21st Century learning a priority for new SACE chief

Science education expert and new South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) chief Professor Martin Westwell is leading South Aussie school kids into the future.

No longer will our children hit the classrooms armed with just textbooks, pencils and papers.

Instead its about 21st Century learning involving online examinations, contemporary subjects and self-directed assignments.

As the SACE Board’s incoming chief executive, Prof Westwell will oversee a $10.6m program set to transform SA classrooms and prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

Changes include a move away from handwritten exams to electronic tests – a move that reflects how students are already learning and working.

English Literary Studies will be the first to undergo the transition in 2018, with more subjects to follow by 2020.

“We are meeting the 21st Century needs of our students … the idea of writing essays long hand is outdated,” Prof Westwell says.

“But we don’t want to do electronic exams for the sake of it, we want to make sure it works well for us.”

SACE chief executive Professor Martin Westwell is an I Choose SA ambassador. PHOTO: James Knowler/JK+Crew.

More than 60 subjects have been reviewed to ensure they are relevant and meet the needs of a changing society, meaning Digital Studies will be taught for the first time in 2018.

“We always ensure the curriculum is up-to-date,” Prof Westwell says.

“We’ve looked at more than 60 of our current subjects to make sure they’re modern and fast-paced.”

SACE is awarded to students who complete their senior secondary schooling in SA.

The certificate is administered by the SACE Board, which is independent of the State Government.

Among other changes to SACE is a rebranding of the authority body, including a new logo to be publicly revealed at the 30th Merit Ceremony, in early 2018.

The 30th Merit Ceremony recognises Year 12 students who have achieved a perfect score in one or more subjects.

A total of 1196 merit certificates were awarded to 920 students – including 107 students from country SA – in 2017.

“It’s a cause for celebration when we have this many students achieving excellence,” Prof Westwell says.

Prof Westwell’s appointment to the role comes at a record time for SA high school education with a record number (15,175) of students completing Year 12.

The proportion of Year 12 students who successfully completed their final year of school is also at a record high, rising to 97% in 2017.

The number of Aboriginal students completing their SACE also hit top levels with 377 students finishing high school.

Prof. Westwell will also build on the success of the Research Project, a compulsory subject most Year 12 students undertake.

It allows students to choose a topic of their interest, carry out analysis and research, before creating an entrepreneurial project, scientific study, art piece or historical investigation.

“We are asking them to research information, to question, to apply their knowledge and make a judgement – and we let them do that in an area they feel passionate about,” Prof Westwell says.

“We need young people who have got the knowledge and know how.”

While the Research Project was partly designed to allow students to gain skills needed at university, Prof Westwell says the SACE structure is for students pursing all pathways.

“Students might choose to do a trade or go straight to work and then go to uni, the pathway into university is not as restrictive as it used to be,” he says.

Prof Westwell is originally from the UK and in 1999, British newspaper The Times named him the ‘Scientist of the New Century’.

The father-of-two moved to SA 10 years ago after visiting in his role at Oxford University’s Institute for the Future of the Mind.

“I went back to my wife and said, ‘the students are so articulate (in SA), our children will love it there’,” he says.

“So when the opportunity came up, I grabbed it.”

He now has a decade of experience in SA education, as director of the Flinders Centre for Science Education in 21st Century and Flinders’ strategic professor in the Science of Learning.

Prof Westwell has been on the SACE Board since 2012.

He says the education system will always be a relevant job provider in SA.

“One of the things I see time and time again is the list of jobs that are irrelevant and teachers are never on the list,” Prof Westwell says.

Prof. Westwell replaces Dr Neil McGoran.

Visit I Choose SA to find out how you can support our state by choosing South Australian businesses, products and services.

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SA school teaching kids jobs of the future

By Melissa Keogh

Fast forward 20 years and could the students of today be earning a living by making flying cars, travelling to space or building robots?

One thing is for sure – the jobs of tomorrow will be very different to those first projected to leading educator Jayne Heath when she was at school.

Jayne is principal of the Australian Science and Maths School (ASMS) and says the innovative institution, located on the Flinders University campus, isn’t waiting until tomorrow to find out what the future of work might hold.

Last week her Year 10 and 11 students embarked on the second Real Day Out excursion which engaged them with high-tech companies, organisations and future industry precincts across Adelaide.

ASMS principal Jayne Heath, centre, says it's important for students to be future ready by exploring the jobs of tomorrow.

ASMS principal Jayne Heath, centre, says it’s important for students to be future ready by exploring the jobs of tomorrow.

“It’s a really exciting time in SA,” says Jayne, who is a founding staff member at the ASMS which opened in 2003.

“There are all these pockets of opportunities in Adelaide that people don’t know about yet.

“So it’s important for our students to collaborate with others to solve the problems of the future.”

