Secondary school experiences beyond the classroom

Girl doing rock climbingIn addition to academics, many schools offer opportunities for students to experience life outside of the classroom. These activities aim to get your child involved in the community and develop important personal qualities and life skills such as leadership, confidence and teamwork.

Some of the options include:

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (or ‘Duke of Ed’) allows secondary students to experience life beyond the classroom through a structured, globally recognised program. The award can be completed at the bronze, silver or gold levels, with most students working their way through the ranks throughout secondary school. There are various awards that students can choose from, including physical recreation, skill, volunteering, adventurous journey and a residential project. Many schools offer the program as a co-curricular option, but students can still complete the program independently if it is not offered formally at their school. For more details, see the Duke of Ed website.

Camps and hikes

Most schools offer camps to students at various year levels to provide them with a chance to bond with their classmates and learn some valuable lessons away from the school campus. They  usually run for about a week and can range from trips to the great outdoors a few hours away to interstate affairs that require plane travel. Some camps immerse students in the wilderness, while others give them the opportunity to see the sights of the city. Some see students spending time at shared accommodation and completing a structured itinerary of activities (think orienteering, horse riding and canoeing), while others involve demanding hikes where students spend their days trekking and pitch their own tents at night.

Off-campus development programs

Some schools offer special off-campus development programs for students as they make the transition from junior to senior secondary — usually in Year 9. These programs see students move to a new campus, often in a wilderness setting, for as long as a year. A rigorous academic program is usually combined with subjects that take advantage of the rural location, such as environmental and agricultural studies. These are demanding years that get students out of their comfort zone in the name of personal development. They aim to instill resilience, confidence and teamwork — skills that will prove useful in the senior years and life beyond school.

Field trips and study tours

Many schools offer experiences to travel around Australia or overseas, whether this takes the form of a field trip for a certain subject (such as a trip to Canberra for politics or Italy for art); an exchange program at an Australian or international sister school; or studying at a rural, interstate or overseas campus. These trips allow students to gain knowledge and learn skills first hand in a new environment, while also providing the opportunity to travel.

Overseas exchange

Overseas exchange allows secondary students from Years 9 to 12 to experience life and school in another country. Programs may be available through your child’s school, but most are organised through independent exchange companies. Depending on the exchange company, students can choose to complete a short-term or long-term exchange program in a selection of countries around the world (both English-speaking and non-English-speaking). Durations of three months, six months or a year are usually available.

Exchange students live with a host family overseas, attend school and, if they are in a non-English-speaking country, learn the language. For many students, exchange programs are a life-changing experience, allowing them to experience a new way of life, make new friends and learn a new language. Even if overseas exchange is out of the question, you can still sign up to be a host family and welcome a student from overseas into your home.

Overseas exchange providers include the following organisations:

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