Feature Story: CHCS VET Program
Circular Head Christian School VET Program
Circular Head Christian School stands out as one of the best of the smaller regional schools delivering VET in Tasmania. VET is core business for the school and central to the college programs with over 93% of students participating in some form of VET. CHCS initiated the ACCESS program which stands for Achieving Career Competencies while Engaging in School Students. This incorporates full VET certificates as well as skill sets to help develop work ready competencies. All College students are expected to complete a VET course. This puts it amongst the elite VET schools in the country, like St Columbans College in Caboolture, and Bradfield College in Sydney, and a national award winner of the School Pathways to VET award in 2019.
The school demonstrates leading or best practice in many aspects of its VET delivery. Each year the school offers up to 10 face to face qualifications or skill set programs ranging from the Pre-Apprentice skill set, Certificate I in Skills for Vocational Pathways, Certificate II in Sport & Recreation, Certificate II in Creative Industries, to Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care. Although the school has compulsory Year 10 participation in VET studies it also encourages students from Year 11⁄12 to opt into a face to face course or consider online VET courses particularly where the course aligns with student career goals and pathways. These options vary depending on the student ranging from Certificate I or II in Animal Studies, Certificate II in Retail Cosmetics, Certificate III in Fitness and a wide range of other options. It has a strong focus on work placement and an impressive business and industry network to support this. It has long been a key agent in the Learning Community that Circular Head has nurtured (and been recognised for over the last 20 years).
This is a small school of 230 students so what it achieves through its VET program is extraordinary. The strategic planning and thinking is inspirational — from past initiatives such as purchasing an oyster lease to run a commercial operation with aquaculture training at its heart, to its EDUTEC IT enterprise both training technicians and servicing local businesses, and newer initiatives such as their canteen operation, employing a trainee to assist in this area. It takes advantage of School-based Apprenticeships and Traineeships to support these initiatives and encourage other local businesses to do the same.
The school has managed to recruit and retain outstanding VET advocates particularly those coordinating the programs. It invests in staff to ensure they are appropriately qualified and experienced to deliver VET. Its commitment to nurturing students onto a broad range of education and training pathways ranging from university to apprenticeships is no less impressive. Individual student programs are collaboratively put together culminating in high levels of student ownership and successful completion.
The school is strongly networked into local business and industry. Smithton is at the heart of Tasmania’s strong ‘paddock to plate’ movement and the school is strongly aligned with local skills demands from hospitality, aquaculture, food processing and retail services.
Circular Head Christian school has enjoyed strong leadership over many years with all the organisational benefits that flow from this. Principal Ara Popowski is a strong advocate for the place for VET in schools and has been recognised by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) as part of their national ‘ Leading with Impact’ case studies.