ATAR, virus put double pressure on Queensland Year 12 students

Education ministers will meet tomorrow in a bid to ensure Year 12 students finish school this year despite the mayhem caused by the coronavirus.


Apr 06, 2020, updated Apr 06, 2020
Student Abby Hewett (middle) says the disruptions are unavoidable, but still confusing.

Supplied: Abby Hewett

Student Abby Hewett (middle) says the disruptions are unavoidable, but still confusing. Supplied: Abby Hewett

By Daniel McCulloch in Canberra

Concerns have been raised about how the disruption caused by COVID-19 could damage year 12 results, with many students in Queensland’s Year 12 cohort admitting they feel “confused and unsure” about completing their final year of high school amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s group would also be the first in Queensland to align with other states and territories to receive an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) instead of an OP Score (Overall Position) at the completion of their studies.

State and federal ministers will meet on Tuesday to canvass options including extending the academic year or postponing final exams.

They will also discuss boosting overall scores and changing university application procedures.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has floated the possibility of extending year 12 into next year, but his federal counterpart is not keen.

“All options will be considered tomorrow when we meet – that is an outlier option – that is in a very worst-case scenario,” Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan told Seven on Monday.

“The hope is that we will be able to get everyone through this year.”

State and territory curriculum and assessment authorities will present all available options to the meeting.

Tehan said responses to the pandemic would likely vary between jurisdictions.

“But there is a collective will amongst all education ministers for us to be able to ensure that all those Year 12 students will be able to complete their studies this year,” he said.

“And then go on to university, vocational education or employment next year.”

The Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) held crisis talks late March to address the “increasing pressures on students, their families and teachers”.

QCAA chairman Brian Short said while the decision had been made to remove one internal assessment for each subject, how that would play out in individual schools was still being decided.

“There will be some flexibility to accommodate the specific needs of subjects … across-the-board adjustment is necessary to ensure the assessment experience is as equitable as it can be for all students,” he said.

Year 12 student Abby Hewett said the process was unavoidable, but still confusing.”It’s just so up in the air — they don’t know which one they’re going to cut because it’s all about fairness and each school is doing their thing differently, so it needs to be fair across the board,” she said.

Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said schools were trying to alleviate the stresses young people were feeling at the moment.

“Where exams were scheduled for Year 11 and 12 students, schools have postponed them and are keeping everyone informed of these arrangements,” Grace said.

The Department of Education said more than 98 per cent of schools had already uploaded completed internal assessments, meaning that for most students, they would only be required to complete one further internal assessment this year.

“We will continue to work collaboratively to adapt our learning resources as this unprecedented pandemic evolves,” Grace said.

First ATAR year for Queensland

Year 12 student India Cavenagh, who attends Indooroopilly State High School in Brisbane’s west, said she felt her grade was “like the guinea pigs or the experimental grade” and also the first to enter high school from Year 7.

“Being the first ATAR year already, there’s a lot of pressure put on us to show everyone the way,” Ms Cavenagh said.

In a newsletter to parents, Queensland’s largest state high school, Kelvin Grove State College (KGSC), said: “We are waiting on the notification of which Internal Assessment will be dropped and how that will impact the External Exams”.

‘Very trying time’ for students

KGSC senior school principal Duncan Steel also addressed the other rites of passage the students might miss “through this very trying time”.

“I know students are concerned about missing their Year 12 formal, which is scheduled for 18 September 2020,” he wrote.

“We can make a decision to have this later in the year but we will wait and see what happens next term before we make any decisions.”

Year 12 student Josephine Olton told the ABC this was not how she perceived her final year playing out.

“My school’s United Nations Day was cancelled, which is a pretty big deal to us, and my formal’s in August, so it hasn’t been cancelled yet and I’m hoping that it won’t be,” Olton said.

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‘Confused and unsure’

Cavenagh said experiences during their final year had already been tarnished.

“They cancelled music night, they cancelled extra-curricular things, the Year 11 social got cancelled, our Year 12 formal is supposed to happen in August but I don’t really think it will,” Cavenagh said.

Fellow student Shanu Sobti said she felt like they got a “pretty bad deal” and now coronavirus had thrown a real spanner in the works.

“This time is so uncertain — we don’t know what’s going to happen, no one really knows what’s going to happen — we’re not the only ones that are confused and unsure,” Sobti said.

Ms Sobti said adapting to online learning had also been difficult, particularly not having face-to-face contact with teachers.

“When I was doing my work, and I had a question for one of my teachers, the only way that I could get in contact with them was by email and that relies on them being online at the same time and them seeing it,” she said.

Short said the QCAA was now providing direction to schools on how to adjust what was taught and the nature and timing of other assessments.

“Students can be assured that they will still receive fair subject results,” he said.

“Their parents and carers, and their teachers, can draw comfort from the QCAA’s commitment to listen and respond to their concerns as we negotiate the ongoing challenges this year will bring.”

– ABC / Brittney Kleyn

Additional reporting by AAP

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