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Read exclusive content from L Platers, the latest parenting guide from bestselling author of Being 14 and Ten-ager


Many, many schools are failing to prepare students for university, or post-school life. A survey of 1000 girls, in L Platers, showcases the shock when girls find they can’t hand in drafts, that they do not get practice tests or reminders of assignments. The scaffolding of school, where they are told what to do when to do it, what to study and how to structure their work, has failed to alert them to how that changes after Year 12.

And what’s the impact of that? Girls are sleeping through lectures because they haven’t had someone to wake them up, not eating because lunch wasn’t packed, and don’t know how to study without the day being divided into 40-minute subject chunks.

But it is more serious than that. Many struggle with that first year after school because their hand has been held too tightly: drafts have been corrected and re-corrected; teachers have checked in on those going through hard times, and rules have governed everything from uniforms to piercings. Sex education in some schools involves putting a condom on a piece of foam in science class! COVID cancelled the gap year along with many casual jobs - and it’s left a huge hole in how students handle that first year, after school.

“Many of them don’t sit down to a big fat bowl of consequences until they leave school," one educator says.

Another says this: “The lecturer has 500 students and doesn’t care if your dog died on the weekend. You’re not going to get an extension."

Girls admit to struggling, particularly as universities continue to deliver online lectures.

“There are no in-person classes - so how do you make friends?’’ one asks.

“I didn’t expect it to be so self-driven,’’ another says.

Some schools are now encouraging a Year 13 program, where they stay in contact with students to help them do everything from obtain work to fill out forms. What I learnt is that it is important to have a checklist for when your child graduates - and that list might include enrolling to vote, obtaining a driving licence and a Medicare card, applying for a work-with-children card, and undertaking a first-aid course. But empowering a 17-year-old is a key to providing confidence, going forward.

  • L Platers - Madonna King

    To support our girls, we need to understand the pressures this generation is under by listening to what worries them and what they need - and journalist and social commentator Madonna King has done just that.

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