Published in the Suns NT in June 2017. Based on the NT but could apply anywhere within Australia.
SECONDARY SCHOOL STRUCTURE NEEDS STABILITY
Public school education in the NT frequently comes under the microscope. There is general satisfaction with primary schools, but the same cannot be said in the case of secondary schools. Part of this has to do with the relative stability of primary education compared with secondary schools.
The NT Government accepted responsibility for our educational system during the late 1970’s, close to 50 years ago. Since that time, changes to primary education have been about developing the early years and fine tuning what is offered for middle and upper primary students. Perhaps the most major change for primary schools was making year 6 the final primary year, with year 7 students moving into the high school domain.
At that time, schools responsible for educating children from years 8 – 10 were rather demeaned by commentary being offered. These ‘middle years’ of schooling were described in forums as ‘wilderness’ and ‘waste’ years. Moving year 7 students to Middle School and having year 7 -9 schools was forecast to be of educational benefit. What did not help during the discussion period about proposed change, was labelling all year 8 and 9 students with the mediocrity tag. This did little for their self-esteem and was fundamental in causing parents to think about the benefits of private education.
Secondary school organisation has been in a state of flux from the 1980’s onwards.
• Year seven students in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Nhulunbuy were trialled in high schools, but remained in primary schools in Darwin, Palmerston and the rural area.
• Initially, Nightcliffe, Sanderson and Dripstone High Schools were for year 8 – 10 students, then year 8 -12. Following a Territory-wide review in 2004, they became ‘middle schools’ for year 7 – 9 students. Year 10 students joined senior secondary ranks, along with year 11 and 12 students in all Territory centres.
• More recently, it has been decided that Palmerston Senior Secondary College will join with Rosebery Middle School under common administration from 2018. The same thing may happen in Alice Springs by amalgamating Centralian College and Alice Springs High School.
• Meanwhile Taminmin College at Humpty Doo has been a comprehensive secondary college for all students from year 7 – 12 for this entire period.
Territory wide consultation and reports from researchers have underpinned and justified structural changes. However, secondary level education in the NT is still very unsettled. That is probably a key reason attracting students and their parents toward private schooling alternatives.