Curriculum

Our Middle School Learning program is guided by and seeks to uphold The Friends’ School Purpose and Concerns, together with our E-12 Learning Principles, by providing the conditions in which ‘students learn best’ in middle years education.

Guiding Principles

Our Middle School Learning program is guided by the following, overarching learning priorities for the Years 7-8 Campus:

  • Embracing a whole-School (E-12) learning community perspective;
  • Providing a seamless learning transition from Year 6 into 7, and from Year 8 into 9-12
  • Improving learning outcomes for all students in Years 7 and 8.

Grounded in research-based principles for highly effective middle years education, we believe that the School’s Purpose and Concerns, Learning Principles and the Years 7-8 Campus Learning Priorities are best achieved through a learning design that that:

  • Prioritises sustained relationships and a sense of belonging and community;
  • Fosters learning experiences that are cross-disciplinary, active, creative and authentic;
  • Engages students through dynamic pedagogy that is unique to the needs of young adolescents;
  • Empowers students with agency, embraces diversity, and develops skills of learning and being;
  • Is flexible in design and approach and responsive to diverse and changing needs.

Framework

Connecting Through Concepts

Our Purpose & Concerns give rise to five foundational concepts (connecting our Learning, connecting with Ourselves, with People, with our Environment and to our Future); concepts which also strongly align with the categories of best practice in middle years education. These, in turn, provide a framework of conceptual foundations to which we can connect the content and achievement standards of the Australian Curriculum.

Structure

The Years 7-8 curriculum is designed as a two-year program with the same core structure in each year.

The Structure of the Day

Each day consists of three, two-hour blocks divided by half-hour breaks for both Recess and Lunch. Within the two-hour blocks, various combinations and lengths of subjects, learning and pastoral opportunities are possible.

Break times are intentionally aligned with those on the Years 9-12 Campus to facilitate sharing of physical and human resources and the possibility of staff and students crossing campuses.

Key Classes and Teachers

To ensure the best possible learning and pastoral outcomes, students in the Middle School belong to one Key Class and have sustained contact with the Key Teacher of that class, both as their teacher and primary pastoral carer.

Research into successful middle years education, and the success of our current Year 7 program, demonstrate the peer-relationship benefits of students belonging to one Key Class for each of their subjects. For example, students feel safer to take risks and have a voice and agency in their learning, and to explore their developing identity and ways of being, in a sustained, familiar learning community.

A Key Teacher with the cross-disciplinary and pedagogical expertise to teach this class in multiple learning areas also reduces the number, and strengthens, the teacher-student relationships that are critical to learning in the middle years.

Logistically, extending the Key Class concept across both Years 7 and 8 facilitates a simpler (and therefore more flexible) timetable structure.

The Key Teacher and Class model provides a year-long structure to support student learning and well-being within each year (class and teacher groupings change from Year 7 to Year 8).

Learning Areas and Subjects

Disciplinary and cross-disciplinary learning is grounded in 8 key learning areas, each of which form part of students’ program in both years as follows:

Year 7:

English
Humanities
Mathematics
Science
Health / PE
Arts rotation: Art, Dance, Drama, Music
Technology rotation: Foods, Fibre, Digital Tech, Design Tech)
Languages (French, German or Japanese)

Year 8:

English
Humanities
Mathematics
Science
Health / PE
Arts rotation: Art, Dance, Drama, Music
Technology rotation: Foods, Fibre, Digital Tech, Design Tech)
Languages (continuation of chosen language)

To ensure a middle years program that is rigorous, active and creative, students’ learning focus is balanced amongst all learning areas. 3 hours per week are timetabled for each learning area yet flexibility in the timetable design and delivery allow the program to be responsive and shift focus to suit learning, pastoral and year group needs in a given week or period.

Connections Program

Year 7:

Connections

Year 8:

Connection

Students also undertake a cross-disciplinary Connections Program in both years, providing deeper opportunities for authentic, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary learning, curriculum flexibility and student agency. A day is timetabled each week for the Connections Program.

In the Year 8 Connections Program, the focus increasingly shifts towards students having the agency to connect their learning (across disciplines, to self, future, others, the wider world). This may take the form of student-led, personal projects, for example.

Cross-Disciplinary Learning Areas and Teachers

Where possible, teachers with the cross-disciplinary and pedagogical expertise will teach their class across multiple learning areas. This maximises relationship benefits through fewer, more sustained teacher-student connections, while also facilitating in-built opportunities for interdisciplinary learning.

Timetabling complementary learning areas together (eg – English/Humanities, Maths/Science) also creates more flexibility in delivery and opportunity for teacher collaboration.

Learning Flexibility

The timetable and curriculum structure is intentionally designed to provide flexible opportunities in a number of ways.

As well as each cross-disciplinary teacher having the flexibility to shift and blur discipline focuses within their own teaching blocks, flexible groupings and collaborative teaching opportunities exist between concurrent blocks. Paired classes and teachers also allow the flexibility to swap blocks and learning focuses at a given time.

Opportunity Time

The extended learning time in the Connections program also provides the flexible time to support a range of opportunities, such as:

  • Student-centred study time to support student agency and study skills development
  • ‘Off-line’ learning components
  • Student-led workshops, activities
  • Teacher collaboration opportunities
  • Co-curricular, service, enrichment.

Arts and Technology Rotations

Both the Arts and the Technology Learning Areas have 3 hours of timetabled classes per week. In each case, this time is divided between 4 focus subject areas noted above, each year.

Students rotate between the four subjects by completing one (approximately) 10 week course per term. This means that students study all four subject areas in each year, providing them with the opportunity to reconnect with the subject in Year 8 at a more advanced developmental stage and standard. The continuity of contact (one in each year) is also beneficial towards longer term study that students may elect to undertake in the Arts and Technologies.

Languages in Years 7 and 8

Students select one language (from French, German or Japanese) to study for the full year in both Years 7 and 8. Benefits of this model of language learning include:

  • Supporting all students to learn and develop proficiency in a language for as many years of their schooling as possible;
  • Reflecting a valued approach to sustained, deep language learning in a way that is consistent with our Purpose and Concerns;
  • Supporting a whole-School perspective and providing for a more seamless transition into Year 7, through continuity of learning;
  • Improving learning outcomes by supporting a higher level of study, therefore also supporting the transition into Years 9-12, particularly in preparation for IB Languages study.