Qld's biggest overhaul in schooling in 50 years

QUEENSLAND will begin implementing the biggest overhaul of senior schooling in half a century to deliver a fairer, more robust Year 12 assessment scheme for students across the state.

The sweeping changes will see the old (Overall Position) OP rank abandoned in favour of a new Australian Tertiary Entrance Rank (or ATAR), the Queensland Core Skills test abolished and the introduction of statewide external exams for every Year 12 subject.

Year 11 students Blaise Campbell, Pembrook Alcantara, Alister Gomersall, Jack Ham and Georgia Lennon will be part of the first group undertaking the ATAR system. Pics Tara Croser.
Year 11 students Blaise Campbell, Pembrook Alcantara, Alister Gomersall, Jack Ham and Georgia Lennon will be part of the first group undertaking the ATAR system. Pics Tara Croser.

Education Minister Grace Grace said the new system - which has cost about $80 million and begins with Year 11 students this year - will ensure the brightest Queensland teens score top marks regardless of the school they attend.

Under the current OP system it is common for a handful of elite private schools to scoop up a quarter of the OP1s awarded, but Ms Grace said the feedback from teachers was the new system would boost the outcomes of students from less advantaged schools and areas.

"This puts everyone on more of a level playing field, so that your external assessment will be assessed in exactly the same way, so I think more fairness into the system comes in," she told The Courier Mail in a wide-ranging interview on the changes.

All Queensland students will sit under the ATAR system. Photo: Annette Dew
All Queensland students will sit under the ATAR system. Photo: Annette Dew

"I think that was one of one of the main motivating factors in moving to a new system," she said.

But Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said private schools "have great confidence" they will continue to perform strongly in the new system.

Under the overhauled Queensland Certificate of Education, a range of new subjects including psychology, literature and engineering, will be introduced, while existing subjects have been updated and revamped.

Students who wish to go to university will apply for an ATAR, the same university rank used in all other states and territories, with this year's cohort of Year 12 students the last group to be eligible for an OP.

The new system will give students from all schools a chance at a better individual score.
The new system will give students from all schools a chance at a better individual score.

The number of assessments students are required to take in each subject will be reduced to four, with schools setting three internal assessment tasks throughout the final year of high school.

Those internal school tests will now come under a greater degree of scrutiny by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) to ensure more compatibility across schools.

Students will also be required to sit an external exam for each of the subjects they take in Year 12. These exams, to be held in a block in Term 4, will be set by the QCAA under the same conditions as NAPLAN, where every student is tested on the same material at the same time.

Ms Grace said the overhaul of the senior assessment system had so far cost Queensland taxpayers $80 million, and that figure was likely to increase with the implementation of the new QCE.

But she said the move was strongly supported by universities and would bring Queensland in line with other states.

The system brings Queensland in line with other states.
The system brings Queensland in line with other states.

"I think when you are in a national scheme, you become part of a broader nationwide way of doing something, and I think it was the right step to take at the time the decision was made," she said.

QCAA chief executive Chris Rider said the authority had worked hard through 2018 to get schools and teachers ready for the transition, with almost 17,000 Queensland teachers attending more than 700 workshops.

"We've surveyed principals several times during the past two years and they assure us that their schools are well on the way to being ready for 2019," he said.

But Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said it was vital teachers across the state were provided with additional support as the new system and new syllabuses were rolled out across schools this year.

"Many teachers are responsible for implementing more than one of the new syllabuses and it is essential that the additional workload is acknowledge and addressed with the provision of extra planning time and support," he said.

KEY FEATURES OF NEW QUEENSLAND CERTIFICATE OF EDUCATION:

- Eligible students will receive an ATAR, up to a score of 99.95, rather than an OP

- Students will have to sit external examinations for each subject in Term 4 of Year 12

- External exams will be worth 25 per cent of the subject grade in most subjects, and 50 per cent for mathematics and science subjects

- Subject grades will be made up of three in-school assessments and one external exam

- The Queensland Core Skills test will be abolished

- The Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority will provide specific guidelines to schools about the sorts of assessments they can use

- All in-school assessments will have to be endorsed by the QCAA to ensure they are comparable across schools

- Grades awarded to students for in-school assessments will be confirmed by the QCAA

- The QCAA will provide students with scores for each of the subjects they sit

- The Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre will then apply inter-subject scaling and determine a student's ATAR

- The ATAR will be calculated on a student's five best subjects, and can include a VET qualification or a Subject Area Syllabus