From the Principal

What would a post-ATAR, or no-ATAR world look like?

Articles in numerous, credible, educational journals and publications that discuss alternatives to the ATAR have steadily built in number and commitment over the last 10 years in Australia. 10 years ago, such thoughts were viewed with some cynicism and a “if not the ATAR, then what?” response. Over this period, universities and further education institutions have steadily sought a more nuanced process for tertiary entry, and over the same period, the proportion of entrants awarded places in most courses purely by ATAR score has steadily dropped.

During the same period, increasing amounts of time, thought and research have gone into looking at what alternatives might be used as the influence of the ATAR wanes, particularly for students below the highest ATAR score applicants for any course. This is also part of a broader commitment to more appropriately match students with courses and vocations.

So what does this look like at present, and what might it look like in the future? Well, first of all, the ATAR is currently still the simplest and most direct route to university and further education for most courses. At Tintern, students, staff and families work very hard and collaboratively to enable students to achieve their best ATAR with this in mind and with the School’s best ever combined (VCE and IB) ATAR results last year, we can all be confident that our collective work on this is bearing the desired fruit.

However, in particular circumstances, some students can obtain a ‘discount’ on the ATAR required for course entry, or even bypass it altogether. There are varied reasons for this, and it is important that students and families ensure they are aware of the options open to them in this area. Up until 2018, these variations in entry conditions resulted in VTAC publishing an annual “clearly in” score for each course; a minimum score that guaranteed a place, but was not the score that was required, as some students gained entry with lower scores.

In recent years, the percentage of students accepted who were under the “clearly in” score, has risen in many or even most courses, with it being noted by some sources as reaching up to or even over 80% of accepted students in some courses.

Read the article: Clearly-in ATAR is a meaningless number for most courses – and many students

This appeared to peak for 2017 leavers. As a result, last year, for 2018 leavers, there was no “clearly in” score published. This has unfortunately created an atmosphere of uncertainty for students and parents, and I know that at Tintern at least, Heather Ruckert and our Careers Department are well across what this means for departing students this year and in the near future.

But on the second of these, what does this mean for the future? With the ATAR already fraying at VTAC level and prominent politicians, media-supported pressure groups, and even some experienced and credible Principals questioning the future of university selection by ATAR, the discussion is already moving to what might be the alternative/s. The best-supported ideas at present appear to revolve around the principle of ‘micro-credentialing’. This entails students building a folio of credentials in a range of areas over their time at school, which then forms a portion of their application for work placement, further education, university study or a portion of a job application.

While there is much work to be done on the detail associated with this, one thing is certainly clear. The long-standing call at our school to “get involved, take up opportunities, and stretch yourself” may possibly become even more important in the near future. Encourage your daughters and sons to involve themselves broadly, stretch and extend themselves beyond their known limits and comfort zone. While this will enable a quality folio of those micro-credentials, it will feed excitement as a learner and doer, supporting a vibrant and dynamic school experience and it will also feed into the development of those ‘21st century’ capabilities that will be needed in their future world of work.

As we look back on a wonderful Term 1 and a vibrant and active start to Term 2 and continue to encourage our new students at every year level, let’s all be members of a learning community that steps out to learn and grow without hesitation, that both broadens our involvement and stretches our ability with courage and commitment. It will certainly help with ATARs, NAPLANs, PAT testing and ICAS; but it will also prepare us very well all for the evolution of education and the complex post-school pathways that are clearly on their way to us.

Factis non verbis

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