A modernised HSC may have to go

Just last week the next iteration of a modernised HSC was released by the New South Wales government. Unfortunately, it appears to be ‘dressing up the old’. I wonder if those who managed the process…

Capture 2

(via @HealthyLDN as reposted by @nickya73 on Twitter, 26 July, 2016)

As part of the media promotions that come with such government announcements, it was promised the new HSC would be setting students up for success. New pathways for post school are required because the HSC is a lagging indicator of school success rather than a leading indicator for life success.

Executive Director of Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, Greg Whitby reflected that the new HSC was simply modernising educational relics and stated,

“The HSC reforms really are a missed opportunity to bring some coherence to educational policy and radically rethink how we assess the spectrum of students’ learning and skills.”

Greg also asked, “Where is the New Thinking?” Well, here are some thoughts….

  • Pre-school becomes part of the K-12 learning continuum by allowing resources, funding and structures to ‘cross the divide’ of those very definitive and separated entities. This may mean breaking with current regulations and, for example, actually paying early learning teachers the same as primary school teachers. It may also see ‘Junior Kindy’ and ‘Senior Kindy’ exist over two years so that Kindergarten is a stage rather than a year.
  • Observe and report on social and emotional outcomes for Kindergarten and Stage 1 students as often as literacy, numeracy and other KLA outcomes are assessed and reported. Oh heck, why not do this until students conclude Year 4?
  • Have leading indicators for life success, as discussed in data and questions, shape a data informed, strengths based coaching program for students in stages 3 to 6. Using various data sources, each student would identify their interests, abilities and passions and link them to vocations and jobs of the future. Maybe the 75 minutes per week of pastoral care time which exists in most secondary schools could be redirected towards this?
  • Develop an enterprise skills continuum, by delivering the ‘The New Basics‘ and embedding ‘enterprise rubrics’ into mainstream schooling. Those 8 skills as determined by fya.org.au (see picture below) could be observed and assessed through self assessment, peer feedback and teacher conversation rather than through the judgement of a test mark or grade. Wouldn’t it be great if assessing and reporting on these skills were as mainstream as outcomes based KLA assessment and reporting?

Enterprise Skills

  • Lastly, have multiple school exit points of which the HSC is but just one exit. However, that’s a whole other conversation!

Of course, for each of the above suggestions (or others like them) something has to go. In an already packed curriculum serving the needs of a government economic agenda, there is not one more ‘priority’ which can be squeezed into the school day. Something, or some things have to go. I suggest the modernised HSC is one of them.

I welcome your feedback, comments and/or constructive criticism.





7 thoughts on “A modernised HSC may have to go

  1. Great post Greg. I agree that the revisions to the HSC were a stop-gap measure at best; not a lot of inspired thought has made its way through here. I can’t help but wonder the extent to which money and politics have played a part in limiting these reforms?
    Whilst some of the changes are logical and timely, the HSC is tired, dated and I think a poor reflection of what education should be in Australia.
    I completely agree that there is a need to spend more time developing students enterprise skills and these should be valued enough to be reported on. Some schools have ventured down this path already (mine included) with some success. I don’t think anyone has completely figured this one out yet, but to be moving forward is better than to be standing still with something so important.
    We can only hope that another (almost) two decades don’t have to pass before we see movement towards a truly modernised HSC; one that offers more leaving options for students and that doesn’t overemphasise performance in a high-stakes end of year examination.

    1. Hi Kurt,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Your school is one of the few who have blazed a trail into the possibilities of enterprise skills. I look forward to the day when enterprise skills are mainstream rather than the exception.
      Again, thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. Greg I agree with your sentiments. Unfortunately the proposed changes to the HSC haven’t gone far enough and yes, if we can identify student strengths, we can better personalise learning. What we need is an agreed set of foundational skills, knowledge and understanding within an education system that is flexible enough to cater to all students’ interests, passions and needs.

    In today’s world with access to information in the palm of our learners’ hands, do we still consider content as king? Or is producing more valuable than knowing in today’s world?

  3. Thanks Greg for putting a few thoughts out here. Where was the innovation? Best practice?
    I cannot believe there has not been a few more questions or comments via the media, or is it because educators are too busy to consider the conversations we will be having with our families this time next year in Year 9?

    Today we received a wonderful email from BOSTES to reassure educators and another email from the NAPLAN Academy (it only took a week).

    In the short week since they announced state sanctioned segregation based on a test for our 15 year old students, I cannot see how it will not impact on young Australian’s that are the most vulnerable: newly arrived into Australia, many indigenous students, low SES or at risk communities and regional areas.

    I agree with the comments so far, where was the innovative policy towards engaged curriculum via multiple exit points, PBL, Tech High Schools etc?

    It seems like we are protecting an exam, not promoting the best education for our children.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your blog Greg. I am a great supporter of a P-12 school model. Considerations such as learning continuity, data access/use and pastoral advantages are good reasons for the model to be considered. In relation to enterprise skills, I think it’s critical for educators to continue to press for change and innovation in this area. I believe that more schools need to find opportunities to creative relationships with industry and explore many avenues of collaboration, which will ultimately benefit student learning and their preparation for a rapidly changing work environment.

  5. Thanks for this post Greg. it is helpful to hear reflections on the practice that is occuring in different states and I like the suggestions for improvement you offer – they add to the reflection. I think one of the challenges we must all be committed to in education, is being ready and willing to change. Constant change or adaptation is necessary for all of us both professionally and personally in order to plan for a successful future or plan successfully for the future. Perhaps this allows us to search for answers or solutions that are relevant to now and enable a desired future.
    best, Louisa

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