No ATAR? No problem
11 May 2022
The final two years of education in most Australian schools funnel students into a series of three-hour exams leading ultimately to the fabled ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) in a process that hasn't changed substantially for decades.
Only around 26 per cent of university students in Australia enrol based on their ATAR, with many first-year university students (around 40 per cent) enrolling via such pathways as Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses, portfolios and interviews.
In response, a growing number of schools are actively changing the structure of the final two years of school, complementing or even replacing the ATAR with traineeships, VET and apprenticeship pathways and work placements — and seeing not just improved outcomes, but also happy and engaged senior students.
SEDA College in NSW offers year 11 and 12 students a Higher School Certificate (HSC) program based on industry placements in sports like AFL, basketball, netball and soccer, while also learning English, maths and an option for other curriculum courses such as business studies or personal development, health and physical education (PDHPE).
“I didn’t want to amend the current system, I wanted to upend it completely, says SEDA College principal Kate O'Donnell, who has spent several decades working in senior education roles.
O’Donnell says that most Australian schools adopt a one-size-fits-all system for the final two years of school that’s at odds with innovation elsewhere.
“We do incredible things in primary schools with whole-child learning, development of the individual and support for mental health — then we put kids into this ancient method of year 11 and 12? she says, adding that the ATAR is marketed as “being for smart kids”.
SEDA prepares students for a career within the sporting industry, starting with coaching and refereeing qualifications they undertake in the first few weeks of school.
Students spend just three days a week in classrooms, one day on a work placement and another day delivering free sporting programs in primary schools.
Year 12 student Rogue Henwood says: “I wasnt all that interested in the subjects I was doing at my last school and would rather be somewhere else.”
Now, each Tuesday she helps to run an inschool soccer coaching clinic for kids at local primary schools, and says the experience has grown her confidence and her communication and planning skills.
“I also get a real sense of gratitude and happiness,” she adds. “I love seeing the kids listen and learn, and know that I am doing something good.”
Rogue has had work placements at sporting clubs and the Eastern Suburbs Football Association, and is now considering doing primary school teaching.
As part of their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), students at Billanook College in Melbourne’s outer east are encouraged to select from nine VET courses, each including an industry-based work placement.
The school worked with Yarra Valley winemakers to develop its own four-hectare vineyard, ‘Cardigan Rise; and offers senior students a two-year Certificate II in Viticulture (wine) course, requiring two work placements over two years.
St Catherine’s School in Toorak, meanwhile, has a system of “personalised pathways” for students, according to director of teaching and learning Ceri Lloyd.
“Our teaching and learning model is sensitive to the individual pursuits of each of our students.”
“All St Catherine's students receive career education from year 7, assisting them to recognise and develop their unique capabilities and interests, and then mapping these into subject interests through to career pathways,” Lloyd says.
Most senior students take ATAR subjects, but in 2021, 2.5 per cent of students graduated with TAFE and apprenticeship qualifications, Lloyd says.
VET certificates are on offer for students from year 9, while senior students can undertake traineeships, such as the Certificate II in Sport and Recreation through AFL SportsReady.
“Our teaching and learning model is sensitive to the individual pursuits of each of our students,” Lloyd adds.
CathWest Innovation College has a campus in both Mount Druitt and Emu Plains in Sydney's west, where students from years 10 to 12 can get a HSC without sitting exams or attending timetabled classes.
Instead, students build a “skills passport”, choosing from a wide range of school-based apprenticeships, traineeships or internships — from plumbing and shopfitting to hospitality and automotive engineering.
Some students design jewellery or create video games, movies and animations, while others work in the school’s childcare centre and hairdressing salon, open to the public.
Principal Cathy Larkin says that government legislation keeping children at school until the age of 17 left many disengaged students marking time for two years.
Cathwest Innovation College Principal, Cathy Larkin
Students doing an apprenticeship at CathWest can do paid work with an employer for one day each week, while also gaining a Certificate II or III at school or TAFE.
“Our commercial cookery teacher is a chef who delivers industry qualifications; our childcare students get a full early childhood education certificate while still at school?” Larkin says.
Students leave school with a dual credential - the HSC and potentially the first stage of an apprenticeship or traineeship, while supported in a school environment.
“By the end of year 12, they’re more mature, they often have their driver’s licence, and they've had support at school where they can come back and discuss workplace challenges with tutors and mentors,’ she says - and they are ready for the workplace.
26 Sep 2022Use the Term 3 School Holidays 26 - 28 September for an opportunity to upskill for employment outcomes and develop skills in your passion area. Limited spaces still available!
