ATAR – There is more to success than a simple number

Unfortunately, for a few months each year, what really counts regarding the provision of a sound education will be engulfed and more than likely sidelined by the public's annual fetish about ATARs. Even worse is the use of an ATAR as an indicator of whether a boy is successful and whether or not his school has actually delivered a meaningful education. It is way too simplistic and wrong to define success by a rank.

Years of education, including hard work by the students and their teachers, coupled with the support of their families in delivering vicarious experiences over many years and across numerous environments simply deserves better.

What I have believed for years was reaffirmed in a study from Durham University; that is, what really counts is the quality of the teacher and the teaching that occurs each and every day. This includes a teacher's ability to form meaningful relationships with their students, through passion for their teaching area coupled with a high level of knowledge about the content matter and the pedagogy that will best impart this knowledge to their students. In essence two key factors are critical:

  • Content knowledge. Teachers with strong knowledge and understanding of their subject make a greater impact on students' learning. It is also important for teachers to understand how students think about content and be able to identify common misconceptions on a topic.
  • Quality of instruction. This includes effective questioning and the use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also found to improve attainment.

This is why it is critical that we continue to rejuvenate our teaching staff and continue to attract large numbers of applicants who want to teach at Scotch. Our experience tells us that we have a large number of applicants every time we advertise a teaching position. Such pools allow us to ensure that to be appointed to a teaching position at Scotch, the successful applicant will demonstrate they are not just good teachers, but exceptional. Furthermore, our programmes and processes must facilitate our staff to embark on a personal journey of continual improvement as part of their ongoing professional journey. Maintaining ongoing excellence is crtical.

Our goal is to ensure that through quality teaching each boy achieves their own personal excellence; not a definition of excellence that is restricted to a simple measure such as the ATAR.