Secondary School Pathways for all Students

Thu, August 13, 2020

The disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn into question the ATAR as the perceived main pathway into university study. The potential impact on students’ Year 12 results and on international enrolments has led to universities rethinking the ways in which they accept students into their courses. For example, a number of Australian universities are accepting students based on their Year 11 results. Many of our St Mark’s student have received ‘early entry’ university offers for 2021. Universities, post-COVID, are likely to continue to consider fair, equitable, appropriate and increasingly less-traditional entry pathways. 

This week, the ABC reported the slow death of the ATAR, but ATAR as a pathway has been declining for some time. Just a quarter of Australian students enter an undergraduate degree based on their ATAR. Universities offer a range of alternative entry pathways, including interviews, portfolios, entrance tests, and credit for vocational education and training (VET). The VET system will play a key role in supporting Australia’s recovery from the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, ensuring that all Australians have access to the training they need to actively participate in and help drive our economic recovery. Those occupations that have risen to importance during the pandemic have VET qualifications: nurses, aged care workers, early childhood educators, and freight and logistics workers. 

At St Mark’s we take pride in supporting all our Senior School students to choose the pathway—into work, further education and/or training—that is right for them. We respect, celebrate, and offer quality education in ATAR and General/VET areas. 

Options for our Senior School students include an ATAR pathway to university and a General/VET pathway to industry. Additionally, St Mark’s offers Curtin University’s UniReady, an enabling program for students wishing to qualify for access into selected degrees at Curtin University, Edith Cowan University and Murdoch University. While enabling programs are normally accessed by students after they finish their Year 12 studies, St Mark’s and Curtin University have a partnership that allows the School to deliver the UniReady program to our eligible Year 12 students as one of their timetabled courses. 

This week our Year 10 and 11 students are participating in course counselling interviews in which they sit with a member of the Senior School leadership team to discuss and confirm their course selections. Students consider their interests, abilities, vocational goals, and parents’ thoughts, and are supported and advised by a range of staff. 

Looking to the Future is a recent review of school pathways into work, further education, and training, led by a panel chaired by Professor Peter Shergold AC, published on 23 July. The report notes that: “Education must prepare young people both for active citizenship in a democratic society and for purposeful engagement with the labour market. School leavers do not just need to be employable. They need to be adaptable, flexible, and confident. Education must provide students with the essential attributes they require for lifelong learning in whatever fields of endeavour they may choose.” 

The report argues that all pathways need to be equally respected. At St Mark’s our students are supported to be active, values-driven citizens and adaptable lifelong learners. They are offered and advised about a range of pathways to enable their success now and into the future. Our course offerings and practices reflect the report’s comment that “all students will be encouraged to pursue excellence and follow their passions and interests when selecting their subjects for Years 11 and 12 and considering post-school pathways” and that “all school pathways will be delivered to the same high standard.”

By Dr Deborah Netolicky, Head of Teaching and Learning