Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta
Year 12 means jerseys with quirky nicknames, hitting the books, sitting school hall exams, graduation, formals, schoolies and the prospect of new horizons, right? Guess again: COVID-19 has really changed the final year at school in 2020 and for many students, there’s a sense of loss of these ‘coming of age’ experiences.
In the debate about getting senior students back to school sooner, the focus tended to be on learning. Though the academic help school leavers receive from their teachers (face-to-face or remotely) is really valuable, at this stage of their learning journey, these students have the skills to study with some independence.
Seeing the eagerness of so many HSC students to return to the classroom in person is a reminder of the importance of schools for wellbeing. Though I’ve been a strong critic of the HSC as a school leavers’ qualification, I can very much understand the sadness some students are feeling. I also want to remind all students that support is available if you’re struggling at this time, including through skilled school counsellors.
For those concerned about the impact of disruption on student learning, it’s important to remember that the HSC is not the be-all and end-all in education. How many people know that only a quarter of university students use an ATAR to gain entry into university? Early entry programs are another way universities work out whether students are ready for their studies. Perhaps in the future, there’s a chance to do assessment and Year 12 differently.
We should all be so proud of the Class of 2020: their dedication to their studies and just as importantly, their resilience. If the purpose of school is to prepare young people for life, whatever it throws at them, they’re a class act.
As mentioned above, any student who is struggling (or concerned family and friends) can seek help at a school level, including through school counsellors. Other useful contacts include Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Kids’ Helpline on 1800 551 800.
Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta