Sophie is no stranger to change. When her family arrived in the fledgling town of Googong, they moved into the only house on the street.
As other buildings popped up, so did a school. So when Sophie left St Gregory’s Primary School in Queanbeyan, she entered year 7 in The Anglican School of Googong. Now Sophie and her friends are facing one of the biggest changes of their lives – Year 12.
“I’m excited for some of the content in the classes and the celebration at the end of the year, but it’s also very scary at the same time,” she says.
The Anglican School of Googong was established in 2015 with an initial cohort of 34 students from kindergarten to year 2. The first year 7 classes started three years later, and now staff are poised to guide the first cohort of year 12s to graduate in 2023.
Sophie describes it as “odd” being at a school so new and fresh.
“It was extremely small, with one teacher teaching three subjects in four classrooms,” she says.
“But as the town has gotten so much bigger, every grade has grown in size. Almost every year, the school has a new building or extension.”
The school now boasts more than 500 enrolled students, including those in the Early Learning Centre housed in contemporary learning spaces specifically designed for the junior and senior years.
Jack arrived at the school in year 8.
“I came from a really big school. It’s a nice change to come to a small school where you know everyone,” he says.
“There are fewer people, so you know your year and your teachers and can get all the help you need.”
Jack’s “pretty nervous, but excited” about the prospect of year 12, but then gestures towards his friends – Sophie, Ruby, Chloe, Joss and Charlie. “We’re all in the same boat here – it’s a new experience for us all,” he says.
Team leader for the junior years and teacher accreditation coordinator at The Anglican School of Googong, Janet Nieuwenhuis understands students grappling with fear of the unknown.
“The school journey is all about change, so we work individually with not only the student, but the whole family,” Janet says.
“Our key goal is to upskill our students to manage year to year.”
Up to 60 per cent of the school’s families live in Googong, which Janet says connects the school to its community. Others come and go as their roles in government and defence change, adding freshness to the cohort each year.
Janet says “peak experiences”, starting with orientation days, help ensure a seamless transition through the school grades.
“This is an opportunity for new students to meet their teachers, participate in different parts of a normal day’s program and get to see what learning is like in this school.”
Once in class, the staff welcome student ideas about community partnerships and social justice activities. Janet says this sends a powerful message that all students can be leaders, while also helping to build relationships and resilience beyond sitting next to each other in class. The school also strives to encourage meaningful cross-curricular learning between all years.
The important move from primary school starts early in year 6 as students participate in a leadership conference and camp before climbing Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciusko, in term 4. All year 7 students join a learning boot camp in term 1 which culminates in an outdoor education experience.
“That’s almost that right of passage into high school,” Janet says.
Senior students recently attended a commencement dinner to mark the beginning of year 11. Now they’re calming their nerves by kickstarting traditions for those following in their footsteps.
“We were talking about this the other day, but we’re not sure what that will be yet,” Ruby says.
Watch this space.
The Anglican School of Googong is now enrolling for 2024. Visit its website for more information.