Year-by-year tips for high school

Teens at school smiling

Each year in high school brings new academic and personal challenges for parents and their teens. Here are some tips from NSW public high school teachers to help you prepare for the year ahead.


Year 7  

  • The move to high school is challenging for many kids. It's vital you attend any orientation and meet the teacher events offered by the school. It will make the next year easier if you know what to expect, how the school works and who to talk to about issues. Staying in touch with your child's progress is much harder now they have a different teacher for each subject and parents rarely get involved in class room activities. Communicating with your school now is very important.
  • Many schools start Year 7 with a few days at camp - a great way for kids to meet their new classmates and teachers, in a relaxed and fun environment. The biggest fears Year 7 kids have before starting the year is that they wont be with their friends or that they get lost in the bigger school. Show them this video on Starting High School.
  • Ask questions at info evenings. Is there a parent or student portal with details of timetables, assignments, syllabus etc.? How do you access it?  Who is the Year Adviser for Year 7 and how do you contact them? How do you contact individual teachers with any concerns?
  • Your child will do NAPLAN this year.
  • Does your child have a homework and study planner or diary ? Are they using it? Check it weekly. If they aren't using it find out why. Some kids will prefer scheduling homework and setting reminders on their phone, but you still need to check on their homework and study weekly. Print out our monthly homework planners, write in all exams and assignment dates and  post it on the fridge as a reminder.
  • Review your child's exercise books at least fortnightly. Are they keeping up in class, completing set work?  The demands of Year 7 can overwhelm some kids – without parents even suspecting it. These reviews keep you informed and help nip issues in the bud.
  • Really monitor your child's technology use. Are they on Facebook while trying to do their homework? Are they receiving or making texts or calls late at night? Sleep requirements start to change this year and sleep deprivation is a big problem for many kids. Midnight texts from friends will only make this worse.

Year 8

  • Attend any parent- teacher events offered by the school. You'll meet your child's teachers and find out how to communicate with your school if there are issues.
  • Your child should be settling into high school by now. If they seem to be struggling with the difficulty of the work or the organisation involved in getting it done, contact the year adviser.
  • Remind your child that the minute they find out they have an exam or assignment due, write the date in their homework planner and schedule study time in the weeks and days before its due. This is a vital habit for kids to learn now.
  • From Term 2 onwards, schools ask Year 8 students to select next year's electives. Attend the information events and ask questions. Discuss elective choices with your child. Encourage them to choose subjects they enjoy and expect to do well in. Year 9 electives are about following their interests, not setting career pathways.
  • Year 8 is a time of shifting relationships for many kids. They experiment with friendships, push boundaries and want to spend more time away from the family. Balance is really important. Know who they're hanging out with in person and online. Know how much screen time your kids are having too – it can rob them of important sleep, exercise and study time.

Year 9

  •  Encourage your child to read for pleasure, and to try different genres and more difficult books. This continues to build their vocabulary and exposes them to different styles of writing – helping them with comprehension and their own writing.
  • Your child will do NAPLAN this year. Print out our monthly homework planners, write in all exams and assignment dates and  post it on the fridge as a reminder.
  • Start having conversations about what your child might want to do after Year 12. At this age kids often question why they need to learn certain things – if you can show how it will be useful in everyday life, they're more likely to stay engaged with their school work.
  • Year 9 can be a 'Jekyll and Hyde' year for some kids, as they seem to swing from one extreme to another. Relationships are changing with their peers and their families. They are asserting their independence but often without the good judgement that comes with maturity. Experts describe the teenage brain as a "work in progress" the brain structure is changing and teens are flooded with hormones. The habits they learn now – good and bad - will form the basis for later years.
  • Alcohol and drugs can cause permanent damage to the adolescent brain and stop it from maturing properly. Here are some tips for starting realistic discussions about alcohol with your teen.  

Year 10

  • Distraction is a common problem for many teens, but it's vital they pay attention during class. Missing important information in class (or missing the opportunity to ask for explanations) will make study time at home much harder and less efficient.
  • Have your child print out our monthly homework planners, write in all exams and assignment dates and post it on the fridge as a reminder.
  • This year your child will be asked to choose electives for Years 11 and 12. Start talking about this with them and their teachers as early as possible. Year 10 subject selection should be based on subjects your child enjoys and is likely to do well at.
  • Few university courses have prerequisite HSC subjects, so your child should choose the electives that will give them the best ATAR. Understand what the requirements of each elective are – how many of their chosen subjects require a "major work" to be produced? Is your child likely to leave it to the last minute?
  • Vocational education at school, including school-based apprenticeships and traineeships, is an excellent option for kids who think they may want to pursue a trade after school. Not only can they get a taste of a career, they can finish high school with a qualification AND an ATAR. This leave their options open and can give them a great head start in getting a job.

Year 11

  • Physical activity is still important when study ramps up at school. This is the age many kids drop sport, but it's important for them to continue to incorporate exercise into their schedule to help them manage stress as they prepare for the HSC.
  • In Year 11 your child will be expected to work harder and be more proactive in their study. It's a big step up from Year 10.
  • It's vital you attend parent-teacher information events this year. You'll receive important information on exactly what's happening this year and how you can help your child cope and succeed.
  • At the beginning of the year your child will receive an assessment book or calendar, with the dates of all assignments and exams for the year. Review this together and put the dates in a highly visible family calendar (on the fridge perhaps) as well as in your child's study diary or smartphone calendar. Encourage them to plan a regular and consistent study schedule from the first week of Term 1.
  • Year 12 study starts for your child at the beginning of Term 4 this year
  • Monitor your child's technology use. Research shows that the quality of study and learning suffers when kids are frequently interrupted by texts, emails, phone calls or by flicking between homework and Facebook screens. Instead, tell them to schedule 10 minute breaks every hour to catch up on their social lives, if need be.

Year 12

  • Year 12 is a continuation of Year 11 in terms of learning and study. It actually starts for students from Term 4, of the previous year. See HSC resources to help your child.
  • Your child may start to feel anxious about the HSC so help them plan a weekly schedule that includes enough study, activity, social activities and sleep.  Seeing it all planned out, and sticking to the schedule can really help calm anxious kids or motivate laid- back kids.
  • Have your child print out our monthly homework calendar, write in all exams and assignment dates and post it on the fridge as a reminder.
  • Try to avoid any big decisions that could affect your child this year – including family holidays and changes in living arrangements, if at all possible.
  • Good nutrition is particularly important for your child right now.
  • A good balance of work and play is important for their wellbeing this year. If your child has a part-time job, make sure it's manageable and fits in with all the other responsibilities they have.
  • Stay in contact with the school, especially if there are concerns. Year 12 teachers want their students to achieve the best possible results and typically appreciate parents who are interested and supportive.
  • Contact the Year Adviser if you are concerned about your child's emotional wellbeing or how they're handling Year 12 studies.
  • Remember, the HSC focus is only for a short period of time. Support your child to give it all they have, but also to remember the ATAR score at the end is not the sole indicator of their worth. There are many alternative pathways to most careers, even if they don't receive the ATAR they hoped for, or an offer from their preferred university.

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