The Northern Adelaide State Secondary Schools’ Alliance [NASSSA], a consortium of 11 public schools in South Australia, was born out of a courageous commitment by a group of Principals 16 years ago to improve the delivery of vocational education and training for students in one of Australia’s most economically marginal regions. It is NASSSA’s success in emphatically delivering on that promise that won it the School Pathways to VET Award at the 2016 Australian Training Awards.
“The Australian Training Awards are recognition of what has been 16 years of hard work following our predecessors’ collective decision to work together for a common cause,” said Peter McKay, Chair of the Principals’ Network. “Since its inception we have established vital partnerships with RTOs, industries and the tertiary sector that have endured and deepened over the years, we are delivering high quality training at a consistent level across 11 schools[i] and partner RTO facilities and we are securing real outcomes for our students.”
The NASSSA alliance of public schools operates within one of the most disadvantaged regions in the country. Its key focus is on identifying and supporting educational innovation so that students in Alliance schools successfully transition from school to employment, training and further education.
“In 2016 we had 823 students a week participating in 62 classes across 42 qualifications,” said Heather Bitter, NASSSA Senior Leader, Student Pathways. “In a context where many of our students are the first in their family to participate in VET or to achieve the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) we believe that every one of our students can achieve and we are committed to helping them to aspire and connect to the world of work or further education.”
NASSSA’s remarkable success in doing this can be seen in a 26 per cent increase over four years in the number of students enrolled in SACE approved Certificate IIIs; a 320 per cent increase over four years in the total number of students who completed SACE and also gained VET credit; and a 207 per cent increase over three years in Australian School-based Apprenticeship numbers.
“For us one of the most pleasing aspects of winning the Award is that the judges acknowledged the value of helping students take small steps on a pathway and recognised that this is just as valid as success that secures a certificate or a job. It is really important to acknowledge progress—where students have come from and where they are going to on their journey.
“As the first school partnership to win this award we have proved that our model is successful and replicable and we have been approached by other schools who are interested in adopting the model for their context. We know that what we are doing is making a huge difference and will be delighted to share our learnings with others in order to benefit many other young people and the wider society.”
[i] The Alliance comprises Craigmore High School, Gawler and District College B-12, Kaurna Plains School, Mark Oliphant College, Northern Adelaide Senior College, Para Hills High School, Parafield Gardens High School, Paralowie R-12 School, Playfield International College, Salisbury East High School and Salisbury High School.