The annual Real Day Out excursion is part of the school’s 21st Century Capabilities and Careers Program, first piloted with the help of employment planning and development company, Workforce BluePrint, in 2016.

On September 21, about 200 students ventured into Adelaide’s CBD, the Tonsley Park Innovation District, Thebarton High-Tech Precinct, and the Mawson Lakes Defence Teaming Centre to investigate future jobs.

They explored future jobs such as drone operators, artificial intelligence trainers, bitcoin (digital payment) traders, coder artists, smart city designers and virtual reality designers.

Students visited Tonsley for a glimpse at future industries which are likely to form the backbone of the SA economy.

Students visited Tonsley for a glimpse at future industries which are likely to form the backbone of the SA economy.

Students had the opportunity to speak with businesses already in these spaces, and tackle real life learning challenges.

ASMS student wellbeing leader Simon Illingworth accompanied students on the Real Day Out and says one of the highlights was meeting with Adelaide Lord Mayor Martin Haese to explore the roll out of Adelaide’s Ten Gig City.

The council project involves a city-wide 10Gb/s capable fibre optic network allowing businesses, government and researchers to connect to one another at lightning fast speeds.

Simon says students also met with the Local Government Association and were inspired to consider a career in local government and what the future of their community could look like.

“It’s about real connections and being able to interact with students, rather than me just talking about it at the front of the classroom,” he says.


ASMS students learn in an open plan environment.

The Real Day Out excursion is not the first time the ASMS has been forward-thinking in how it educates its students.

Jayne says it’s crucial for students to be able to wade through the plethora of online information and to “look for credibility”.

“So much information is available to our young people and they need to have the skills to be able to enter a 21st Century workforce and be future ready,” she says.

The ASMS is a school for students with passion for the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

At ASMS students don’t engage in a typical classroom setting, but instead have control over their learning environment which is described as an “open place 21st Century school design”.


The ASMS is the only high school in SA to offer aviation studies, featuring an industry standard flight simulator.

Also setting ASMS apart from other schools is the fact that it’s the only secondary school in SA offering aviation as a Stage 2 SACE program.

The subject involves students engaging with an industry standard flight simulator and is taught by qualified teachers and pilots.

This month’s I Choose SA for Industries stories are made possible by sponsor, the University of South Australia.


Riverland students gain wisdom from Aboriginal elder

By Melissa Keogh

Students at St Joseph’s School Renmark have expanded their knowledge by being treated to the wisdom and teachings of a local Aboriginal elder.

Respected mentor Howard ‘Uncle Barney’ Lindsay visited the Year 3/4 class recently to engage children in traditional values such as respect and trust.

Uncle Barney is from the Gerard community and regularly visits Riverland schools to inspire students with history and dreamtime stories.

Uncle Barney inspired students with his didgeridoo.

Uncle Barney inspired students with his didgeridoo.

Gerard is a small Aboriginal settlement near the town of Winkie and was the final resting place of well known tracker Jimmy James who helped police track criminals for decades.

During Uncle Barney’s visit, St Joseph’s students painted artwork using ochre, a red earth pigment from the Spring Cart Gully Quarry between Renmark and Berri.

“It really caught my eye, and not only my eye but by heart,” Uncle Barney says.

“Ochre is really important to my culture. If you have red ochre it is like gold.”

Uncle Barney also played the didgeridoo, told dreamtime stories and shared tales of his upbringing.

Students made paintings using ochre, a natural earth pigment.

Students made paintings using ochre, a natural earth pigment.

The support worker and school bus driver never learnt to read or write but has instead engaged students in storytelling for many years.

Year 3/4 classroom teacher Greg Reeks says engaging students with a respected member of the community brings a realisitic aspect of learning to the classroom.

“It’s not just learning with a (computer) screen, it adds a whole other level to their knowledge of the Riverland,” he says.

“These people live right next to us and are so valuable to the community, so we’re trying to tap into that.”

Students wrote letters to Barney Lindsay to express their gratitude over his visit.

Students wrote letters to Howard ‘Barney’ Lindsay to express their gratitude over his visit.

Greg says students recognised the importance of respect for nature and fellow classmates.

“Barney grew up in an area where everything he ate was virtually from the bush and that’s where he learnt respect for the land and the importance of caring for nature,” he says.

“Respect and trust are one of our main focuses at school.”

Aside from Uncle Barney’s visit, St Joseph’s students were also treated to one of Adelaide’s best sporting experiences – an AFL game at Adelaide Oval – in June.

The Port Adelaide Football Club donated to the school 57 tickets to attend a clash between Port and North Melbourne.

Greg says the trip helped lift the spirits of the children, some whose families are suffering from huge loss of fruit crops due to hailstorms in 2016.

“And with the drought a few years ago there have definitely been hard times,” he says.

“It’s about trying to teach children to have confidence and believe in themselves.”

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