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How do I understand which ACT College is right for my child?

By 13 May 2014 13

I have not been through the Canberra College system for kids going to Year 11 & 12 – so how do I find out which school is right for my child?

I have seen signs for various school “Open Nights” – but is there a central place where I can understand if schools have various specialties, etc?

I understand there’s an “In Area” concept – but if I feel that my child is better suited to a particular school… can I simply enrol there?

Should we just rock-up to every Open Night?

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13 Responses to How do I understand which ACT College is right for my child?
#1
bd847:30 pm, 13 May 14

The Education Directorate has a guide summarising what is offered at each school and it’s enrolment areas, since I’m nice, here’s a link: http://www.det.act.gov.au/school_education/enrolling_in_an_act_public_school/college-guide-2015

Each college will have a detailed handbook detailing what it offers, normally found on their website, together with open nights will give most kids an idea of where they want to go. As for enrolment areas, like most other states priority is given to those live in area, spare spots can be given to out of areas. Not sure if there’s any rhyme or reason to how they get allocated. If it’s the same as 10yrs ago, smaller colleges like Erindale, may fill up quickly, while other larger ones, like Canberra will take almost anyone from anywhere.

As for which one, one close enough to where you live so they can get there, pick one with the courses they like. There’s a couple with good specialist programs like sport at erindale and IB or English at Narrabundah, but unless they’re majorly good at something in particular it doesn’t really matter. Nothing else matters by the time you get to year 12, the school isn’t really going to hinder them if they’re good students.

#2
dtc9:43 am, 14 May 14

You can’t trust what any of them say anyway. Some claim ‘extension programs’ which means 1 class every fortnight. Others claim ‘big drama program’ which means after school time to prepare for an annual production.

There isnt a huge difference between them unless your child has a particular interest in a particular non core subject. So if they are good at math, its up to the individual teacher whether its a good class or not, not the school. But if they are into music or drama, then some colleges do have greater focus than others

The answer is – you dont really know. The best bet is to discuss with parents of kids who are at the school. These can be hard to find but try parents of your kid’s friends who might have older kids, or people at work, or really any contacts you have.

#3
GraceMaybe6:52 pm, 14 May 14

As a student currently studying year 12 at Dickson College I can say that the best thing to do is to go to open nights. Since there are only 9 public colleges and ruling out some by distance there would only be about 4 you would be considering.

I only know for sure what my school is like, but here is what is considered by many to be the strong points of these schools:

Dickson: Arts,Music
Lake Ginninderra: Sports (Due to its connection with the AIS)
Gungahlin: IT, Maths, Science
Narrabundah: Languages, Humanities
Erindale: Sports

As for the rest, Canberra College, Lake Tuggeranong, Hawker College and Copland College I am unsure.
Be sure to talk to your son or daughter about what they want from their school so you know what you are looking for at open nights. There was nothing more crucial in my decision to go Dickson than the open night. There are things you learn at an open night that you can’t get from reading, researching or talking to parents like the kinds of people there, the learning environment, and the attitude towards learning.

You can see all the open night dates here: http://www.det.act.gov.au/school_education/enrolling_in_an_act_public_school/college-guide-2015/act-public-secondary-colleges-open-nights

Some open nights have already passed, and if you missed a school you wanted to go to you can call up any school and request a guided tour.

As for enrolling when I did it it was an online system. The information for enroling in college should have been given to your child at school if they go to an ACT public school. You may enrol your child in any college you see fit, the area system only guarantees acceptance to your local school, it shouldn’t affect anything unless you’ve missed the enrolment period.

The college system in Canberra encourages students to become more independent, so if anything, it is your child’s choice, if they don’t like a school they won’t succeed. College is a transitional period from child into adult, so encourage your child to take responsibility and decide what they want.

All my knowledge is on ACT public schooling, if you are also considering private schools open nights are equally as beneficial, but often students go through private schooling from K-10 and then switch to public for 11-12.

#4
Codders1117:21 pm, 14 May 14

If you want to enrol in an out of area school you generally need to provide some sort of justification. This would usually be that it offers a subject your child is passionate about that isn’t available at your local school. The school’s websites probably list the available subjects – pick something kooky and dream up a story about why your kid loves it. This isn’t foolproof but you’d have a good chance. There are more details at http://www.narrabundahc.act.edu.au/our_college/enrolment under “out of area enrolment”.

#5
gooterz10:35 pm, 14 May 14

What does the kid want?

#6
VYBerlinaV8_is_back8:41 am, 15 May 14

In a system like the ACT’s, does it really make much difference?

#7
watto2311:26 am, 15 May 14

Back in the early 90′s I was a victim of Erindale college making a lot of people do the ASAT test (probably a different name now). It resulted in Erindale getting a low score in this test which meant my raw TER went from 92 to 86 and cost me a place in my preferred course. Not saying they are a bad college, but that is something I’m still not happy with. Especially when as a student I was in the top 10% on my own ASAT scores.

