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SACE Stage 2 Review Report released

IEU members provided a substantial input to the most recent SACE Review and were hoping for more concrete outcomes than when they responded to the 2012 Review.  The difficulty SACE has is being all things to all people and being tied into a flawed ATAR system that has traditionally prompted poor subject choices.

The competing interests of discipline rigour, flexibility, languages & humanities enrolments, 21st century skill sets, VET and personal relevance have been recognised, but not solved.

The report contains a set of 17 recommendations. How and if those recommendations are taken up is yet to be determined. The most likely structural changes will be the 10 point Stage 2 compulsory Research Project being re-invented in Stage 1 with a 20 point Stage 2 optional offering being developed. This will make many of the IEU respondents happy as will the resulting impact on ATAR stage 2 subjects likely to default to 5 subjects at 20 points with the lowest result counting for half value toward the 90 point ATAR. The continued use of ATAR itself is under review as universities explore alternatives using school results and capabilities.

The rest of the recommendations tend to be aspirational. The extracts below taken from the report give the flavour of the discussion but the report and the recommendations need to be read in full and can be downloaded here

The future of the compulsory Stage 2 10-credit Research Project

As a compulsory 10-credit requirement at Stage 2, the Research Project impacts on the required number of Stage 2 subjects, i.e. usually three 20-credit subjects at C– or better plus the Research Project for South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) completion, and essentially four 20-credit subjects at C- or better plus the Research Project for the ATAR. Therefore, any recommendation about the number of Stage 2 subjects needs to begin with the Research Project, which was introduced in 2011 and effectively replaced the fifth Stage 2 subject in many schools (Cossey et al. 2012).

The number of Stage 2 subjects for SACE completion and ATAR calculation

Respondents supported three Stage 2 20-credit subjects (plus 10 Stage 2 credits) at C- grade or better (or other combinations of 10 and 20 credit subjects) as appropriate for the SACE completion within the overall requirement of 200 credits. However, some school leaders, teachers, and families expressed concern that this number of subjects created a sense of part-time schooling and has led to increased attendance issues and disengagement. Others appreciated the original intention to make time in students’ busy lives for family commitments, part-time work, sporting and artistic pursuits, and leisure. For students on a vocational pathway and/or undertaking a traineeship or apprenticeship, it was suggested that the SACE Board explore the concept of 10-credit Stage 2 units that could be ‘stacked’ to create the necessary 70 credits. It was suggested that the SACE also needs to provide more appropriate recognition for traineeships and apprenticeships (see Section 3).

The ATAR calculation and impact on student subject choice

The ATAR itself is outside the terms of reference of this Review (see Appendix A) and the SACE Board’s remit, but it dominated the feedback because it was perceived as having such a negative impact on student subject selection and wellbeing. Almost all respondents saw the SACE and ATAR requirements as being the same thing or simply failed to distinguish that the two processes belong to different organisations (i.e. the SACE Board and SATAC). There was an overwhelming consensus across all groups about the negative impact of the ATAR on student choice and learning (see Figure 4).

VET recognition in SACE

The survey respondents, submissions, and consultation participants highly valued the recognition of vocational education and training (VET) as part of the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE), and there was overwhelming support to maintain the status quo for VET recognition (albeit with some internal improvements) or increase it (see Figure 5). Most respondents appreciated the fact that VET is included as part of SACE credentialing rather than as a separate certificate. Many respondents reported that to make VET courses more attractive to young people, better promotion and recognition of the role of VET as a valuable contributor to senior secondary education needed to occur within the SACE Board and school communications. Some suggested that students needed to build a ‘learning trajectory’ of their VET opportunities as part of considering their future pathways within the Personal Learning Plan (PLP) undertaken in Year 10. Business and industry consultations revealed that it was time to revitalise the PLP to include a clearer focus on future industry shortages, planning career pathways within the seven future job clusters (FYA 2018, p 21), and the steps to achieve SACE completion. Others felt that Year 10 was too late and that students in Year 9 needed to learn about VET opportunities and to begin VET courses depending on their ‘learner readiness’.

VET quality, auspicing, and delivery

These areas are outside the SACE Board’s remit, but many respondents commented at length on the negative impact of VET quality, auspicing, and delivery on students, families and schools and on the opportunities for SACE recognition. The following key issues were identified: ………

Entrepreneurial education in VET and SACE

The paradigm shifters: entrepreneurial learning in schools (or the ‘Mitchell Report’) defines entrepreneurial learners as those who apply their curiosity and talents to identify and solve problems worth solving by creating products (goods and services) of value to others (Anderson, Hinz & Matus 2017, p 10). This entrepreneurial learning is important because it is a way of equipping our young people to positively approach the challenges of a rapidly evolving future. It manifests itself in the learning ‘transfer’ requirements in the Australian Curriculum and the SACE, where students are encouraged to use their discipline knowledge and understandings in unfamiliar and non-routine ways. It is also present in the capabilities, which form the basis for entrepreneurial learning. While some respondents were concerned about entrepreneurial education being a government priority that will ebb and flow, or will be focused only on small business, most respondents were generally supportive of the SACE Board partnering with schools to weave entrepreneurial thinking related to social and business enterprises throughout senior secondary courses. This innovation matches the trend of 95% of Australian universities introducing entrepreneurial aspects within their courses (Anderson, Hinz & Matus 2017, p 8 ).

A range of issues related to areas of South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) improvement emerged from the Review process.

These issues were outside the specific terms of reference (see Appendix A), but respondents felt strongly that addressing these issues would provide synergistic support for the implementation of the Review recommendations. They are presented here, for consideration by the SACE Board.

  • The SACE Board’s role in change leadership
  • Abandoning the practice of D and E grades earning SACE credits; micro-credentialing
  • SACE Capabilities
  • Assessment improvements
  • Stage 1 literacy and numeracy requirements
  • SACE Completion reporting
  • Further research required