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HSC insights from a Year 12 parent

As a parent, you might’ve wrapped up your education a long time ago, but you never stop learning about school life

Three campuses. Four boys. Five different uniforms. Six stages. 42 years (collectively) of schooling. So far! Maths has never been my strongest subject, but even I know that that’s a whole lotta time with my kids in a classroom across a whole lotta stages and I’ve learnt a thing or two. 

As of this year I will have a son starting year 7 (Fergus, 12), one in year 10 (Albie, 15), another in year 12 (Gil, 17) and for the first time, a first-year school leaver (Hugo, 18, who has just finished his HSC). See! More numbers!

I cried a lot when things changed at the end of last year. We were saying goodbye to the primary years forever with my youngest and sayonara to school entirely at the top end. It was a funny, sad, reflective, proud time. 

Pippa and her boys – from left to right Gil (17), Fergus (12), Albie (15) and Hugo (18).

Looking back, primary school is grounding, high school is a level above and the HSC years are formidable. There’s no denying it. Whether your child wants to pursue a trade, has a passion for a particular area or it’s uni all the way there’s a lot to be across so you can support, guide (only when asked) and stand in the background ready to cheer them on/lift them up [insert what you’re required for here]. 

If you asked my kids, they’d probably have a completely different take on how things went down, but here’s what I’ve learnt about leaning in, listening and what they really need along the way. 

Lessons from the school years

  • Year 7 is about social adjustments just as much as it is about the massive jump in homework, more than one teacher per day and new subjects making it into the mix. 
  • Camp is invaluable for independence, friendships and adventures that include all sorts of stuff in nature.
  • Parent/teacher catch ups and school information nights are worthwhile. I can not stress this enough. Get in the flow of going, if you can. 
  • Electives choices in Y8 to study in Y9 do not need to be made with the HSC in mind. Loving the learning is the biggest message here. I “strongly” suggested my Y10 guy pursue iSTEM in particular engineering because of how his mind works (I’ve also picked up a thing or two in my six years working with the Careers with STEM team, across the mag, the annual Job Kits in conjunction with QUT uni and various online projects. I’m talking, job security, skills shortages and the fact STEM is the future!). He pushed against it. Did it anyway. Realised I was right. However when Hugo had to select his three choices way back (and first time round for me), I “strongly” suggested a language would be good to try. He didn’t push against it. Chose Japanese. Did well. Didn’t like it. Dropped it. Ya win some you lose some…
  • Newsletters exist for a reason. Lots of info from lots of schools, but even if you can’t read the whole way through always skip to the dates of events so you know when there’s an excursion or exam. Handy info to have. No surprises. 
  • School apps are GOLD. Sign up. Opt in. There is a wealth of knowledge, timetables and comms you can tap into as required and just be aware of the stuff going on specific to your kid, their class and the school year. Super conversation starter.
  • Y12 Subjects are up to them. If they choose what they want to study and at what level they want to study it’s better for everyone. Pushing in a particular direction or for a particular number of units will just make everyone stressed. Follow their lead. And be prepared for change. If they want to drop a unit or a subject they’ll have a good reason. Schools have a safety net here, too. Head teachers talk through changes students want to make and why, parents/caregivers talk to kids, paperwork is completed. It’s not a whim. 
  • Study is such an individual thing. I figured out pretty quickly that no matter how many times I offered advice on taking notes, putting aside time, setting up a specific space, how to revise, my kid would do it their way. A different way. Teenagers can achieve a whole lot when they put their mind to it. Trust that. 
  • Environment isn’t as important as you think. We were mid-move (not the original plan, but whaddya do?!) when Hugo sat his HSC exams and I was so stressed about him having a quiet, stable place to study. He discovered the library – so many of them do – was resourceful with carving out time to rest and eat and he nailed it. It wasn’t about me!
  • Balance isn’t just an “it” word. It’s essential. If your kid is social and catching up with friends occasionally, during long study periods leading up to trials, assessment deadlines and the actual HSC, it’s not the worst thing. (Within reason!)
  • Unis are complex places. They are incredible places, but there’s a lot to learn about UAC registration numbers, choosing courses, deadlines and departments, more paperwork, applications, getting in, early consideration, special consideration, scholarships and ATARs… it’s a lot. And it’s a long way from primary school, where the hand of you and your kid is totally held.
  • Resources exist. The Careers with STEM Insta page is a crucial follow for all high school kids, uni students and parents alike for the latest in pathways, degrees, uni offer updates and timelines, courses, online materials and tips and tricks! I’m constantly sharing posts from the feed with all of my boys. Careers advisors in the senior schools are also gems. RL humans your HSC-er will listen to more than you. It’s great. They’re great.
  • GAP … a word that – I think – is overused and undervalued. It doesn’t have to look like just one thing. Travel? Sure. Work? OK. Some online study or vocational course? You bet. Some time out to decide on what’s next is actually SO fine. 

Talk to your kids. All the way through. Listen to your kids. Always. Keep the lines of communication open for emotional, educational, decision-making conversations. They’ll come at you with all of them. Usually when they should be heading to bed! Stay connected to the school. Not in control of it. Just enough to know who their teachers are, where they’re up to, what’s next, things to celebrate along the way (sports, arts, science comps…). 

Ultimately we survived. And now we’re about to do it again as Gil takes on 2023, loving PDHPE but not necessarily biology; Albie will give iSTEM engineering another year and stick with food science (his fave) for his Y10 electives and Fergus starts high school with his eye firmly focused on the sports program. As for Hugo? He made it into Macquarie Uni to study Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Science but is taking a year off to work and do a bit of travel and help build a nurses wing at a hospital in Nepal. All worthy “gap” year things.

This year is gonna have it all. On repeat

If you’re a parent who wants to help nurture your teen into a successful and rewarding career, with STEM skills as a foundation, hit up our Parents Portal.

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