I think the current system is similar with a standardisation test. So maybe look at how well the schools have performed in those tests as it can make a difference. Again this is pretty old experience, but i think it still applies.

#8
milkman6:42 pm, 15 May 14

watto23 said :

Back in the early 90′s I was a victim of Erindale college making a lot of people do the ASAT test (probably a different name now). It resulted in Erindale getting a low score in this test which meant my raw TER went from 92 to 86 and cost me a place in my preferred course. Not saying they are a bad college, but that is something I’m still not happy with. Especially when as a student I was in the top 10% on my own ASAT scores.

I think the current system is similar with a standardisation test. So maybe look at how well the schools have performed in those tests as it can make a difference. Again this is pretty old experience, but i think it still applies.

Boo hoo. Lots of people (including me) went to cr*p schools but still made something of themselves. Once you’re either in uni or in your first proper job your results don’t mean a thing anyway.

#9
Tetranitrate11:43 am, 16 May 14

milkman said :

Boo hoo. Lots of people (including me) went to cr*p schools but still made something of themselves. Once you’re either in uni or in your first proper job your results don’t mean a thing anyway.

Yeah but it’s still c$%p given how the system is built, especially when some private schools actually do the opposite. ie: school career advisers would always recommend kids to keep their options open where I was (Hawker), meanwhile there were several kids who attended Hawker when I did who’d been at Radford for years 7-10 and had been ‘strongly recommended’ not to pursue a Tertiary Package there.

Same thing used to happen with AIS kids. I don’t know if it still does go on and ultimately I got into the course I wanted, but it did feel a bit off to see the public schools advising kids based on what was in the kid’s interest while private schools were gaming the system to keep their average up.

#10
dtc4:13 pm, 16 May 14

Tetranitrate said :

Yeah but it’s still c$%p given how the system is built, especially when some private schools actually do the opposite. ie: school career advisers would always recommend kids to keep their options open where I was (Hawker), meanwhile there were several kids who attended Hawker when I did who’d been at Radford for years 7-10 and had been ‘strongly recommended’ not to pursue a Tertiary Package there..

Or you could look at it as a school saying ‘we provide this type of education aimed at this type of result, and your child does not appear to be best served by undertaking this education and perhaps would be better off doing something different’.

Its not ‘gaming the system’, its actually providing analysis and feedback for individual children.

As a parent, how would you feel if your school thought ‘we think its pointless you paying us $10,000 per year because we dont offer what your child needs/is best for your child, but we aren’t going to tell you that, we are going to let you pay it’

#11
Tetranitrate6:12 pm, 16 May 14

dtc said :

Or you could look at it as a school saying ‘we provide this type of education aimed at this type of result, and your child does not appear to be best served by undertaking this education and perhaps would be better off doing something different’.

Its not ‘gaming the system’, its actually providing analysis and feedback for individual children.

As a parent, how would you feel if your school thought ‘we think its pointless you paying us $10,000 per year because we dont offer what your child needs/is best for your child, but we aren’t going to tell you that, we are going to let you pay it’

Those are some nice mental acrobatics there.

So: the kid is A-okay staying at the school and not doing a T-package and the school is happy to take the 10k then, but if they’re going to do a T-package they best find another school to do it at so they don’t drag down the school’s average. This is in your mind ‘analysis and feedback for individual children’?

I mean I get it that the 10k+ a year people shell out for the ‘exclusive’ private schools is very much paying to make sure this sort of stuff happens, got to make sure Johny gets into Law/Medicine or whatever and ultimately as long as the system is open to it’s (reliance on scaling instead of external exams) it’s inevitable.
It leaves a bitter taste though when public schools do the exact opposite and encourage every student to do what’s in their person self interest, but hey – Hawker was a great college and I got the score I needed so I can make dealings.

Don’t pretend it’s somehow for the kid’s own good though. Being effectively kicked out of school at the end of year 10 having been at the school since year 7, because they’re not considered worthy of doing a T package is low.

I don’t know if it still happens for sure mind you, just that it was definitely happening in the mid 00s.

#12
Tetranitrate6:21 pm, 16 May 14

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

In a system like the ACT’s, does it really make much difference?

Not really, no. There aren’t really any ‘bad’ colleges. The 95% attendance requirement combined with actually being treated as and expected to act like adults effectively ensures that by the end of Term 1, year 11 all the really bad ‘problem’ kids are gone.

#13
dtc10:42 am, 19 May 14

Tetranitrate said :

Those are some nice mental acrobatics there.

Nice mental gymnastics in completely missing the point I was making

Which is:

1. the school offers a particular form of education
2. that does not suit some children
3. the school advises the parents that it does not suit the child
4. the parents make a decision on whether to keep the child enrolled
5. the school does not force the child out. its a family decision. Schools do not refuse to allow kids to continue. They may well say its not the best for the child.
6. almost inevitably the child knows they are not getting the type of education that they want anyway and is usually quite happy to leave

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