MLinsights_JULY2020

Positive mindsets and resilience

I have made it clear many times in my communications with you throughout the period of the COVID 19 pandemic just how incredibly proud I have been of our students who have risen to the challenge and coped with significant adversity with courage, resilience, patience and good humour.

I am especially proud of our Year 12 cohort who have been facing the uncertainties and disruptions of the pandemic while coping with what many acknowledge is ordinarily the most challenging school year of their lives.

Our Year 12s enjoyed a virtual School Formal and Yom Ha’atzmaut – our brilliant educators have been doing their best to compensate for the postponement or cancellation of some of the regular highlights that ordinarily punctuate the academic rigour of the school year.

Our teachers have reported that the 12s have performed admirably in their internal assessments and that they have maintained their positivity, work ethic and enthusiasm while being subjected to a very different experience than the one that they had been gearing up for.

The students have had to sharpen their inter-personal communication skills as they are relying more frequently on email communications. They have had to hone their capacity to collaborate in group Google Meet classes. They have had to demonstrate flexibility in their approach to this new situation and have had to rely on positive mindsets and resilience to get through.

Immediately prior to the COVID 19 crisis I attended a session run by Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia with academics from Australia’s leading tertiary institutions which considered the merits and long-term viability of the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Achievement Ranking) as a measure of students’ abilities and performance.

In this session, ideas around alternative assessment structures which include proficiency badges, valuing of character traits and extra-curricular experiences alongside traditional academic pursuits were all mooted.

The 2018 Mitchell research report into ATAR suggested that nearly three quarters of tertiary entrants do not rely upon an ATAR. Many have identified that one of the deficiencies of the ATAR is in how it hones in on a narrow set of skills including writing fluency, recall and performance in timed assessments, which do not necessarily align with what industry and educational theorists have identified as being most likely to predict success in the workplace.

In considering this list of skillsets that I have identified above as becoming important throughout the distance learning period it is apparent that these more closely match with the 21st century skills identified as most likely to be valued by employers.

As a response to the COVID 19 crisis, the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), which administers the VCE, has adjusted every Year 12 subject’s Study Design to reduce assessable content as a result of the shift to distance learning. This will no doubt help to alleviate anxiety and to help ensure that students are not unfairly disadvantaged by the impact of the pandemic.

Tertiary institutions have adjusted too. Two universities, the Australian National University and the University of New England have changed entry requirements to do away with reliance on the ATAR and to prioritise historical academic results, personal characteristics and experiences in their admissions processes.

I think that given the speed in which the VCAA has responded to adjust assessments and the growing interest of the tertiary sector to adopt new models, we will soon see some changes to the way that our matriculation years are assessed in Victoria.

While I would welcome a considered change, I hope that the relevant authorities work to enhance flexibility while maintaining the high standards that allow for bright and hardworking students to shine.

In the meantime, I reiterate my congratulations to our current Year 12s for their maturity throughout this challenging period. On all our behalf, I wish them b’hatzlacha for the remainder of the school year.