The Year 12 Science and Maths Academy at Flinders
The Year 12 Science and Maths Academy at Flinders (SMAF) pilot program aims to improve the academic achievement of Year 12 students, and support their subsequent transition to university. It provides a sophisticated and secure learning environment for school-aged students, as well as the opportunity for them to experience and preview university life.
Darlene Voss is Manager, Educational Partnerships in the Southern Knowledge Transfer Partnership Office.
The university was represented in these discussions by the Southern Knowledge Transfer Partnership Office (SKTP). The SKTP was established in 2009 to develop and enhance sustainable two-way partnerships between Flinders University and the wider community that will benefit students, teachers, schools and the local community. In particular, the SKTP helps Flinders staff and students to increase their engagement with regional education, business and community organisations. The establishment of the SKTP was made possible through a $3.5 million grant from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations' Diversity and Structural Adjustment Fund, provided to help the university to expand tertiary education, contribute to skills acquisition and better engage with the community in Southern Adelaide.
After the initial approach from schools, the SKTP facilitated a number of meetings between school staff and several university bodies: Flinders Science Education in the 21st Century, the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and the School of Education. The schools were represented by their principals and school science and maths coordinators. The meetings considered logistical and operational issues, including mechanisms for reporting student absences, transport arrangements, in-school tutorial support for students, examinations, the OH&S of students and teachers in laboratories, student orientations, Flinders ID cards for students and teachers, and access to online learning systems. A series of bi-monthly meetings were set up, with regular email and phone conversations in between.
The Year 12 Science and Maths Academy at Flinders (SMAF) pilot program emerged from this work. The program aims to improve the academic achievement of Year 12 students, and support their subsequent transition to university. It provides a sophisticated and secure learning environment for school-aged students, as well as the opportunity for them to experience and preview university life. The interactions with other like-minded students and Flinders student mentors in the adult learning environment of a university provides students with new opportunities to understand their subjects and insights into future pathways, and inspires them to achieve their best.
The SMAF pilot commenced early this term, with involvement from 84 Year 12 students based at seven schools. The students are taught in first-year laboratories and learning spaces at Flinders University by dedicated, highly skilled teachers who were competitively selected from the participating schools. A timetable was negotiated between schools and the university that sees students studying at the Flinders' Bedford Park campus for two mornings each week for Stage 2 physics and specialist maths, and an afternoon each week for chemistry. Sessions are held in informal innovative learning centres, first-year lecture theatres, laboratory rooms and computer suites, thus allowing students to gradually move around and gain confidence when on campus. Students involved in the program also access the Flinders University library and resources, with tutorial support lessons for all subjects held at participating school sites at other times during the school week.
The SMAF offers many advantages for Flinders University and the participating schools including resource sharing and access to expertise available at Flinders University, particularly in regard to chemistry and physics. Schools expressed the need to up-skill teachers to ensure they can prepare students for university courses and, through this partnership, it is anticipated that there will be fruitful interactions between school teachers and university lecturers during the program. Flinders lecturers and teachers from the participating schools will have opportunities to network, engage in informal science and maths forums and participate in other professional development activities, adding value to both school curriculum delivery and university courses.
A steering group has been established to support the schools and students participating in the pilot SMAF program. The steering group will encourage and support the effective integration and coordination of the pilot program's strategic directions, policy and practice, leading to successful engagement in learning. This group will also provide a forum for discussion of strategic issues impacting the SMAF pilot program and model. The SMAF steering group will comprise representatives from Flinders University as well as from the lead school, Aberfoyle Park High School, industry figures, and representation from the South Australian Department of Education and Children's Services (DECS) .
An evaluation will be undertaken to review the pilot program toward the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012.
The schools in the SMAF pilot are Aberfoyle Park High School, Christies Beach High School, Eastern Fleurieu School, Hamilton Secondary College, Mount Compass Area School, Seaford 6–12 School and Wirreanda High School.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Transitions in schooling
Senior secondary education