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A front row seat to watch the charge of the Bradley brigade23 May 2012
It began in the back row of a school theatrette late in 2009 when it dawned on me that I was the proud step parent to a first generation Bradley student, the cohort of 2012. Not that anything said that day mentioned Bradley or the changes wrought in her name. Not that day, nor any other to follow as she completed her year 12 certificate and applied for a university place.
It began in the back row of a school theatrette late in 2009
when it dawned on me that I was the proud step parent to a first
generation Bradley student, the cohort of 2012. Not that
anything said that day mentioned Bradley or the changes wrought in
her name. Not that day, nor any other to follow as she
completed her year 12 certificate and applied for a university
place. Higher education policy guru becomes parent to
I did learn two things that evening, a presentation at end of year 10 for students deciding their year 11 and 12 choice of study. First, that it was too late if we wished to maximise her ATAR. Second, do not leave home without a pencil case.
Victoria's universities calculate the ATAR based on at least four but up to six Victorian Certificate of Education subjects, each of which is scored out of 50. The best four count for full value, the fifth and sixth are valued at 10%. My daughter's Melbourne western region school permits only five subjects in year 12. A sixth can be completed across years 10 and 11 if the school proposes this. It had not for my daughter but had for a few other students. The extra subject is likely worth a couple of points on the ATAR rank. I wondered if other schools were more organised to maximise the number of subjects completed. First exposure to social moulding of the ATAR.
Victoria also offers a Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning. It 'is a hands-on option for students in Years 11 and 12 [that] gives you practical work-related experience, as well as literacy and numeracy skills and the opportunity to build personal skills that are important for life and work'. The key fact I took away that night was if you are a VCAL student you must have a pencil case and you should not leave it at home. Not a bad piece of advice in its way but not a particularly useful summary of VCAL as a worthwhile option for students. In a good school VCAL was not a real option.
My daughter's interests lie in art and media. She did do mathematics but at the level the school's maths teachers described as suitable for those pursuing a non-scientific future. To study maths for the beauty and artistry of numbers was not part of the message. The Chief Scientist may want to work on how schools describe the purpose of higher level mathematics if he wants more students to study them.
Over the next two years she pursued the question of which university qualifications should she apply for. Early on, preference for a Bachelor of Professional Communications at RMIT stood out. It had a very high ATAR cut off history - 95 or higher. Could she achieve this? Similar course at Swinburne but much lower ATAR - why would you want to go there? I did suggest that an ATAR cut off did not define the course - withering looks from mother.
We asked the school what ATAR was likely or possible, based on their knowledge of her achievements to date and experience with past students. But no, her public school did not do that - again I wondered about other schools across Melbourne. Perhaps there was a risk I might come back and sue if the estimate proved wildly wrong but also there was a sense of 'we don't play the ATAR game'. I was all in support of the latter but equally thought students should be given some assistance about likely outcomes.
As she moved into year 12, my step-daughter's friends from the previous year 12 began university. She visited Melbourne with them, and began to think a BA might be interesting and more viable. After all, with the Model in place cut offs were down below 90. I did mention that the 2012 cut offs might be a bit different so be wary of over relying on past years - vague look of incomprehension (does he know something? Is this what he does for work?). Her good friend in year 12, of a scientific bent, was also favouring Melbourne. The social network all directed that way.
We put in her preferences - a role for me to assist with, bringing to bear the full advantages of my expertise. Professional Communications first; Arts second; other similar courses to fill out the list. Year 12 drew to an end. Arts at Melbourne became more strongly her expectation. The VCE results emerge, an ATAR of 90 or so. Mind set reinforced - an Arts offer would be the result. Her friend wanting science had a high 80s rank, enough in 2011 to achieve Melbourne. They would all be together. Then the magic day of Round 1 offers. Her name is next to Professional communications which had dropped its standards down to a mere 90.
But what did she really want? It required a complete resetting of expectations, from learning about art and related matters first, then work on the professional application second, to the reverse of immediate engagement with the professional knowledge. There is an option to ask for the second preference but as luck and the Model would have it for 2012 the clearly-in ATAR had slipped just above her rank and the option to ask for preference 2 was not open.
Now I could have said that given the uniform funding system the higher education commentariat could assure her that there was no difference between RMIT and Melbourne. The learning styles would be the same. That is why two very large universities sit next door to each other in central Melbourne offering similar courses with different titles. But I preferred to keep my credibility.
The Model's rise in favour also affected her scientific friend. Her offer was the second preference of Science at La Trobe. In this case uniformity may be accurate. It means she is accessing a similarly resourced course of a broadly similar nature. So Bradley triumphed: two young women pursuing their interests, both enjoying their courses (so far).
The next guru parent moment came on enrolment. 'What is this asking me?' That? Well that is your request for the Government to fund the university for you and the other bit is to lend you your student contribution. I asked how much she had to pay: 'Don't know; I could not find that'. She did not look very worried, HECS is HECS, something to worry about in the future. It took me 12 clicks but I found the unit by unit guide to charges. She remained unconcerned. Even when the bill arrived I was the one who worked out that it combined band 1 and band 3 units.
A final lesson in humility. She emerged excited. Do
you know that if you pay my HECS for me now you will get 20%
off? 20% I said, no that is 10% now. Or is it?
She was right; I was already in 2013, legalisation passed in my
mind but not in fact. We did have a last chance at 20% but I
declined the offer, nicely made as it was. A live-in case
study was too much to give up.
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