There’s nobody so anxious as a year twelve student, in 2020. It was always going to be a testing year, with exams, the transition to ATAR, the stress of applying to universities and preparing for life after school. Then…along came COVID-19. The uncertainty about how year 12 study and testing will be carried out is testing resistance, patience and family relationships. The Victorian government had already laid out their plans at the time that Queensland announced. Victorian students are welcome back at school but most will do their final year of high school (or at least a good chunk of it) from home. So, what about Queensland kids? Well, the plan is out. At least now we have some answers, if not many details. Here’s what parents need to know.
What is the plan for year 12, 2020?
Today Dan Tehan announced that all year 12 students will complete their ATAR (or other year 12 certification) in 2020. ATAR scores and university placements will be “adjusted” to take into account the additional struggles that the class of 2020 will face this year, however, it’s largely “business as usual” in unusual circumstances. The government is actively trying to avoid mass repeats of the senior year and is calling on both schools and universities to develop policies for achieving fair ATAR results and placements. Schools will be open for children who cannot stay at home because parents need to work or if they have limited access to technology. By year 12, however, the issues around childcare for essential workers are less of a priority than in younger children.
What does this mean for your child’s ATAR score?
ATAR has been hailed as a fairer and more accurate assessment of student achievement (learn more about ATAR VS OP), however it does rely more heavily on single examinations for rankings than the old system. The announcement did not go into specifics on how they plan to alter the ATAR testing model to keep students from being disadvantaged if they’re unable to attend a regular classroom. They also failed to elaborate on subjects like Chemistry where the majority of the coursework cannot be done at home (unless, you know, you’ve got a Bunsen burner in the kitchen). What does it mean for your year 12 student?
“We’re all in the same boat” – or are we?
For the majority of Australian kids, it means that they’ll study at home while mum and dad go to work. All good. Except that it means kids who struggle with study skills, self-motivation, taking initiative, managing their time – this is where the system may fall down. While “attendance” in an online classroom could be mandatory, the level of focus and how hard your child applies him or herself in that situation comes down to the individual. Not all teens are brimming with enthusiasm and motivation.
It also creates problems for non-neurotypical students who may face additional barriers to learning. Some children with autism struggle with sudden changes to routine. Where a regular classroom setting may be a suitable environment for some non-neurotypical kids, online learning may not be.
For children in remote areas or areas with patchy internet access, there will also be struggles beyond what city kids experience. While your child may have all the advantages of any suburban Australian child, each individual child will react differently to this sudden change in the system and routines they’ve known their whole academic life. Some will fare better than others.
Are all schools doing the same thing?
While all year 12 students in 2020 are technically in the same situation, levelling the playing field for ATAR ranking isn’t as simple as jumping online. While all students will undergo the same assessments at the same time, some students will have better support. As a concerned parent, you’re already giving your child the edge by demonstrating that you’re on their side and ready to help. Some schools, however, will have better infrastructure for online learning and be better resourced for one on one student help. This is a big year for high achieving Queensland schools, as their stellar record for OP scores and university placements will be on trial as we transition to ATAR. Schools will be going the extra mile to ensure their students get all the support that they need. So, how can you ensure your child remains on a level playing field?
Review their study skills
Study skills aren’t just ‘putting in the long hours”. The study skills that matter most now are nothing to do with books. Study skills that are absolutely vital at a time like this include:
- setting the right goals
- keeping focused at this difficult time
- taking ownership of their study
- feeling confident that they can still achieve their goals
- feeling able to solve problems
- and most importantly, being able to pick themselves up after all these setbacks.
Resilience is the most vital study skill your year 12 child can master right now. As a parent, you’re faced with the impossible task of helping your child understand that they can, and must, overcome setbacks, no matter how unfair and difficult. Because this is unfair. This is the worst-case scenario for your teen. Finding the balance between empathy and motivation will be a hard task for most mums and dads.
Compensate for classroom learning aids
Discuss with your teen how they best learn. Everyone consumes and processes information differently – this is called our “learning language”. Assess what kind of learner your child really is so you can make sure that the resources needed to best learn are at hand. If your child needs a whiteboard, you’ll need to get a whiteboard. If your child needs visual examples, you may need to seek out videos demonstrating the content they’re learning. While all this may be available in their regular classroom, not every parent has a DNA model nearby for reference. Understanding your child’s learning preferences is key to compensating for the lack of classroom.
Understand the new process and break it down into a “plan”
Your child has learned, over the last 13 years, to plan their homework, their assessments and their exam preparation through doing it over and over with the same formula. When they can’t rely solely on the tried and true combination of taking notes, doing assignments and set study periods, they may feel “out of control”. That feeling is very real. In the past few weeks, everyone has experienced this uneasy feeling of being “along for a terrible ride”. The best way to help your child feel back in control is to establish a workable routine. Your routine will be key to keeping your child up to date on the senior curriculum.
- Use the new assessment date range to plan out study goals.
- Set up a routine for “live lessons” followed by tutorials/worksheets. Your school will likely offer advice on this.
- Using your child’s learning language, source resources that will help them to process the curriculum.
- Talk to your teacher about how online lessons will run and what to do if your child begins struggling.
- Nip any bad habits in the bud right now. While sleeping half the day may be signs of anxiety and overwhelm, it’s not actually a healthy way to deal with negative feelings.
- Set weekly goals and integrate those into the new routine.
The devil is in the missing details
At this stage, further details are due for release on Thursday. At the moment, schools will resume according to the 2020 planned school year (which differs slightly from state to state). There were plans floated about a “summer semester” and delayed graduation but for now, the “big picture plan” is business as usual. The major questions still being asked by parents include:
- Will there be changes to the “weight” of various ATAR assessments?
- Will parents have the option to have their year 12 repeat in 2021 if they don’t achieve their study goals?
- How will ATAR testing happen if social distancing continues?
- How will schools combat “cheating” when children take exams from home?
- How will they determine what is fair compensation for children who are affected very badly (poor access to technology etc)?
- How will they model the effectiveness of ATAR in Queensland when this is its maiden year?
- Will there be a system of appeal if an ATAR score is lower than expected?
- What can be done by parents to help prepare for ATAR testing if that preparation is no longer happening “in a classroom”?
- How will schools monitor attendance, and will this lead to more kids “running amok” during school hours?
- What is in place to ensure that the class of 2020 is up to speed and ready for first-year university – so there are no longterm issues around missing knowledge?
If it’s really important to you, and your child, hire a professional
Parents across the world have just realised that they’re not teachers. In fact, the textbooks may as well be written in Greek. A Surd? What even is a surd? The anxiety you’re feeling about irrational surds is nothing compared to your teen’s anxiety. Be careful not to make it worse. If your very teaching methods are inducing anxiety, then you will actually be harming their chances of achieving their goals. Step back. Netflix and chill. If your school isn’t offering one-on-one coaching for your year 12 student, a quality private tutor makes all the difference. A professional tutor will focus not only on the curriculum but on your child’s barriers to learning (learn more about secondary school tutoring here). Typically an A Team Tutor will:
- Assess your child’s study skills and implement changes to suit their strengths and weakness.
- Determine your child’s learning language and craft tutorials around it, so your child stays engaged and processes more information.
- Tackle their biggest struggles in a gentle way. If they LOVE English but hate maths, our tutor will help ease them through maths lessons, using language exercises to demonstrate the mathematical content.
- Provide you with feedback on your child’s progress and give you tips on how to help them through.
Year 12, 2020 is going to be a challenging one. But don’t worry, you’ve got this.