For many Year 6 students and parents in the Northern Hemisphere, this time of year can be an anxious one as conversations turn to discussing the next steps on their learning journey. Whether a new school is being considered or not, the transition can still be a daunting one as students move from the relative comfort and safety of one classroom and one main homeroom teacher to navigate the challenges of numerous subject specialist teachers and classrooms.
At The International School of Penang (Uplands), we have designed a bespoke, international curriculum within our lower secondary school (Years 7-9) that draws on best practices from around the world to meet the needs of our diverse student population. It builds on the learning and skills developed in the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme taught from Reception to Year 6 whilst setting our students up for success in High School where students undertake IGCSEs followed by the world-renowned International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.
We are committed to providing an international education that gives our students the opportunity to experience a diverse and dynamic curriculum, whilst encouraging them to live by our motto: Respect for Self, Respect for Others. Our internationally blended Year 7-9 programme is underpinned by the practice of inquiry, and nurtures students to be open-minded, reflective, risk-takers who are able to learn, grow and flourish on their personal learning journey. It is a broad programme that offers students experiences in English Language and Literature, Mathematics, Science, Language Acquisition, Humanities, The Arts, and Physical Education.
Our approach to learning in lower secondary is driven by our school values with an emphasis on inquiry and collaboration. It is purposefully designed to create strong and successful foundations for students’ continued academic, social, and emotional growth and development. Equal emphasis is given to developing a robust knowledge base that students can build on through the IGCSE programme as well as acquiring the skills required to flourish both in particular subjects but also as a life-long learner. Assessment is continuous and ongoing, using formative and summative approaches to gather feedback on student progress whilst sharing these openly with students and parents. Uplands has adopted a “Mastery Band” approach to assessment, using research-based standards to articulate the expected outcomes for students and allowing for self, peer and teacher assessment against these outcomes.
Our excellent pastoral care programme supports our students holistically via the RESPECT programme. The RESPECT programme is tailored to meet the needs of each year group within the school addressing the personal, social, emotional and wellbeing needs of the students. It evolves from focusing on building relationships, organisational skills and transition in Year 7, through to a greater focus on study skills and making effective choices as students move through Year 9 and prepare for their next stage of schooling. At the core of our pastoral programme is a co-tutoring system; each student is part of a homeroom group led by a team of two tutors whose role is to support each student's personal growth and development through the year. A Head of Year has dedicated oversight to each year group, leading the tutor team and being responsible for tracking the holistic development of each child within the year. They are a dedicated point of contact for both students and parents to foster strong communication links between school and home. We also have a qualified school counsellor who supports students personal, social and emotional development whilst we have qualified intervention teachers to support English as Additional Language students.
As the start of the new academic year, we hold our “Hopes and Concerns Conferences”, an opportunity for parents and students to discuss the year ahead with the homeroom tutor to set goals and quell the anxiety that may come with this transition to secondary school. This is just a sample of the opportunities our dedicated Head of Year 7 and team of tutors provide to support students to embrace the changes that come with moving into secondary. This ensures that they are able to overcome any challenges they may face, using these to help them to learn, grow and flourish on the next steps of their learning journey.