Year 7 high school reform

Mr DULUK (Waite) (14:19): Thank you so much, sir. My question is to the Minister for Education. Can the minister update the house on the transition of year 7 to high school?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (14:19): I'm very pleased to be able to update the house on this. I thank the member for Waite for this question because I know of his interest in his local schools. The member for Waite joined the Premier and I when we visited Mitcham Girls High School recently, which is one of the three schools that are pilot schools. Indeed, I think there are old scholars in the house.

It is a pilot school that is one of our three schools that is not just moving year 7 to high school in 2022, along with the rest of South Australia, but is offering it next year for families who wish their child to take the opportunity that is available to students around Australia, in the Catholic system in South Australia, and in many of our R to 12 schools, area schools and a couple of 7 to 12 schools that we have in our public system already.

The only cohort of students in Australia remaining in year 7 in a primary school setting is basically some of our independent schools and the state public schools. The reason that this is a concern is that our schools offer the Australian curriculum, and year 7 in the Australian curriculum is designed to have subjects taught by subject specialist teachers in subject specialist environments, such as one receives in a high school. Our students are a year older than they used to be. It's a very 20th century model of schooling that the Labor Party in government insisted on maintaining.

How has the community responded, as demonstrated in these three pilot schools? The last time we identified this issue in the house, we were very pleased to announce that these three schools were offering the opportunity for parents to express their interest or not, and that time has now passed. In the member for Frome's electorate, the John Pirie Secondary School received 98 expressions of interest from families in that community. I know the support that the member for Frome has given, and Roger Nottage, the principal at John Pirie, has done great work with his local primary school principals.

In the member for Hurtle Vale's electorate there is Wirreanda Secondary School. I was at the school with the member quite recently and that school is very excited. Indeed, their social media and their posters will demonstrate the excitement of their students to be receiving year 7s at that school. That school is ready and the families in that area are ready as well, with 112 families in that area seeking the opportunity for their child to do year 7 in a secondary setting at Wirreanda next year.

But the member for Waite knows that that almost pales into insignificance in numbers compared with Mitcham Girls High School where 161 families are seeking the opportunity for their child to do year 7 in a secondary environment next year. Principals Caroline Fishpool at Wirreanda Secondary School and Linda Baird at Mitcham Girls High School have worked with their school councils and school communities to get their schools ready. The enthusiasm that those staff and those schools have for this project and this pilot is tremendous.

When we were at Mitcham Girls High School, we talked to some of the year 6s who are going to that school next year, which was also great. Whenever we visit primary schools in these areas, there has been the opportunity to also talk to some of the year 6s. These kids are excited about this opportunity. It was wonderful hearing their enthusiasm for it along with that of their parents.

This has been a long time coming. This could have been done years and years ago by the former government, but they preferred to play politics with the issue. They preferred to say this was something that the member for Unley was arguing for and the Liberal Party was arguing for, so they told their senior executives, 'No, we don't want a bar of that.'

The Marshall Liberal government is now moving on this issue. It is important. It is for the benefit of our students. It is to give our students the best possible start in life, to give them the best possible support to fulfil their potential through their education, to ensure that our education system and all of our schools are delivering a world-class education and to meet the needs of South Australia's students going forward.