So what happens with our Year 12 students?
More than 180,000 students are currently in Year 12. All states are scrambling to make sure they can still construct a Year 12 for the thousands of pupils in their state so these young people can move on with their lives in 2021; whether that be onto University, a trade or whatever they want to pursue. ‘There will be no Year 13, there will be no mass repeating’ said the Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan, a couple of weeks ago; ‘Every student will get an ATAR certificate for 2020, so they can go to university, vocational education, or employment, next year,’ he said.
Each state has handled the crisis differently but across the board, the state schools were shut to most students. In some cases, they have remained open when necessary for children of essential workers. Victoria brought forward school holidays, while other states and territories used pupil-free days to prepare for terms 2 and 3 being delivered through e-learning after the Easter break. Public school attendance has dropped to as low as 5% in New South Wales. With private/independent schools moving online yet Catholic and Public schools still playing catch up, there have been growing calls in NSW from observers of a ‘digital divide’ between schools based on their technological infrastructure.
This means that Year 12 students must use these weeks or months behind a computer screen or above the notepad and textbook to best prepare themselves for an end of Year 12 that will come this year and will have some level of normality. Although, the year may be anything but normal, Year 12’s must study hard to best prepare for end of year exams, especially in the states where the education certificate still relies heavily on end of year exams. Students should take time when they aren’t having contact time with teachers to compete as many of their assignments as possible so to best prepare for the year ahead for both states with significant summative assignments and those that do not. Students will hopefully have some online resources from their school or have been sent information about where to find that. If you need some more learning material, check out our articles on online learning resources.
Each state is adjusting their curriculums from different starting points. In NSW, students usually commence final year subjects in the fourth term of the year prior. They finish classes in term three and then sit HSC exams in October/November. For some subjects the final exam can comprise more than half of the student’s grade with a significant proportion of the student’s school grade or internal assessment coming from their trial exams in September. The ACT on the other hand uses a credit system where students accumulate course credits with no final external exam. In South Australia external exams are worth 30% of the final subject score.
The states have had different approaches to how to be equitable to Year 12’s. New South Wales announced late in March that Year 12 would go ahead including exams but that individual principals would have more control over assignments and their grading. This has now since then been adopted by Victoria and Tasmania which will follow similar programs. In Victoria however, the education minister stated that exams could be pushed back until later in the year.
The Queensland Education Department announced early April it decided to drop one of the four assessments usually required for final-year students in each subject ‘to provide some relief for students during this time, and support teachers manage reduced classroom time’. The Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority told principals in late March that it would drop one of the summative internal assessments for both general and applied subjects. This means that for Queensland Year 12’s, results in ‘general subjects’ will be calculated from two internal assessments and one external assessment and three internal assessments for applied subjects.
On the other hand, South Australia has remained the lone state to not change procedures significantly. South Australian premier Steven Marshall said it was the intention that term 2 would commence as normal when asked whether any students would need to repeat a year as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The state’s education minister, John Gardner, spoke to Guardian Australia and said the state would seek consistency nationally on ATARs, but would still keep responsibility for its school certificate.
Australian universities are changing admission policies to account for the disruption to Year 12 students’ studies. In a break from other universities in the ‘Group of Eight’, University of Western Australia announced that it was offering two new alternative entry pathways for Australian students in some undergraduate degrees. On top of accepting ATAR scores, UWA said it would also admit students on the basis of a predicted ATAR calculated from an applicant’s Year 11 results as well as a special tertiary admissions test. The University of Tasmania has also introduced a novel pathway to admission with a recommendation program whereby pupils will be admitted to most courses except for ones with quotas such as medicine on a recommendation basis from their schools.
So how best to prepare for exams or the rest of Year 12? Do your research on what’s changed in your state for yourself or your child. For the states that have given more weighting to internal assignments and discretion to teachers, it is important now more than ever for pupils to be on top of their work and have a great relationship with their teachers. On top of that, research the ways in which different university admission policies have changed. Everyone’s lives will be affected by this and some students will be affected worse than others. However, due to some of the changes to admissions outlined above, some students may be given a lifeline. Best of luck to everyone.