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High School Transition Causes High Stress for Kids

Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022
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A new study of Australian school children has found the progression to high school is a time of great stress, fear and anxiety for young students with many worried about how they will cope in senior school.

Launched today by Life Ed and Minister for Education, Jason Clare, a new program called Guide to Thrive, is designed to help children make the leap to secondary school successfully.

As Year 6 students prepare to leave primary school, new research from Life Ed has found that girls are more likely to feel fear or sadness about the leap to high school compared to boys (“fear” category included emotions such as “anxious”, “stressed” and “scared”).  A total of 46% of students experience fear, uncertainty, and sadness, while 43% feel either joy or contentment. Overall, students felt underprepared for the move from primary to secondary school. 

Almost a quarter (21%) of students surveyed said managing social challenges was their biggest concern, which included difficulty making new friends, fitting in with peers or worries about other students. About half (49%) were mostly concerned about academic workload, including difficulty and volume of schoolwork, as well as higher expectations from parents and teachers.  Another 26% of students perceived adjusting to high school systems and culture as their biggest challenge. 

The report reflects students who had difficult secondary school transitions were more likely to have poorer academic and social wellbeing outcomes, including more drop-outs. Conversely, a positive experience when starting secondary school correlated with better academic outcomes, higher extracurricular participation and fewer behavioural, emotional, peer and classroom problems. 

Funded by the federal government, Life Ed’s qualitative student research into secondary school transition challenges included more than 80 face-to-face focus groups of 444 school children aged 10-14 from 15 schools across metropolitan, regional and remote areas. 

Off the back of the study, Life Ed is launching Guide to Thrive, an Australian first production of resources for teachers, students, parents and caregivers, that utilises student voice to directly inform its development. 

These resources recommend earlier introduction of transition support in Grade 6, as well as support past the traditional Year 7 orientation stage. They focus on managing the unknown as well as building responsibility and agency, using tech and peer-led learning systems that emerged as popular with the students surveyed. 

Life Ed Australia CEO Russell D’Costa said teachers and parents play a vital role in helping students make a successful leap, setting them up to thrive academically and socially. 

Like turning on a light for someone who’s afraid of the dark, parents and teachers can empower students by simply addressing the elephant, or giraffe, in the room.

By setting aside time early in the later primary school years to find out what kids know, don’t know, and think they know about secondary school, we can address any misconceptions, concerns and expectations head-on.

The move to secondary school can be a stressful time. COVID has further added to the uncertainty children face when navigating changing school environments. After spending so much time isolated from their usual development activities, teachers tell us students are experiencing increased anxiety and loss of social skills. Parents are also feeling anxious for the wellbeing of their children and are asking for support to help them through this challenging time.
Life Ed Australia CEO, Russell D’Costa


Guide To Thrive includes tips on: 

  • How to make new friends
  • Understanding and managing changing school workloads
  • Communication & Social skills
  • Bullies, bystanders and upstanders
  • And tailoring support for students with special needs

The Australian Government has contributed $4.4 million to Life Ed (formerly Life Education Australia) from 2019-22 for projects including the Guide to Thrive program. The Australian Government has been a long-time supporter of Life Ed since 2002 and is committed to continuing that support with further investment of $6 million over the next four years also announced today. 

We are thrilled to receive the federal government’s continued support, allowing Life Ed to deliver important programs that empower children and young people to make safer and healthier choices so they can live happier lives.
Life Ed Australia CEO, Russell D’Costa
Guide to Thrive logo
Teachers, parents and carers can access “Guide to Thrive” today