School should always be enjoyable for children as well as teenagers. Some very bright students thrive in accelerated programs at the secondary level, while others would feel very pressured and even anxious if placed in one of these programs. Parents need to consider each child’s personality, not simply each child’s primary school results.
Accelerated Programs which are sometimes called SEAL Programs (Special Entry Accelerated Learning) suit some students but not others. These options may be a great idea if a student has been a little bored at primary school. However, if a student is doing extremely well in primary school but doesn’t enjoy pressure or competition, a SEAL Program for secondary school may be an unwise choice. Does your child love a challenge and thrive when placed in a situation where the pressure is on? Or does your child hate pressure?
Some students take to a SEAL Program like those proverbial ducks to water. Others forge on conscientiously and with stoic determination, but the joy disappears. Before considering a SEAL Program at the secondary level, have a good talk to your child’s primary teachers. Primary teachers generally know children very well and have seen them work in various situations, some of which contain elements of competition and ‘stress’. Your child’s primary teacher may be able to give you insights into whether your child would enjoy a SEAL Program or not. Entry exams for some SEAL Programs start half way through a child’s second year at secondary school. Once again don’t assume that this is a good option for your child. Make an appointment to discuss this with your child’s secondary school class teacher, level coordinator or the Principal. Even sitting for the exam and then not being selected could damage your child’s self-esteem. This needs to be approached carefully and if the school recommends that your child sits for the entry exam, it should be presented as a fun challenge rather than a do-or-die hurdle.
Apart from formal SEAL Programs, students can elect to FAST TRACK by completing a Year 10 subject in Year 9, a Year 11 subject in Year 10 and even a Year 12 subject in Year 11. Once again, this can be a fantastic option for some students but a mistake for others. Some students really love taking a subject a year ahead while other are simply not ready emotionally or academically. Listen to the advice your school gives and don’t worry if the school doesn’t recommend that your teen fast tracks.
Some ADVANTAGES of fast tracking by choosing higher level subjects are:
- Taking a Year 10 subject in Year 9, a Year 11 subject in Year 10 and even a Year 12 subject in Year 11 gives students a TASTE of what is ahead and can motivate them to settle into good study habits.
- By taking a subject they love at the higher level, students’ self-esteem can be boosted. Some students see it as a challenge and a thrill to be undertaking a subject at a higher level.
- Students who take a Year 12 subject in Year 11 then have an additional subject which contributes to their overall ATAR score. Some students do really well in the Year 12 subject they complete in Year 11. This score can even be one of their top 4 studies and used in the calculation of their ATAR.
The DISADVANTAGES of fast tracking by choosing higher level subjects are:
- If a student is not strong academically, taking one subject at a higher level can tip them over the edge. This can actually disadvantage students as they are struggling to do well in their current subjects as well as the higher subject they have chosen. Schools generally advise students not to include a subject from a higher year level if this would place too much stress on them. It’s so important to take the advice offered.
- Sometimes students believe that unless they take a Year 12 subject in Year 11, their ATAR will not be as high as the ATAR of students who have an extra Year 12 subject. This is not true. Quality is more important than quantity when calculating the ATAR. Five Year 12 subjects completed well in the final year at school will result in a higher ATAR than one completed well in Year 11 but the stress that this has created has lowered the results in crucial Year 11 subjects such as English. A student in this position would be entering Year 12 with a rocky foundation because that one Year 12 subject completed a year earlier has swallowed up an unfair amount of time from important Year 11 subjects. Year 11 is the foundation for Year 12 and it is important that students have time to consolidate skills and knowledge that will help them do well in Year 12. Fast tracking isn’t always a good idea.