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Image: UAC

ATARs away! How Year 12 NSW students fared

Today, 17 and 18-year-olds around NSW are nervously refreshing their browsers. From 9.00 am AEST, their ATARs were published.

Forty six students will have almost free reign over their choice of university degree – if they are pursuing that path. Twenty-seven males and 19 females, from a mix of government and non-government schools, received a rank of 99.95.

Around 6 per cent of students scored over 90, and the median ATAR was 69.65. Breaking this down, females eclipsed males, with median ATARs of 71.10 and 67.80 respectively. “Boys … are underperforming in the middle where most students sit,” the University Admissions Centre (UAC), which administers the ATAR, provided.

In the wake of the release, experts are seeking to reassure the mass of sure-to-be disappointed students. Dr Katrina Barker, an expert in education psychology at Western Sydney University, wants to remind them that not getting their first university preference is not the be-all and end-all. “Don’t panic. In some cases it may take a little bit more time to end up in the career or the university course of your initial choosing, but you can achieve this, it is a realistic goal,” she said.

A student engagement and retention researcher, she is well-positioned to aver that, per research, “students who don’t necessarily do well at school can perform really well at university”.

Dr Suzanne Macqueen, an alternative pathways specialist at the University of Newcastle, had similar advice. She stressed that such pathways enable students to undertake their degree of choice.

Taking a broader perspective, due to the changing world of jobs, other experts view the ATAR as just another assessment task, and would like students to follow suit.

Dianne Dayhew, on the other hand, emphasised the path that nearly two thirds of school leavers actually take: vocational education. The National Executive Officer of the National Apprentice Employment Network thinks that since the ATAR is a university entrance qualification, “…there is no need to stress if university is not in the plan”.

Noting the “scores” of apprenticeship and traineeships desperately needing to be filled, she said that “for the right person, it’s virtually a walk-up start.”

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