The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (14:28): My question is to the Minister for Education. John Pirie Secondary School has been approved for a pilot program for year 7s to go into high school. Can you please explain what the benefit will be to my community and the students around the area?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (MorialtaMinister for Education) (14:28): I thank the member for Frome for the question. I am very pleased to be able to talk about the work being done at John Pirie Secondary School and, indeed, in all the local primary schools in the Port Pirie area. I note that the member for Frome has been talking to the communities there because I see that he has also made some comments in his local community welcoming the government’s announcement that John Pirie Secondary School will be one of three schools piloting the year 7 transition.

It’s important to note that year 7s are in a high school environment in many schools in South Australia already. In the Catholic sector, almost all their schools are as of this year. A significant number of public R-12 schools and area schools and a couple of specific year 7 to 12 schools are already operating.

The question with these pilots isn’t whether the year 7 students can prosper in a high school environment as they do in those other schools and around the country, but particularly ensuring that where there are challenges with the transition, which can impact on local primary schools and on the local high schools for schools in this situation, we can pick up some of those challenges.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: That’s why the three schools were particularly chosen from a diversity of contexts. Wirreanda in the southern suburbs is a large zoned school within the metropolitan area; Mitcham Girls High School is an unzoned school in the metropolitan area, with a specific cohort; and John Pirie is a school in a regional community, as the local high school.

It was a great pleasure, on my way to visit the Stuart electorate at the end of last week, to stop in Port Augusta with the member for Stuart, and Whyalla, where I met with the member for Giles at a couple of school openings and talked about the TAFE and new high school. On the way up, I was able to visit Roger Nottage and his team at John Pirie Secondary School. He identified that the level of interest in the member for Frome’s community since the announcement that John Pirie would be one of the pilot schools has been significant.

I have had some information that already, even in the week and a half or so since the announcement, the level of interest has identified that approaching a third of the parents of the year 6 students from this year’s cohort have already expressed an interest in being part of that pilot next year. They haven’t even started having their open nights to talk to families about this.

We are going to be looking at, in particular, benefits for the whole state from the lessons we will learn from John Pirie through to other regional communities where there is a transition from that year 6 to year 7 being in the high school context in 2022. Next year, John Pirie will show us the way in how some of those things can be achieved.

I commend all the principals in Port Pirie and surrounds, who are working together collaboratively. I was pleased to be able to speak to a couple of primary school principals, who are looking forward to working collaboratively with John Pirie Secondary School on that process. There are going to be some changes. I think some of those schools are looking at whether, rather than just doing a year 7 graduation this year, they potentially include their year 6 cohorts in that, depending on how many of their families wish to do it.

I make it clear to the member for Frome that this will be a voluntary opportunity for those families this year. They don’t have to participate in the pilot if they don’t wish, but the level of enthusiasm identified to me by the senior staff at John Pirie was significant, and they felt that they were getting significant enthusiasm from their local community as well.

I note that this is something that the Pirie community has been looking at for some time, which informed, I believe, the education department’s recommendation to me and the government that John Pirie be included in the pilot, as they were ready to go and enthusiastic about it. I think that the members of the community in the member for Frome’s electorate will very much appreciate this opportunity.