Year 12 VCE students began 2020 with the expectation that they would undertake school-assessed coursework (SACs) and complete examinations at the end of the year. The class of 2020 have managed far more change than any who have come before them.
There are challenges in finding the best data to assess our class of 2020. Removing examinations at this stage would dramatically reduce the fairest data available in this strangest of years.
In a wise move, the Victorian government has allowed schools to bring students onto campus if they are undertaking mandatory assessments during the stage 4 lockdown. Some schools are taking this opportunity, while others are running assessments online.
Kingswood College has chosen to bring our students onto campus for their SACs. This decision has been warmly welcomed by our year 12s.
First and foremost, it provides us with the opportunity to check in with our students, face to face, in real time. We know that the challenges of learning remotely affect some students greatly. We are able to support our students who are struggling, and encourage those who are working well.
Second, it allows us to conduct fair assessments. We can authenticate student work because we supervise the SAC in person. Sadly there are all too many stories of Victorian students feeling immense pressure to perform, and who succumb to the temptation to use other people or resources to unfairly enhance their assessment task. We take the view that in light of the pressure on young people in relation to ATAR, it is unreasonable to expect students to self-authenticate their work.
Of course it is vital to follow the most stringent hygiene regime, and significant spatial distancing. As a relatively small school we can undertake this more easily than many larger schools. We have also been spared the most dramatic effects of the virus in our community.
Questions about the authenticity of some students’ SAC results is another reason examinations must be held this year. It is the fairest way we have to assess student performance, supported by the GAT, potentially year 11 results, teacher judgment, and, where schools can be confident, SAC outcomes.
It is vital that we take a good long look at the purpose of secondary schooling, and how we must do better in recognising the many talents and skills that young people bring to and develop during their secondary education. This task is long overdue, and there have been some encouraging signs of late – government inquiries, academic research papers and valuable discussion in the education community. However, we need to take the time to have this discussion as a community, and make progress to a better outcome.
For 2020, though, our job as educators, parents and community members is to acknowledge that our year 12 students are facing enough challenge and change.
Now is the hour to settle, know what lies ahead, and give each young person the opportunity to do their best, knowing that a support system sits around those who have been most affected by the ravages of COVID-19.
Elisabeth Lenders is principal of Kingswood College in Melbourne.