Parents fear for Year 7 students
“NO MOTHER wants to lose her children any earlier than they have to go”.
That was from mother-of-three Kristy Heelan, who lives on a remote cattle station 140km north-west of Clermont in Central Queensland.
Mrs Heelan said she was concerned about the emotional impact of the state government’s plan to move Year 7 students to high school.
The new policy is part of a wider educational reform called A Flying Start that was first made public in February 2010, and will mean many rural and remote parents will be forced to send their children off to boarding high school at just age 11 from 2015 when the initiative is in place.
A trial will take place in 2013 for Year 7 students at 20 state schools, who will be moved from primary to high schools.
Mrs Heelan said she had doubts whether many students would be emotionally mature enough to move into the “big school”.
Mother-of-two Sam Cobb also home-schools her two young children near Clermont, and she was worried about any children being used as “guinea pigs” by the state reformations.
Mrs Cobb said: “I think parents should have a right to choose when they send their children to high school, especially in remote areas, where that often means sending them away from home to boarding school.
“I think at the moment, when they go away, they are 12 or 13, but if we lower the age the children have to go to high school, we will be sending them off at 11 or maybe 12 years old, and I think there will be a lot of children who are simply not ready for that.”
But it was not just the emotional maturity of the children; simple things like table manners were also a concern.
Mrs Cobb said: “At home, if we have them for an extra year, that is more time to help instil good values in the children, like eating properly and having good table manners, but I know from experience, that once a child comes back from boarding at high school, they are really no longer kids.
“They are young adults, and as a mother, you no longer have that chance to help shape your children into good people, they are only back for holidays and all that regular everyday stuff is done by someone else at the school.”
Mrs Cobb also raised questions about smaller state schools, many of which were earmarked to be closed last year, and whether they would survive through more children being moved to major towns and cities.
She said: “If we move these children out of small schools to high school, some of those towns that are too close to Rockhampton or Townsville or Mackay, we might lose those families out of rural areas.”
A Department of Education and Training white paper on the proposal said there was “no clear consensus among major stakeholders” whether starting high school a year earlier would be good for the children.
The report also said the majority of stakeholders did agree the initiative would save the state government money.