Studying, exams, stress - these are all hallmarks of a young person's last year of education, but the class of 2020 has been contending with something extra - a global pandemic.
Northern Tasmanian Year 12s were among a cohort of students who returned to their physical classrooms this week after months of home learning, and many are now wondering how imposed isolation will impact their future studies and career paths.
Newstead Year 13 student Skylah King is studying Certificate III in early education and child care and was hoping to complete this year. However, her plans are now on hold, because she's unable to complete the practical elements of the course.
"We have to complete practical assessments, it's just part of the course, but no one is taking work experience students at the moment," she said.
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With many small businesses closed due to the restrictions, child care centres have been feeling the squeeze. Even with the federal government's child care rescue package in place, many centres have had to stand down casual staff and are operating on a skeleton staff. Miss King said she had been able to continue studying, by completing the theory parts of the course but she was staring down the barrel of months longer of study before she could begin to look for employment.
Miss King said while she had enjoyed her home school experience and understood why the restrictions were in place; she said it put her life on hold.
TasTAFE chief executive Jenny Dodd said the education provider worked closely with schools and the Education Department to streamline pathways from college to vocational education.
"We work closely with the school sector, with many students already participating in VET programs through TasTAFE. In many cases, we were able to recognise units that students have achieved in school into a VET pathway with TasTAFE," Ms Dodd said.
Tasmania's Year 12s are likely to be most impacted by the pandemic, with many students at Newstead College anxious about how homeschooling would affect their ATAR scores.
Year 12 student Ned Whiting, who will apply to university for study next year said he was concerned about how the time spent at home would affect his exams and ATAR. However, he said initiatives such as the school recommendation program, in place at the University of Tasmania and mainland universities had taken away some of the anxiety.
"It means that I have a better chance of securing a place, regardless of what happens come exam time," Mr Whiting said.
The school recommendation program was put in place by UTAS on April 3, to support pathways to tertiary study for year 12s impacted by a coronavirus. The program is in partnership with schools and the Education Department and allows teachers and schools to recommend students for undergraduate study. The program will enable students to apply for undergraduate courses and receive offers much earlier in the year, reducing stress for year 12 students through this period.
An unexpected side effect has been that students have now had to consider their future study paths earlier than planned.
The program will factor in each student's Year 11 results, an assessment of their capabilities and the perspective of their teachers as part of their UTAS entry assessment.
Vice-chancellor Rufus Black said at the time the program aimed to alleviate the anxiety of entry and provide a clear pathway for students seeking further study.
Student Amy Wright said deciding which career path to pursue was traditionally tricky, but now even with the program in place, it made that decision jump front and centre.
"I found it hard because we thought we had more time to decide or to figure out what I was going to do," she said.
Miss Wright said she was considering medicine but still hadn't decided.
All students said they were concerned about how their exams would play out, considering they had spent so much time at home learning at their own pace. However, some said learning at home had been fun, challenging and rewarding.
Lucy Walker, from Flinders Island, said enforced travel bans had meant she had to return home to the island, but working on her family's farm had helped with her feelings of isolation.
"But it was really good; I enjoyed being able to learn at my own pace," she said.
The transition back to physical schooling had been relatively smooth, except for some hiccups along the way.
All students said they would rather be at school than learning from home, because of the more convenient access to teachers and ease of face-to-face communication.
Lauren Spencer said asking questions of her teachers sometimes felt like hassling them via text, but face-to-face interaction was more natural.
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Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff announced on Tuesday that external assessment adjustments had been made to 51 pre-tertiary subjects.
Forty-one of those adjustments have been finalised, with the remaining 10 assessed by the Tasmanian Assessment, Standards and Certification office.
"Students who are eligible can be confident they will receive an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) which, as always, will be comparable with other Year 12 students across the country," Mr Rockliff said.
"Depending on their chosen Level 3 or 4 courses, external assessment for Years 11 and 12 students can include written exams, research projects, folios, performance and oral exams."
The adjustments were made by expert panels and a cross-sector working group to review and verify the requirements on a course-by-course basis. Changes have been published to the TASC website, for the 41 units that have been finalised. The remainder will be published on June 12.
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