Parenting Through VCE: Was It Always Like This?

In Victoria, the weather is surely changing. Freezing cold mornings have arrived in Bayside Melbourne with a bang, before creeping to balmy warmth during the day. Without a doubt – it’s the start of autumn, which heralds the April school holidays which inevitably coincide with the Easter long weekend. Autumn + Easter + April school holidays should equate to a time for rest, renewal and recharge. It’s kind of in Easter’s DNA. If Easter was a person.

But here in Victoria – if you are a Year 12 student – the Easter school holiday period seems to be anything but a holiday, let alone a time for renewal. As adults and parents (particularly ones who grew up in the relatively cruisey state of Tasmania) it can be a little hard trying to comprehend what Year 12 means for today’s VCE students.

Back in the day we worked (relatively) hard on our subjects throughout the year and then crammed in the aptly named two-week “Swot Vac” right before the November exams. Some of us were able to multi-task and took the opportunity to grab an early tan, having inadvertently discovered the positive link between vitamin D and good study habits(!).

In 2017, leaving things until ‘Swot Vac’ (do they even call it that anymore? Memo to self, check with the 17-year-old) just isn’t an option. Many schools start Year 12 with a two-week (or more) intensive session straight after Year 11 exams. During these two weeks, ‘holiday homework’ (that’s an oxymoron if ever we’ve heard one) is set, and by holiday homework, we don’t mean reading the odd novel or two. For the conscientious student, holiday homework will mean a scheduled timetable of hours spread across each week of the holidays.

At the start of the Year 12 school year proper, information nights are generally held by each school to give students and parents more of an idea about what they might be in for. “You are not your ATAR” is a constant refrain. “Don’t worry about the score too much” the previous year’s Dux of the school might sincerely declare. Having scored an ATAR of 99.

Shortly thereafter, households across Victoria begin to revolve around the Year 12 student and their study habits. Parents start requesting ‘SAC timetables’ to make sure no big family events are scheduled (God forbid) around SACs[2]. Social activities and sport become less about fun and more about ‘dedicated breaks being good for your study’. And let’s not get started on family holidays. Or non-holidays. You can kiss any ideas of camping goodbye – for how can anyone be expected to study in a tent?! You might be able to swing something over the Easter school holiday period, so long as it’s only for a few days and only if there is somewhere the student can set up study camp.

It appears that a week-long break between the two semesters is also ok, if it is a) limited to a week and b) somewhere warm. Because, you know, the kids need to lie on a beach somewhere in order to gear up for the final onslaught that is Semester 2.

When did Year 12 become like this? And why has it become such a relentless experience for student and family alike? Is this just a Victorian phenomenon? Recent personal experience suggests it’s still not like this in good old Tassie. Once upon a time in the not so distant past, only the top 5% or so of Year 12 grads went onto Uni. As of 2013, there were over 1.3 million tertiary students enrolled across our wide brown land. Those kinds of figures would suggest it is easier than ever for kids to get into Uni to follow their chosen paths. The continued emphasis on ATAR scores suggest the direct opposite.

Wouldn’t it be nice if – at some point very soon – Easter and the April school holidays could once again be enjoyed by everyone in a family, even the VCE students? A break that is about just chilling, enjoying the beautiful colours of autumn, and of course eating truckloads of chocolate.

From our family to yours, Bayside Family Law Solutions wish you a safe and happy Easter holiday period – wherever you’re enjoying it. We look forward to sharing our ongoing adventures as we traverse the adventure that is parenting through VCE!

ATAR stands for ‘Australian Tertiary Admission Rank’ and is the score a student receives across all the units studied, and ultimately determines which Universities and which courses they can apply to. For example, should say someone wish to study law so they can join their father at Bayside Family Law Solutions one day, then they would need to score a minimum ATAR of 78 to study at a University like ACU, 80 at VU, 91 at Deakin (Burwood) or 94  at Monash Uni.

SACs refers to ‘School Assessed Coursework’, or the internal assessments conducted by schools that count towards the final ATAR score.

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