‘Extraordinary’: All VCE students assessed for special consideration
Every VCE student will be assessed for special consideration due to the distress and disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
While exams will still go ahead in November, Victorian Education Minister James Merlino on Friday announced an "extraordinary" change to how special consideration is determined for Year 12 students.
Education Minister James Merlino.Credit:Justin McManus
"Every single VCE student will be individually assessed and any adverse impacts from COVID-19 will be reflected in their ATAR ranking," Mr Merlino said.
Under the changes, students’ ATARs will take into account school closures due to COVID-19, long absences, increased family responsibilities and the impact of the pandemic on their mental health.
Scoresby Secondary College Year 12 student Shannen Toogood said while the changes would take “a little bit of weight off” her final year of school, she hoped they didn’t disproportionately benefit students who had slacked off while working from home.
“I’m scared it will devalue the work of the kids that put in a lot of effort versus the ones who didn't,” she said.
Shannen Toogood is among thousands of VCE students who will benefit from the new special consideration arrangements. Credit:Eddie Jim
The 17-year-old school captain will benefit from the new arrangements due to her tumultuous year, which included a 10-day stint in a mental health unit.
“COVID-19 has put a new layer of stress on an already stressful year,” she said.
“I got caught up on the stress and anxiety of meeting deadlines for school and thinking about coronavirus. I thought we were in such a mess that there's no point planning for the future.”
Teachers face a massive task of assessing around 50,000 Year 12 students' circumstances and making adjustments to their grades.
They will have to consider where every Year 12 student is ranked now versus where they would have been ranked if the pandemic hadn't occurred.
The data will be moderated, with school-based assessments from the start of term 1, the general achievement test and VCE exams results feeding into their adjusted ranking. Mr Merlino said this would ensure there was a level-playing field between schools.
Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said while the changes would create additional work, schools would do anything to ensure their students didn’t suffer.
“There are individual schools and students who have been deeply impacted by COVID-19 and this is a way of addressing those concerns,” she said.
Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said the “sensible and reasonable” changes would relieve some of the extraordinary pressure felt by VCE students.
“For many students the VCE is the toughest and most stressful part of their school education. This stress has been magnified by the massive disruption caused by COVID-19.”
The Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre, the authority which calculates every students’ ATARs, unveiled further details on Friday of a separate special consideration scheme for university admission.
It has streamlined its process for applying for special consideration to make it easier for students disadvantaged by the pandemic.
It will take into account financial hardship caused by the pandemic, the health impacts of having COVID-19, additional caring responsibilities and issues relating to remote learning, including insufficient or unreliable internet access, lack of access to a laptop, having to share a device with a sibling and the lack of a quiet study space.
Fortunately, Shannen received the help she needed and is now feeling much better.
While she is mourning the loss of so many rites of passage including the valedictory dinner, 18th birthday celebrations and getting her licence, she’s optimistic about the future. Next year, she wants to work in aged care and study.
“I just want to get through this year,” she said.
If you or anyone you know needs support, call Kids Helpline 1800 551 800, Lifeline 13 11 14, Mensline 1300 789 978 or Beyond Blue's coronavirus mental wellbeing support service on 1800 512 348.
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