Are We Too Focused On Our Child's ATAR Scores?

Are We Too Focused On Our Child's ATAR Scores?

Reading an article on my friend and teen expert Sacha's Facebook page, which is a must-read for parents and Yr 12 Students, on how many children suicide due to the pressure we can put on them has upset me beyond words, especially after the past few months with my son's friend.  The article was about someone committing suicide every eight days on Victoria's rail network - The Age.

As parents we want the best for our children, but is our best their best?


The pressure we put on students to be successful and get high scores in their exams and end of Year 12 results is not always worth the stress and strain.  

After also reading the post, a beautiful mother, and fabulous supporter of Cazinc Blog, Ange contacted me.  Ange is the mum of our article "My Son Is Gay, And That's Ok."  Ange wanted to share her story of her other son, Christian, and how she had to learn to listen to her son.

Here is Ange's story.

One day in June of Year 12  our eldest child, Christian mentioned that the course he wanted to get into didn't require an ATAR and he wasn't going to sit exams.  My husband John and I stared at one another in disbelief and asked him to explain. He explained that entry into the course he selected required only a portfolio and interview. Well, John and I weren't having any of that. To secure a great future, he HAD to do his exams. He had to have an ATAR score. 

Sometimes as parents we form an idea of what our teenagers have to do based on societal values, educational expectations and because we want our kids to fit in, be accepted and succeed. But who are we to say that it has to be this way? 

Isn't vocational education just as important and deserving as an academic education? 
As a mother of two very different sons, and working in the education system, I should have known that each student requires a pathway that suits their interests, abilities, and skills. But no, I was stubborn! In my mind, Christian had to do exams; he had to have an ATAR score. He needed it just in case he didn't get into his preferred course at Swinburne University, just in case he changed course mid-semester, just in case....

Unfortunately, the stress of it all (and I blame myself) brought on Glandular Fever to my son. He missed out on mid-year exams and study week revision classes offered by his private Catholic boys college! Well now it was out of my hands. I had to abandon my dreams for my son and leave it in Gods hands. Christian knew he would be disappointing us, so he still sat his exams even though they were not necessary. His score was 50.75 he just passed. His folio was strong and showcased some of his skills. He was accepted and completed his two-year advanced diploma in Screen and Media wanting to work as a visual editor. For experience, he filmed and edited for the Victorian Drift Club when he wasn't driving on the track and worked unpaid with small production companies but at 22 years of age found a position at 9 News and was offered a sound recordist position with  A Current Affair a little over a year later. He had dreams, and he persisted. He believed in himself and persevered by networking, building and refining his skills and creating experiences. I needed to trust in him, his decisions and abilities even at 18. He didn't need an ATAR score!

Thank you, Ange, for your beautiful and honest story.  Your message about listening to our children came through loud and clear.


Here are some motivational tips for students from Sacha, who with Sonya, works with teenagers daily:

Students, work hard, give it your best, don't give up. Then know whatever score you get you will be okay, and life will turn out just the way it's meant to be. You are more than your ATAR score. It's only a number! 

The most significant gift I have ever given myself is the that I don't care what anyone thinks of me or says about me. It's pure freedom. So who cares what others think of your score. It's your life! 
But in saying this, it's only a few weeks to go to give it everything you have and do your best. Working hard will only benefit you. 

To all the Year 12 students I have met this year. Live with passion, work hard and do your best. Then let it go! 

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