Considering the abnormal circumstances we have experienced due to the pandemic and its implications, schools, students, and their families have had a lot to get their heads around – and most have managed to do this as best they can. Now, in the aftermath of restrictions, a lessening spread, and the movement towards “normal”  We have a slither of space to reflect on what normal will look like and how this term of upheaval impacts our students’ future.

One thing that has become very apparent is the benefits that the Newman College structure provides in continuing relevant education that spearheads young people into developing skills for the future, even in a challenging environment. 

We are confident to be able to achieve this in the coming months for several reasons but mostly because, at Newman, we are very experienced in doing things differently.

Most significantly is our ability to offer flexibility in our timetabling. Newman College has never focussed on the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR).  Newman Students complete the Higher School Certificate (HSC) with a curriculum that satisfies the requirements of the National Education Standards Authority (NESA) but they are not subjected to the ATAR Ranking system.  Newman has always focussed on the holistic development of the student and their transition to employment. This means that teaching and learning can be flexible and dig down into what is essential in this day and age, not just what has always been done.

Newman College students have consistently far exceeded the minimum requirements for on-the-job- workplace learning as required for VET education and set by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). Although the current situation has enforced a 10-week hold on the Workplace Learning (WPL) program – at Newman, students can take up the WPL opportunity through block weeks and the continuation of the one-day-per-week program throughout the second semester of this year. Therefore, the ability to meet the National qualification Workplace learning requirements will not be impeded.

As a senior College – catering for Year 11 and 12 only, we have the advantage of working with a relatively smaller total school cohort. During the average school week, timetabled work placement and School-based Trainees learning offsite, means that the full College cohort of students shares the campus only two or three times per week. 

College faculty and wellbeing leaders have the flexibility to be creative around the management and engagement of students. Variation and changes in the College routines are able to be adopted efficiently, even when responding to negative external effects. With a high teacher to student ratio, support can be concentrated, especially in times of disorder.

With our high numbers of VET qualified teachers with specific industry experience, many of our staff have worked in a variety of commercial entities and industries. Although they may not have ever experienced the impacts on business that the Coronavirus pandemic has created, they can certainly relate to the implications of the economic and mental stress our local community businesses are experiencing. This empathy is translated to the students and can provide a deeper understanding of life, and work experience challenges we can all face and what skills we can develop to inhibit negative impacts in the future.

Whilst we are acutely aware that our college is predominately a practical, hands-on learning environment and that we need to get back into the workshops, practical rooms and Workplace Learning program – our timetable flexibility, student-centered approach, in-depth understanding of  Vocational Education, and long record of looking at learning through a different lens, allows us to continue to deliver what is essential and important to the positive outcomes for all students now, and into the future, no matter what.