YASMINE Kelly has known for years she did not want to sit the Higher School Certificate (HSC).
“I had some friends and older family members do it and they were so stressed out,” Yasmine, 16, said. “I just knew then and there I did not want to put myself through it. There had to be another way.”
Yasmine attends Linuwel School in East Maitland, which has become the first non-government school in the Hunter – and the eighth in the state – to register for year 11 and 12, but not enter candidates for the HSC.
Instead, the Steiner school has expanded beyond year 10 to offer an “alternative to the HSC” for students, who sit NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) developed and endorsed courses, plus have access to courses from other providers.
Year 12 students sit English, Maths, Society and Culture, Visual Arts or Philosophy, a course of their choice plus complete a major project, portfolio and presentation. Crucially, they do not sit the final exam usually valued at 50 per cent of the course mark, or any assessments under exam conditions.
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Year 11 guardian Nadine Dyer said the school had enrolled 11 year 11 students and eight year 12 students.
“It was very much a call from the community that the students were wanting to stay here and have some alternative to the pressure cooker of the HSC, to give them the opportunity to have an additional two years of depth of learning rather than learning for exams, where students are absorbing information to regurgitate it in an exam situation but coming away with very little depth and growth.”
Ms Dyer said students would receive a year 12 certificate of achievement from the school and have a number of pathways into university, including through completion of Open Universities online courses, their major project portfolio, sitting the Special Tertiary Admissions Test, TAFE and bridging courses.
A spokesperson for NESA said it was “responsible for monitoring the compliance of schools with the registration requirements of the Education Act regardless of school philosophy or approach” but students would not be eligible for any of its credentials.
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Yasmine hopes to use two Open Universities courses in nutrition and business to gain entry to university and follow her dream to open her own food truck business. She said she has “no concerns at all” about leaving school without a HSC or Australian Tertiary Admission Rank.
“It’s a weight off everyone’s shoulders,” she said. “We don’t have in the back of our minds that we have to sit an exam, so it’s easier to take everything in and we want to know more. We’re learning for ourselves, not for the piece of paper we have to put answers on.”
Ms Dyer said the school’s senior program helped students “leave school as a person who is capable of thinking creatively and philosophically, questioning the world around them, coming up with fantastic solutions to problems in society and having tools to action those”.