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The Ekka Not the Blooming Jacarandas

For Queensland’s Senior school students, Term 3 is the most important academic time, especially Year 12 students. The folklore that says “Jacarandas in full bloom means one thing for students— it is exam time” is totally off the radar of our 21st century students. A more appropriate Brisbane folklore could be “When the Ekka Ferris wheel goes up, study, study, study.”

The current Year 12 system, which lasts until 2019, builds in intensity during the school year until the Qld Core Skills Tests arrive in late August, then followed with the Term 3 exams in early weeks of September. The Year 12 assessments become progressively more significant in weighting, usually starting at the end of Year 11, while the Term 3 results capture the “fullest and latest” standard of each student, enabling the final rankings to be prepared for moderation in Term 4. These rankings are only adjusted slightly in Term 4, if at all, and so form the basis of the Overall Position (OP score).

The new ATAR system starting in 2020 will see significant assessments late in Term 3 and the State-wide exams early in Term 4, again highlighting the importance of Term 3 as the crucial time to study. As we reflect on these recent weeks for our Year 9 and 10 students, several key impediments have emerged that have sent more than a few students into a pickle, negatively impacting on the important Term 3 results. The results are important across all subjects, often impacting on desired subject choices for the following year. If Maths is selected as an example, Year 9 students chose to do either General or Advanced while Year 10 students chose to do either Maths A or Maths B, if following a possible Tertiary pathway. The Advanced Maths and Maths B have strongly recommended cut off standards and the Term 3 Algebra topics for both years are selected to benchmark the required standard for the following year. So what are the common traps for young players:

• This is the annual time of the flu season. Year 9 Treacy this term had 50% absenteeism for most of week 7 due to flu viruses. Assessment started in Week 8 and continued into Week 9. Their Term results risked being one level below their ability, B+ back to C+ , A- back to B-. The sickness possibility can easily be a matter of luck but chances are reduced with a strong diet of fruit and veggies and adequate sleep. I also recommend regular hand washing and wiping down work areas which are proven to reduce infection- the hand washing practices of kindergarten are still as important for our senior students.

• Then the old chestnut; Too many sport commitments or too much part time work. It takes a particularly well disciplined student and part time worker to not drop a similar level below their ability, because of these time pressures.

• Being reactive rather than proactive in class work in the earlier Weeks 2 to 6 of Term 3 is a major issue, frequently ignored. The students are told via SEQTA and via Term outlines what is set down for the term. Do they read ahead, prepare for classes on the weekend before? If the term results are important to them, then these are the proactive habits of future successful Year 10, 11 and 12 students.

Greg Quinn, Assistant Dean of Learning
quinng@atc.qld.edu.au