21 Sep 2022
Congratulations Noah Saunders for officially starting your School Based Apprenticeship with Das Autohaus Emu Plains. What a great start and well done. Go well! 🚗🚗👌#cedp #hsc #realskillsforrealcareers
16 Sep 2022
BITTERSWEET AND VERY PROUD OF OUR YEAR 12 STUDENTS as they celebrate their last day today. This week was full of celebration from both Campuses. 🥲 Year 12s its been a memorable journey and we wish you all the very best! We hope that you take your experiences and knowledge that you gained at CathWest to an amazing and bright future. ☺️
15 Sep 2022
MURU MUTTIGAR EXCURSION YEAR 12 TRADE CERT III ECEC Recently our Year 12's attended Muru Mittigar as part of their Cultural studies. Students had a great day and were provided with opportunities to explore Aboriginal artifacts & culture. Students participated in using aboriginal symbols and clay to tell stories, explore Aboriginal plants and boomerang throwing. What a great day for the Year 12s! 🤩
15 Sep 2022
1 Week to go!!!! Are you in Year 9 or Year 10? Interested in Trying a Trade in : - Hairdressing (places still available) 💇♀️ - Metals (places still available) ⚙️⚒⛓ - Carpentry (waiting list only) 🔨🪜 - Childcare (waiting list only) 👶👧 - Automotive (waiting list only) 🚗 TRY A TRADE @ McCarthy Campus. September 21 2022. Register now! 😃
14 Sep 2022
Last week, our awesome teacher Kathleen volunteered so that the Hairdressing class can witness the process of hair dying. Cameron looked after her and learnt in the process. 💇♀️ 1) Prep 👩🦳 2) Dye 🧴 3) Wash🌧🧖♀️ 4) Treat💆♀️ 5) Blow Dry 👩🦰 Hair Success! Well done Cameron! 🤩 #Schooldonedifferently #CathWest #beautysalon #hairdressing
13 Sep 2022
Last week our Staff and Students celebrated R U Ok? day! They explored how to start a conversation through art work and some wore yellow for the day. 👍 Thank you all for participating. 🤩😄 #CathWest #ruok2022 #schooldonedifferently #itsokaytoaskRUOK
12 Sep 2022
Last week our Year 10 Design students from CathWest Innovation College showcased their work as young entrepreneurs. These students have participated in a program through Future Anything that enables them to solve a problem in society by ideating a solution through a product or service. This entrepreneurial program developed our students capability skills in communication, project management, critical thinking, creativity and innovation and adaptive mindset. Our young entrepreneurs pitched to our shark tank team and CathWest parents. 🦈🦈🦈 The shark tank team were as follows: Stephen Rutter: Founder of The Scale Insitute Katelin Vincent: Founder of YouGoGirlfriend Headspace Reps from Mount Druitt We would like to thank our courageous students on their commitment with this program and delivery of their pitches. YOU ARE ALL INSPIRATIONAL! Well done! 🤩 #Schooldonedifferently #CathWest #Entrepreneurship
09 Sep 2022
This week CathWest was represented at the Diocese Education Mass and Mission Partners Expo by Year 11 student leaders Sophie Galambos and Joshua Burrows. It was also a good opportunity to meet Bishop Vincent Long, who reminded us of the important role Catholic education has in serving others and caring for our common home. 😃
08 Sep 2022
Tomorrow at our Loyola Campus. Our Year 10 Inquiry Pathway students will hold a Social Enterprise Expo. At this event we will have our own SHARK TEAM 🦈that will provide feedback to our Entrepreneurs. Well done Year 10s! 🤩 #schooldonedifferently #CathWest
08 Sep 2022
Today is R U OK Day! A CONVERSATION CAN CHANGE A LIFE Inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with the people around them and start a conversation with those in their world who may be struggling with life. You don't need to be an expert to reach out - just a good friend and a great listener. Use these four steps and have a conversation that could change a life: 1) Ask R U OK? 2) Listen 3) Encourage action 4) Check in https://vimeo.com/742551291
07 Sep 2022
Year 12 Carpentry are putting their knowledge into practice by creating the foundations for a driveway. They have dug the hole, created the trench mech and placed them ready for the concrete slab to be poured! 🔨⛏ Great job!🤩 #buildingfoundations #CathWest #schooldonedifferent
06 Sep 2022
We would like to congratulate Jumikah Donovan and team for creating a Totem that represents CathWest. This totem will be featured in the Catholic Schools NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander State Education Conference 2022 at Fairmont Blue Mountains from 11th to 13th October. 🤩 "This totem project represents Cathwest's connection to indigenous culture. On the left side is McCarthy campus, with the blue mountains and their resident red belly black snake. The middle is the Nepean river between the campuses, and the snakes meeting with Loyola campuses resident kangaroos. On the right we have a meeting space or a yarning circle, representing us as one big community. Followed by the rainbow lorikeet prints on the top, which are found at both campuses". Great job Jumikah and team! 😄
06 Sep 2022
Last week was a very important week as it was Teacher's Aide appreciation week! Thank you to all the Teacher's Aide that have assisted our teachers and students through their educational journey! We couldn't have done it without you! 😄
06 Sep 2022
JERSEY DAY! 🏀⚽️🏈🏑🏏 Last Friday our staff and students had an amazing day as they promoted awareness for organ donation and raised some funding for the Jesuit Social Services! ❤️ Great work everyone! 🤩