Spcc Newcastle 2326

For the Whole of Their Life.

Careers, Courses and Callings

Multiple Pathways to Successful Life Beyond School

Around this time every year, the ATAR and the process of applying to University becomes a popular topic of conversation around dinner tables, in the Senior Common Room and in conversations between students and teachers. Year 12 students have already begun to apply for university. Year 10 students are making decisions about their subjects for Stage 6, which may impact their application for their preferred university course.

The transition from school to tertiary study and work is incredibly important. We are living in a time where the world and the way we learn and work is changing faster than ever before. This means that young people entering the workforce will need transferable skills to meet the demands of changing workplaces and technology (Pilcher & Torii, 2018).

In 2019, the retention rate of Year 12 students was at 84% nationwide (ABS, 2019a). This means that for many young people, the completion of the HSC year is pivotal in determining their next steps. More young people than ever are continuing on to tertiary study, with 6 out of 10 school leavers enrolled in further study (ABS, 2019b).

Our young people are passionate about their aspirations and their ability to contribute to the world around them. For many students, tertiary education is the next step and while the ATAR can be necessary for entry into university, other options have recently emerged.

Some students can be quite focused on how their performance in the HSC will translate to an ATAR. While the ATAR is certainly important for many courses and institutions, the Mitchell Institute paper – Crunching the Number (2018) revealed that only 26% of all university offers (including Year 12 and non-school leavers) were made using the ATAR. This means that nearly three times as many applicants are obtaining entry to university in a range of other ways. An ATAR-based HSC is not the only viable option to a successful life beyond school.

As a College, we recognise that making decisions about life after school is really significant for our 16-year-old students. For this reason, we want to ensure that they will have a wide range of options available to them, as well as being equipped with transferable skills and workplace competencies. At the beginning of 2020, St Philip's Christian College Newcastle launched the SmartTrack program, which is a practical alternative approach to the HSC. This program allows students to complete a non-ATAR HSC, in an independent learning environment. In addition to this, students completing the SmartTrack program are able to gain entry to a range of courses at the University of Newcastle, through the recognition of their vocational qualifications.

However, for all students who undertake study in Stage 6, there are multiple options available in terms of further study and success after school. While the ATAR is necessary for many of the most competitive courses and institutions, universities are increasingly accepting a range of evidence other than the ATAR for students to demonstrate their “readiness and capacity for higher education” (Education Council, 2020).

  • Students are able to apply to many universities for early entry, with consideration of Year 11 results, school recommendation and other documentation, such as portfolios and interviews.
  • Students are able to receive an ATAR equivalent from relevant VET qualifications to enter university.
  • Students may also perform well in a single subject, allowing them entry into a university course.
  • Beyond this, students are able to access adjustment factors to increase their selection rank for a range of reasons, to ensure that students are able to pursue their calling, beyond the rank of an ATAR.

In the NSW Curriculum Review (2020), the Universities Admissions Centre suggested that in the future, ‘performance in specific courses or disciplines could be used, or the ATAR could be calculated differently or broken up into a number of rankings for different fields of study’ for university admission. It is evident that the role of the ATAR is changing over time and students should not feel that doors will be closed to them if they don’t make the right decisions (Education Council, 2020). The experience of the HSC goes far beyond a rank for university application and there are plenty of opportunities to change direction.

At SPCC – Newcastle, we will continue to provide various pathways and explore new and innovative options that give our young people the best possible opportunities for success - for the whole of their lives.

Jessica Fedder
Careers Advisor & Year 10 Coordinator


ABS. (2019a). Schools, Australia, 2019. Retrieved from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4221.0

ABS. (2019b). 6227.0 - Education and Work, Australia, May 2019. Retrieved from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6227.0

Education Council. (2020). Looking to the Future: Report of the Review of the Senior Secondary Pathways into Work, Further Education and Training.https://uploadstorage.blob.core.windows.net/public-assets/education-au/pathways/Final%20report%20-%2018%20June.pdf

NSW Education Standards Authority. (2020). Nurturing Wonder and Igniting Passion, designs for a new school curriculum: NSW Curriculum Review. https://nswcurriculumreview.nesa.nsw.edu.au/pdfs/phase-3/final-report/NSW_Curriculum_Review_Final_Report.pdf

Pilcher, S. and Torii, K. (2018). Crunching the number: Exploring the use and usefulness of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), Mitchell Institute paper No. 01/2018. Mitchell Institute, Melbourne. https://www.vu.edu.au/sites/default/files/crunching-the-number-exploring-use-and-usefulness-of-the-atar-mitchell-institute.pdf

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