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The Middle School years - a different approach

For many years it has been recognised that the ‘middle years’ of schooling often present problems for students who no longer belong in primary school yet are not quite comfortable in the world of secondary school.

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Compounding this situation are the considerable physical and emotional changes in children at this age (11-14), along with the very different secondary class structure, building new relationships and the scattered locations and timetabling.

Tyndale’s structure places relationships at the centre of learning

For some students it is ‘change overload’ with too many significant changes all occurring at the same time. The result is anxious and stressed students who have diminished rational thought and processing skills, leading to severely reduced learning outcomes.

Research has clearly shown that much can be done to cater for students in these years, taking into account the particular needs of this age group and ensuring that school structures facilitate a sense of community and an enthusiasm for learning.

Located in the western suburb of Blacktown in Sydney, Tyndale Middle School (Years 6-8) has been established to provide an environment in which students in these crucial years of schooling have the best opportunity to grow in knowledge and skills as part of a secure, nurturing Christian community.

Tyndale’s approach combines the core teacher and home base principles of primary school, with the challenges and stimulation of specialist subjects and learning spaces from secondary school.

Such a structure places relationships at the centre of learning and allows students to see the cohesive reality of God’s creation.

Middle School at Tyndale is a place where students, teachers and parents are encouraged to strive to honour Jesus Christ and to serve each other in response to his example.

Middle School students are located in a specially designated and specifically designed area of the school. Each student in Years 6, 7 and 8 has a homeroom where they undertake many of their classes. The homeroom allows students to take ownership of a classroom, using it as a place to display work, as well as to store belongings and equipment.

In many cases, in contrast to a more traditional secondary school model, the teacher comes to the students, rather than the students moving from room to room. There is a phased approach over three years from teachers going to students, moving to students going to teachers – which also minimises changes and the corresponding stresses.

Middle School brings with it many exciting challenges and the opportunity to draw together the best parts of Primary and Secondary School.

Some teachers in the Middle School have the wonderful privilege of teaching a core class. The core class arrangement allows teachers and students to form deeper relationships and to share the journey of learning and faith. This also assists students in the transition from Junior to Middle School. Students have the security of a teacher who knows them well, and parents have a primary point of contact when concerns arise.

All classes have timetabled access to specialist teachers and facilities during the course of the school week. These include Language, Music, Visual Arts, Technology and Applied Sciences. The latter covers a range of media and topics such as Textiles, Food, Wood, Metal, Plastic, Electronics, Coding and Computers. Learning activities in Middle School have been designed to foster a desire to learn, with an emphasis on group tasks, active learning and individual responsibility.

Another important aspect is relationship building and mentoring that occurs through the daily Pastoral Care activities and fortnightly Student Leadership programmes.

In Pastoral Care, students learn to develop and grow healthy peer and staff relationships, discuss matters of concern, explore Bible passages and themes that relate to living life, and pray for each other.

Student Leaders receive leadership training and are encouraged to develop a servant-hearted approach so that they can be the “head, heart, hands and feet” of the student body.

Middle School brings with it many exciting challenges and the opportunity to draw together the best parts of Primary and Secondary School. It is a more considered approach in continuing to work with parents and children as they transition through this very critical Middle School stage in preparation for Senior School.

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