Inspiring students in the Senior School

The new Radford ‘Aspire’ program will be offered from next year for all senior students, regardless of pathway choice.

The new Radford ‘Aspire’ program will be offered from next year for all senior students, regardless of pathway choice.

By Lindy Braithwaite, Senior Studies Coordinator

The benefits of an education at Radford go well beyond the academics. We articulate this through the Radford Learner Traits which include: Principled, Thinker, Open Minded, Resilient, Self-Regulated and Communicator. Recent reports indicate that these traits are in line with what employers are looking for, including capabilities such as agility and a willingness to learn,[1] on top the traditional soft skills.[2]

Since 1998, though, the ATAR (or earlier versions of it) has been the predominant tool used by tertiary institutions to measure a young person's suitability for higher education. While there is no doubt that the ATAR is an important instrument, and there is a positive correlation between an ATAR and completion rates of bachelor degrees, there is a growing disquiet around its ability to adequately highlight capabilities necessary for success in a changing world.[3] The ATAR was a product of a time of fixed quotas for higher education course offerings, but today's tertiary environment is vastly different, with more institutions and a 46 per cent increase in students commencing higher education in the last 10 years alone.[4]

More recently, tertiary institutions have recognised the ATAR's limitations and the need to attract students with certain attributes, using a plethora of additional selection criteria and alternative or direct entry schemes. In 2016, it was reported that as few as three out of 10 undergraduate offers in Australia used the ATAR.[5] The Australian National University recently announced its new Early National Admission Program[6] and it is likely that many other institutions will follow suit. The ANU program seeks to filter students by attributing 'points' to co-curricular-style activities and success. Essentially, the ANU aims to attract students who, as well as academic ability, have developed the skills akin to our Radford Learner Traits.

At Radford, we are confident we are providing the rich experiences for students to build these skills both inside and outside of the classroom. There is, however, an ongoing need to expand on these opportunities and to provide an accreditation process that will be endorsed by tertiary institutions. And so, the new Radford 'Aspire' program will be offered from next year for all senior students, regardless of pathway choice.

The Radford Aspire Program enables students to have a degree of autonomy but also has elements of teacher-directed foundational skill-building. Importantly, students have the opportunity to plan, draw links and reflect on their learning. For example, the program encourages them to commit to a service or co-curricular activity that is outside their comfort zone, find opportunities to work collaboratively, show perseverance and consider and initiate the skills they would most benefit from focusing on.

The ambitious aim, as the name implies, is for students to grow towards independence armed with the skills for success and the accreditation required for outside organisations to recognise. It also provides a common infrastructure for all our students to work towards their individual aspirations, regardless of which pathway (BSSS Accredited, BSSS Tertiary or IB Diploma) they travel.

As you know, the information evening for Year 11 2019 is on at 6pm Tuesday, 22 May in TB Millar Hall. A letter with more details on this, and where to find further information, will be emailed on Friday. Year 10 students will also receive a pack of relevant information on Friday through their tutor (or on the night for new students in 2019).

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[1] forbes.com/sites/carolinebeaton/2017/01/06/top-employers-say-millennials-need-these-4-skills-in-2017/#2a737c297fe4

[2] fya.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/fya-future-of-work-report-final-lr.pdf

[3] L Kristjanson (2018). 'Unis should Develop ATAR Alternatives', The Australian. theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/opinion/unis-should-develop-atar-alternatives/news-story/63fc3b22ef6a887548f5b2d6c0774ef2

[4] S Pilcher & K Torii (2018). Crunching the Number: Exploring the use and usefulness of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), Mitchell Institute paper, no 1. Melbourne. mitchellinstitute.org.au

[5] Commonwealth Department of Education and Training (2018).

[6] J Hare (2017), 'ANU Opening Doors for the Disadvantaged', The Australianwww.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/anu-opening-doors-for-the-disadvantaged/news-story/033cb5c6e35e4108cd3fa55332c8986b
 

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