents and their children are excited about next year,” Mrs Nash said.
P and F committees in Catholic schools across Queensland would continue to plan “good interaction” with parents entering a new school community, Mrs Nash said.
Mrs Nash commended Catholic schools for communicating with parents through information sessions and newsletters about the changes.
P and F have also advised parents to properly prepare their children for commencing high school and direct any questions and concerns directly to the school.
“It is vital that parents remain engaged when their children get to their school,” Mrs Nash said.
A spokesman said secondary schools run by Brisbane Catholic Education would welcome more than 6000 new students in Years 7 and 8 next year.
“Planning for the move of Year 7 to secondary has been underway for three years, with a range of new facilities built at secondary schools, and increased staffing to reflect the greater number of students,” he said.
“A lot of effort has gone into ensuring the new Year 7 students are welcomed and cared for, but it’s equally important that the new Year 8 students are not forgotten, so special emphasis is also being placed on them also.
“For both new year levels, schools have developed orientation programs – often involving older students allocated as buddies – to make sure that everyone knows where to go and what to do, and to seek to imbue the school’s culture into its newest recruits.”