SUBJECTS: COVID-19 and Year 12 students, ATAR
Gemma Bath: Finally, let’s bring Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan into this conversation. Dan, can you explain how the decision was made to just ‘push through’, to not consider a Year 13?
Dan Tehan: Well, all education ministers, across the nation, met in June, and it was decided that the best thing to do for Year 12s was to make sure that they did have a Year 12. That we would ensure that they got the education that they needed this year, and then would be able to go on and pursue their dreams, whether it be through work, through vocational education, or through going to university. And, that was a collective decision that was made by all education ministers across the nation.
Bath: Does it mean that some cohorts are going to have unfair advantages over others, especially when it comes to things like access to technology and Internet, and some individual schools maybe giving more flexibility, than others?
Tehan: It does mean that there will be challenges to certain students in certain areas, and from certain demographics. And, we all understand that. And, every education minister committed to providing the support that was necessary to enable all students to do the best they can. But, when the time comes, we will be able to review and assess some of the difficulties that some students have had, and that will be taken into consideration with their final ATAR result.
Bath: Obviously, the main concern amongst Year 12s is that ATAR mark. Is any work being done on a national level to make some exceptions this year, with that score?
Tehan: Well, there are always exceptions which are made for ATAR, because, sadly, students might have a death in the family during Year 12, or be sick themselves, or get injured. So, there is always consideration which is taken into account about the circumstances that a student faces throughout Year 12. So, that will continue this year. Also, the overall circumstances will be taken into account, of the difficulties that students have faced, from moving from face-to-face teaching, to online learning, and back again. So, these will be all considered as part of the ATAR at the end of the year. And, students will be able to apply to have their special circumstances taken into account.
Bath: Obviously, Victoria is the focus right now, with the whole state back in lockdown, as of today. You’ve signalled the Federal Government’s willingness to help those students. Has that been asked of you yet, and what kind of support are you anticipating you’ll be able to give?
Tehan: We’re assessing the changes that have been made over the last few days, and made it quite clear to the Victorian State Government that we stand ready to support them, as we can, to make sure that students get that continuity of education that they need, as best they can. Obviously, understanding these are extremely difficult circumstances, and putting a lot of pressure on Year 12 students, in particular, in Victoria.
Bath: If you’re feeling angry, or disappointed, or worried about doing your final exams this year, that’s ok. That’s normal, considering the circumstances. It might sound cliché, but you can’t control what’s going on around you, and it’s important to remember that the ATAR is a rank, not a mark. And, given that every Year 12 in the country’s been affected by the pandemic, you’re all in the same boat. Dan might be a federal politician, but, believe it or not, once upon a time, he too was studying for his Year 12 exams. He has this message for those students feeling overwhelmed right now.
Tehan: Despite everything that’s going on, the best thing that you can do is just focus on your study, and focus on doing the best that you can, given everything that’s been thrown at you. All your hopes and dreams for Year 12 have been turned on their head. But, if you get through this year, you’ll get through anything that life throws at you, and I think that’s incredibly important. Life will always throw challenges at you, so, if you can cope and manage with this year, and do the best you can, it’ll set you up for the rest of your life and give you a sense of resilience, and a sense of ability to be able to work through anything that, I think, will stand you in very good stead.