Pilbara schools struggle in ATAR rankings

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Hedland Senior High School principal Bill Mann.
Camera IconHedland Senior High School principal Bill Mann. Credit: Shannon Beattie

Three of the Pilbara’s biggest high schools have had a poor overall showing in State ATAR rankings, despite some strong individual performances and improvements on the previous year.

Recording a median ATAR of 61.9, Karratha Senior High School came in at No.137 on the School Curriculum and Standards Authority table of 148 WA schools.

The school finished 132nd out of 146 eligible schools last year.

Hedland Senior High School, which finished at the bottom of the table in 2017, moved up to 126th place this year, increasing its average by about 15 points to 68.

St Luke’s College in Karratha — which in 2017 had too few ATAR students to make the list — finished just one rank below Hedland, with the same average score.

Pilbara Regional Education director Neil Darby admitted there was room for improvement, while saying there were also successes to recognise, such as Karratha’s 98.2 per cent attainment rate and Hedland’s higher average ATAR.

“It’s important to keep in mind the unique and complex aspects of a particular area when comparing data, such as transiency rates and socio-economic factors,” he said.

“Many students have also done well in non-ATAR subjects and have gone on to their chosen careers or training.”

Pilbara schools have had a difficult time in the ATAR rankings in the past few years, with Karratha and Hedland schools having slipped down the tables since 2015 when Hedland ranked 94th and Hedland 98th.

In 2016 St Luke’s College finished 49th on the list.

Karratha Senior High School principal Jennifer McMahon said the school was working hard to improve the academic achievement of all students, with ATAR being only one measure.

She said several students had achieved ATARs in the 90s and 80s “which are fantastic results”.

St Luke’s College principal Alanna Otway said while the school’s median ATAR was lower than the previous year, its top student had achieved a 99.7 ATAR, 20 per cent had scored 90 or more, and the Year 12 cohort had recorded 98 per cent WACE attainment.

“With relatively small cohorts, fluctuation in median results can be amplified but it is totally our commitment to support all students who wish to seek tertiary entrance, either through ATAR or alternative means,” she said.

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel said local teachers, staff, principals and P&Cs were working hard to improve the academic achievements of students in the region.

“It is not an overnight process — but I am confident that an upward momentum in educational outcomes for our region will become more apparent in the years to come,” he said.

The only other North West high school on the table, Broome Senior High School, ranked 136th with a median ATAR of 62.75.

The list only includes schools with 20 or more eligible Year 12 students and the Pilbara’s Tom Price Senior High School and Roebourne and Exmouth District High Schools were not included.

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