Year 7 is a crucial age in education with students going through major physical, social and emotional changes - often as they transition to a new school or campus.
Students are expected to manage their workload without constant reminders from a single homeroom teacher; they must juggle timetables and textbooks and take responsibility for the standard of their work.
At the same time, cornerstone concepts are being taught that will form the foundation of a successful college education.
This according to ACG Sunderland’s new Year 7 and 8 dean Jack Dawson, an educator with 20 years’ experience teaching and overseeing the wellbeing of boys and girls aged 10 and 11.
“Students need to be treated differently at the intermediate age,” he says. “They must be nurtured, as they’re still young, yet challenged academically to avoid losing interest.”
Meanwhile, they’re adjusting to becoming the small fish in a big pond, surrounded by seniors in a new school environment.
Throughout this change and development, providing support is key, Mr Dawson says.
“At ACG Sunderland, we hold three horizontal tutor classes a week to discuss topics or concerns like bullying, organisation, and preparing for exams; we run camps to help grow supportive social networks; and we ensure our students have access to me or the school counsellor when necessary,” he explains.
Year 7 students at the school also receive specialist subject teaching, leaving their homeroom to move around the school for lessons in English, Mathematics, Science, Social Science, Art, Design & Technology, Music, Physical Education, Spanish and Computer Science.
This, he says, has enormous academic benefit.
“Specialist teachers have the experience, knowledge and ability to draw out the best in their students. They can extend the advanced students and help lower-ability students with many different approaches. Their subject knowledge is at the highest level – and they pass this on.”
Most importantly, specialist teachers have a passion, excitement and motivation to teach their subject well, and students feed off this vibe.
“They see their teacher’s love for the subject and it motivates them to pursue that subject at a higher level,” Mr Dawson explains. “And when they advance through the years, they tend to have fewer holes in their understanding.”
He says this combination of strong support and tailored specialist teaching sees students through what may otherwise be a tumultuous year.
“Once these are in place, students have the foundation for a fantastic all-round education.”