Phases of Schooling 

The Phases of Schooling provide teachers with guidance about the sorts of curriculum experiences likely to support students at each phase, so the learning outlined in the Early Learning Years Framework and the Australian Curriculum is achieved and the aims of the Melbourne Declaration are met.

While every student will be immersed in a well-balanced curriculum there are different priorities for different phases of schooling. The relative emphasis varies across the phases of schooling and is as follows:

  • Literacy and numeracy, integrated across the curriculum, are priority areas in the early years (typically Kindergarten–Year 2, and into Years 3–4)
  • The emphasis moves to encompass all eight learning areas in the upper primary years (typically Years 5–6) and the first years of lower secondary schooling (typically Years 7–8)
  • There is increasing emphasis in Years 9–10 on creating opportunities for students to choose learning pathways that build individual needs and interest in secondary schooling.
  • Curriculum and program development recognises that each student is developing and achieving in different ways, at different stages and at different rates.

Early Childhood (typically Kindergarten – Year 2)

Young children have a natural curiosity about their physical, social and technological world. They have a strong desire to make sense of their world and to represent and communicate their experiences and understandings through language and various art forms. They develop their understandings through their relationships and interactions with others, indoor and outdoor environments and the use of their senses. Young children learn through a variety of means – including play and experimentation – to observe, manipulate and explore objects and ideas, materials, technologies and other phenomena.

In the early years of schooling, children should be provided with a holistic curriculum through which they are able to build, design, problem solve, represent and reflect on new learning in ways that are meaningful to them. This learning is supported through intentional teaching in planned and unplanned experiences to extend learning. They need frequent opportunities to develop shared understandings and dispositions as well as content knowledge. The emphasis on literacy and numeracy is encapsulated in a holistic approach to learning where key ideas and concepts in a range of learning areas are presented in phase appropriate ways. They should have opportunities to develop their control and understanding of the symbolic representations associated with written language and mathematics. Social and emotional development is emphasised so that children build strong relationships, can work with others and develop a positive sense of self.

Curriculum experiences will typically integrate knowledge, understandings, skills and values and attitudes across learning areas. Learning programs should be appropriate and connected to the child’s current thinking, interests and ways of learning. They should encourage children’s autonomy, intellectual risk-taking, responsibility, agency and control of learning. Effective teachers use a variety of strategies, including structured and unstructured play and explicit approaches with whole-class, small-group and individual encounters. It is important that learning experiences build upon each child’s current understandings, skills, values and experiences.

Young children are intimately connected to their families so teachers need to foster strong relationships with families and communities and draw upon these strong relationships to provide culturally appropriate programs. Learning and teaching programs must be responsive to children’s continuing growth and development.

Middle to Late Childhood (typically Years 3–6)

As children grow, their sense of themselves and their world expands. They begin to see themselves as members of larger communities. They are interested in, and like to speculate about, other times, places and societies. They begin to understand and appreciate different points of view, develop the ability to think in more abstract terms and undertake sustained activities for longer periods. The ability of students to work collaboratively and to develop their social skills should be fostered by activities that require group planning and decision making, and interaction with people inside and outside their classroom. They should be given increased responsibility for managing and organising activities, individually and in groups of varying sizes.

In exploring their physical, social, cultural and technological world, students should be encouraged to pose more focused questions and to carry out investigations in which they form predictions, hypotheses or conjectures, test them and reflect their findings. In late childhood, the investigation of their world should become more refined and include relationships, structures, systems and processes. This will include exploration of behaviours, values, language and social practices as well as physical phenomena and a wider range of technologies and forms of communication and representation. Students will experiment with them to investigate the advantages of different representational forms and technologies for different materials, purposes and situations.

The ability of students to draw on a wider range of sources of information will also be enhanced by introducing them to experiences beyond their immediate environment including those of people from other times, places and cultures. These learning experiences should emphasise and lead to an appreciation of both the commonality and diversity of human experience and concerns.

Students develop a sound grasp of written language and numeric conventions and use these in a range of different learning situations in purposeful ways to achieve outcomes across all learning areas. They reflect on their learning and work practices and consider ways in which these might be improved, modified or adapted for different situations.

Early Adolescence (typically Years 7–8)

In early adolescence, students often align strongly with their peer groups and may begin to question established conventions, practices and values. Their interests extend well beyond their own communities and they begin to develop concerns about wider issues. Students’ interest in the natural, social, cultural and technological world is often related to the impact on them personally and can help them in their current and future lives. They also begin to develop an interest in particular fields of knowledge or endeavour for the personal satisfaction these fields provide.

Students’ growing independence and peer-group orientation should be built upon by providing opportunities for them to participate in important forms of decision making within the classroom and school and to work with others. Through such experiences students assume increased responsibilities, develop decision-making skills, explore values and further refine their social and collaborative work skills.

Students continue their exploration of the physical, social and technological world and gain familiarity and confidence with the methods, conceptual frameworks and languages of particular disciplines. Their induction to specific areas of learning builds on their earlier work in investigating patterns, processes and phenomena, and exploring forms of representation and technology. They understand that particular ways of working and thinking have developed over time for particular reasons but may still be subject to debate, revision and change.

Learning and teaching programs should assist students to develop a broader and more comprehensive understanding of the contexts of their lives and the world in which they live. They should, for example, lead to an increased understanding of the complexity of the natural environment, society and technology; an awareness of the potential and problems of increased knowledge and technology; and an understanding of the relationship between knowledge, technology and values. They should encourage an open and questioning view of them with students exploring other ways of thinking and world views and seeing themselves as active participants in their own continuing development and that of their society and the world.