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Learning in secondary school

The classroom layout is different in secondary school with each subject being taught in a different classroom, by different teachers with different teaching styles.

What children learn in secondary school

When your children start secondary school, they start by focussing on eight core subject areas:

  • English
  • mathematics
  • science
  • humanities and social sciences
  • the arts
  • technologies
  • health and physical education
  • languages.

In addition to these core subjects, all secondary schools offer additional school-based programs. These programs focus on many areas including academic extension, music, sports and much more. Contact the school to find out what school-based programs they offer and how to apply.

Many of our schools offer special programs that accept applications from children and young people across Western Australia. Find out more about these additional learning programs and how to apply.

In Years 11 and 12, your children have the choice to study the programs, courses and subjects that interest them most as they work towards gaining their Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE). These choices may reflect future career aspirations including further study at university or a registered training organisation, an apprenticeship or traineeship, or employment.

There are also a number of participation options for young people not attending full time school. 

At secondary school your children are expected to be responsible for their learning and study and need to schedule their time appropriately. Talk with their teachers if your children are having difficulties keeping up with their workload or if they do not understand a concept.

Choosing subjects for Years 11 and 12 

In Year 10, your children are asked to select the subjects they wish to study in Years 11 and 12. These choices should reflect their strengths and interests to ensure they achieve their best, and graduate with the skills and qualifications that provide a stepping stone to their career of choice.

Different subject choices are required for different educational pathways.

Those wishing to attend university must choose academic subjects that count towards the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). Those wishing to do a trade, apprenticeship or traineeship; study at a registered training organisation; or wishing to enter the workforce after school should look at vocational subjects. Your children may find that a mix of academic and vocational subjects is right for them (especially if they want to keep their options open or are undecided about what they want to do after school).

If your children are having difficulty choosing what to study in Years 11 and 12 they can:

  • speak with their teachers or the course counsellor – they can help them with career planning and identifying the subjects that are right for their skill set
  • attend career orientation days at universities and registered training organisations.
Training in school

Apprenticeships and traineeships are available to young people in Years 11 and 12. This means they combine studying for the Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) with training and work (spending three days a week at school, one day training and one day at work).

There are four options available:

  • Pre-Apprenticeships in Schools (PAiS) allow young people to try different jobs in the industry they are interested in or to undertake an industry specific pre-apprenticeship. They then progress to an apprenticeship.
  • School-based apprenticeships allow young people to start their apprenticeship on a part-time basis at school and continue full-time or part-time after leaving school.
  • School-based traineeships allow young people to complete qualifications while at school.
  • Aboriginal school-based training provides opportunities for young Aboriginal people to gain a qualification, continue with further education and training or employment, while still at school.

For more information contact your school, visit VET in Schools or telephone 9264 4783.

Homework and study

Homework reinforces and supports the things your children learn in school. It is designed to get your children thinking and applying what they learn in different ways and develops them into independent learners.

In secondary school, your children receive specific tasks and projects designed to apply their knowledge in different ways – for example creative writing, oral presentations, essays, exams and assignments.

You can help your children when they first start secondary school by:

  • setting aside a set time each day for homework (also allow time for play and relaxation)
  • setting up a ‘homework station’ where your children can do their homework
  • setting up a schedule for big projects that take longer to complete so they are not left with one day to finish it
  • letting your children complete their homework by themselves – this fosters independent learning
  • asking your children to explain what they have done – explaining things in their own words is a great way to learn
  • checking your children’s homework when they are done for the day and working through any errors together
  • knowing where your children are up to with their homework so they do not fall behind.

You can support your children in the later years of secondary school by making sure they:

  • eat well and have plenty of sleep
  • have a work/life balance – excessive study is not good for your children’s health and wellbeing
  • have a routine they can follow.

We have also created some factsheets that will help young people get the most out of their study time.

If your children are having problems with their homework or with a specific subject, ask their teacher to spend some extra time helping them through the task.

Talk with your children’s teacher about the school’s homework policy for more details.