Wesley NEXT takes learning to the next level

25/02/2021 - 11:24

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Students at Wesley College are embarking on a new suite of micro-credentials that are unlike anything else offered in Western Australia.

Wesley College students, Blake Wilkins and James Bridson of Year 11, recording a podcast.

For generations, education has focussed on key skills like Reading and Writing and subjects like Mathematics and Science - but now a school in WA has decided to go beyond these traditional spaces and has created a program designed to really prepare their students for life after the school gates in the 21st Century.

Wesley College, in South Perth, has launched a program called Wesley NEXT. Luke Callier and Mathew Irving co-created the program, in which students have the opportunity to complete 10 micro-credentials over their senior years. Mathew Irving, Deputy Head (Strategy and Academics) at Wesley said “Wesley College has been repeatedly recognised as one of Australia’s most innovative schools so Wesley NEXT is really a natural extension of that. Our aim is to give Year 10-12 students a depth and breadth of opportunities that go beyond our traditional curriculum in order to develop their passions and skills for the next stage of their journey beyond Wesley.”

Luke Callier, Director of Innovation, who now Heads up the NEXT program had been looking at micro-credentials for the past few years. “We think micro-credentials have an interesting future in Education. The ability to include real-world skills that our students require for part- or full-time jobs today through to jobs of tomorrow in new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence is extremely exciting and may just ignite our students to change the future of the world in ways we can’t yet imagine.”

For employers, the program is advantageous as it shows evidence of attributes that are generally not referenced in typical end-of-school transcripts. Often, they’re the real skills that make the difference between a graduate that is a fish out of water and one that can slot into a workplace environment with relative ease.

“Our hope,” says Mr Callier, “is to help better prepare students for life beyond school, whether that’s their first job or their study plan going forward.”

A scan through the lengthy list of micro-credentials is inspiring, not least because it covers areas of learning that didn’t even exist in the pre-digital age – an ‘Introduction to Podcasting’ for example, or ‘Digital Music Creation’.

Pictured: Luke Callier, Director of Digital Transformation and Innovation, and Mathew Irving, Deputy Head (Academics and Strategy). Luke and Mat host EdLeaders Australia, a podcast about the leadership, culture and strategy, and business of K-12 Education.

But it’s the more ‘day-to-day’ skills that really catch the eye. Most of us will admit that we would have been well-served in our youth by knowing a bit more about budgeting and saving, superannuation, essential DIY skills, employment contracts, writing application letters, cooking, basic car maintenance, tax, insurance or the ins and outs of phone contracts. It’s these types of important life skills that schools should consider teaching more of, but which are often left out due to crowded curriculum requirements.

Importantly, there are also units dedicated to real-world training, designed to help students get a foot on the employment ladder with their first part-time jobs in cafés, bars and restaurants. As time goes on, areas such as commerce, engineering and law will be added to help students hit the ground running on internships.  

“It's important to know that micro-credentials will not replace traditional curriculum, the WA Certificate of Education or formal post-schooling qualifications,” says Mr Callier. “Rather, they will assist students to have a wider range of skills and be more familiar with how to upskill themselves in ways that employers, industry and tertiary institutions are looking for.”

To ensure the industry-relevant information is as up-to-date as possible, Wesley College’s teachers will be joined by alumni and external expert presenters. “One of the most exciting things for us, as a College, is being able to open our doors to industry professionals,” says Mathew Irving. “We pride ourselves on being on the cutting-edge of education and a major part of that comes through our understanding of how the needs of employers are continually evolving. We gathered together volunteers from a range of backgrounds and industries to shape the content of the course and their continued input will ensure its ongoing relevance.”

Undertaking the design and creation of any new educational course is a major project, not least when it involves the scope of Wesley Next, but Mr Irving is confident of success: “Wesley College is proud of its heritage of being one of the most innovative schools in Australia. We see the launch of Wesley NEXT as an example of us living by our motto, By Daring & By Doing. 

“With support from the business community we can see this unique and innovative program developing into a world class transformational program for all students.” 

If you are keen to contribute to the program or discuss ideas for future micro-credentials, please contact luke.callier@wesley.wa.edu.au.

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