Burwood’s Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College is a school with a difference. Exams are optional, hairdressing, childcare, automotive, cooking and beauty are HSC subjects and there’s no such thing as detention. School uniforms don’t feature logos so they can be worn in a workplace and the word ATAR is rarely used. It is a unique place to gain a HSC and gives students the opportunity of completing the first year of an apprenticeship or traineeship at the same time.
Mainstream HSC courses run over two years and 240 hours but there is the option of one year courses which take around 180 hours. Each combines four days at school with one day of potential paid work, to attain the qualification.
Opened in 2010, the Year 11 and 12 college is a “God-send” for those contemplating dropping out of school and offers students a realistic look at what life will be like once they hit the workforce in a less “academic-focused” atmosphere.
Principal Patrick O’Reilly said what makes the college unique is that it is a workplace of learning combining the best and highest expectations of a school, work and faith community. He said it is very gratifying to know they offer a pathway that provides a meaningful learning and training outcome, with more than half of all students offered a full-time job or apprenticeship once they leave.
“We definitely play a role in keeping young people from becoming a NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training),” he said.
“We are both about delivering a HSC qualification as well as delivering a certificate qualification giving students hands-on learning in a variety of courses that interest them.
“The college offers opportunities for young people to experience success and a sense of purpose and achievement in a hands-on, applied learning context.
“Gaining employment and work placement experiences, which are critical to the self-confidence and self-belief of young people, and working within our own Southern Cross enterprises and businesses, students deal and work with real-life clients and experiences which is a rich HSC experience like no other.
“Seeing young people flourish is a great privilege, watching them reach so much of their great, God-given potential is incredibly rewarding.”
Students complete 12 units of HSC studies including everything from sports coaching, automotive, beauty, construction, carpentry, tourism, events, early childhood, furniture making, hospitality, real estate and screen and media to the more traditional subjects including English, religion and maths.
Classes start as early as 7am and can run as late as 6pm, and if students arrive without a fully-charged device they are immediately sent home and made to “make up the hours” in their own time.
Year 12 student Gaius Commons said the college had given him a second chance at achieving a HSC while gaining valuable experience in a career in media which he plans to pursue on completing his studies.
He said he was seriously considering dropping out of his previous school due to its “academics focus” and found the college was a great fit for him and his career aspirations.
“My old school was more about the academics which didn’t really suit what I wanted to pursue so leaving was one of the few options I had,” he said.
“When I heard about this school I thought I’d give it a go and today I am attending every day, getting good grades and happier than I’ve ever been.
“Apart from the amazing subject choice, the college has some of the latest facilities and technology used in various industries with great teachers accompanying them.
“We’re also offered work placements which give us real time experience, building our social skills and those relative to our industries. If you don’t know what you’d like to do or would like to pursue a specific industry I highly recommend a school such as ours, it has definitely helped shape me and trained me to be the most employable, respectable and hardworking person that I can be.”
Fellow Year 12 student Renee Hourani, who is studying business services, retail services and sports coaching, agreed the college would allow her to attain her HSC and leave with three extra certificates of study.
“There are so many benefits to attending this school as I feel it is a place where you can be yourself and not stress, it allows you to try and meet your full potential through the help of all learning staff, mentors and career advisers,” she said.
“Having multiple options and pathways is very helpful and you have a different stress free learning environment.
“I was very adamant on dropping out as I felt like school wasn’t for me until I heard SCCVC had a variety of courses which could make me competent in the different areas of study that I was going to try and complete out of school.
“When I leave school, I want to try and become a high school teacher, studying at ACU. If I am unable to be accepted into my first year of uni, I will go to TAFE to obtain a diploma of Fitness so that I can then enter my second year of uni.
“My career choice has changed since coming to SCCVC as the teachers and environment made me feel like I want to help students as well as help them learn and create futures for themselves like the school has helped me.”