‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’ - former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Aquinas College Head of Senior School John Van Dyk says it’s in the same mindset of leveraging adversity to make positive change, that has allowed the College to adopt innovative new ways of educating young men as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
He explains work and tertiary study as it was – heading to the office or lecture theatre, five days a week 9am to 5pm has changed. A large proportion of the population will continue to work and study in an online environment, for at least some of the time, in the post-pandemic era.
Mr Van Dyk says secondary schools need to reflect this way of learning to better equip students for the transition to further training at university, TAFE or the workplace. Aquinas is achieving this with myFUTURE; an advanced model of ‘blended learning’ unique to the college, that has commenced with Year 11s this year, overseen by the Head of Senior School, Head of Academic Studies, Mr Brendan Chapman and myFuture/VET co-ordinators Mr Graham Powell and Mr Peter Gellin.
“COVID-19 certainly accelerated the changes we had been considering as we saw the success of our remote learning model through the pandemic. It gave us the ability to proceed with confidence realising that bell times and location did not have to restrict a boys education” Mr Van Dyk says.
“And for all of us, a lot of our learning now is going to be online – any course I take now for example, I’ll be doing some online components.”
The Aquinas myFUTURE program was designed to enhance the quality of provision and learning for all students. Boys in ATAR courses have their usual classroom learning from Monday to Thursday. On Friday, each student is involved in asynchronous learning, by watching a vodcast, produced by their teacher, combined with set work for consolidation to be completed by the following week. These lessons may consist of a weekly summary, preview of the week to come or normal direct instruction of a new concept. As this learning is online, not bound by the industrial model of education, boys have some exciting choices on uniPATH, combinedPATH or in ATAR+.
UniPATH is offsite learning, building on the school’s direct links to tertiary education through the University of Western Australia and Notre Dame in Fremantle. This allows students to complete the Cambridge International Project Qualification, alongside a university mentor, or study an undergraduate course in Philosophy or Ethics on a Friday morning, leaving the majority of their day free for online learning of their ATAR courses on campus or at the university. These students also may partake in professional internships in fields like law, architecture and commerce during Semester Two.
The combinedPATH is also offsite learning with an Industry and Enterprise focus. Students will study on the ATAR pathway whilst attending TAFE or other workplace traineeships on a Friday to broaden their post-secondary opportunities. This has allowed one student to commence a Certificate II Building & Construction Pathway Trades – Painting and another to complete flight hours towards the attainment of helicopter licence on a Friday alongside their ATAR studies which they can organise around this training due to the flexibility provided by the blended learning model.
ATAR+ is an onsite option where students complete their study in the learning centre, with specialist teacher supervision who offer students assistance, as required. Students are also offered opportunities to attend presentations from university and industry representatives, learn about careers, partake in service learning or mentorship opportunities through Middle School sport. They may also study massive open online courses to earn micro-credentials and gain external qualifications such as a barista or drone licence.
Mr Van Dyk says that although an ATAR rank remains a very important aspect of schooling for most boys, solely focusing on it may cause us to can be in danger of becoming students’ worst enemies: preparing students for entry to university yet without direction nor skills to be successful in the tertiary and work environment. The opportunities on the Aquinas myFUTURE program will allow students to develop these capabilities alongside their ATAR. This program adds exciting new opportunities to further enhance a boys’ education in this post-pandemic era as the College’s continues its long-standing mission to develop students intelligence, character and faith to help them become men the world needs.