VCE scores don't matter to Olivia Spagnolo, who has cut herself out a new career

While her classmates nervously await their VCE results next week, Olivia Spagnolo will be hard at work in a local hairdressing salon.

Ms Spagnolo completed her year 12 studies at Ballarat High School but opted not to sit her final exams, instead taking the first step in to her career and starting a hairdressing apprenticeship.

“It was something I decided before I started the year,” Ms Spagnolo said.

“I never really wanted to complete my exams to get an ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank). I completed my VCE … but I never thought I needed a number.

“There are so many other options, whether it’s a trade or a different job, and my career adviser really helped me to understand my pathways.”

During her studies, Ms Spagnolo completed a school-based apprenticeship which included work placement in a local salon. And this week she started at The Stag salon in Sturt St as a first year apprentice.

Ms Spagnolo said completing year 12 knowing she did not have to sit exams put her in an unusual position.

“It was very different. It was a lot less stressful, a lot more relaxed … my classmates finished school but I had a career to go to.”

CUTTING: Olivia Spagnolo finished year 12 at Ballarat High School but bypassed her final exams in favour of starting a hairdressing apprenticeship. Picture: Lachlan Bence

CUTTING: Olivia Spagnolo finished year 12 at Ballarat High School but bypassed her final exams in favour of starting a hairdressing apprenticeship. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Ms Spagnolo was one of several Ballarat High School year 12 students who opted for a non-scored VCE and began apprenticeships or work at the end of their studies.

“The vast majority of our students who do VCE do sit exams at the end of the year to get an ATAR score, but there are some who are not interested in sitting exams or getting the ATAR,” said Ballarat High School senior years assistant principal Ian van Schie.

Mr van Schie said if students came to the school in term three and requested a non-scored VCE, they received counselling and had meetings with their parents to explain the ramifications of their decision.

“​A lot of those students who are putting their hands up to do non-scored VCE are those who have already got something set up,” he said.

“Their pathway is already done and they have no need to get an ATAR. For us it’s about having a positive destination, whether it be university, TAFE, apprenticeship or full-time work.”

But it doesn’t mean students doing non-scored VCE get an easy ride.

“We have very high expectations of all students whatever their pathway. These non-scored students do exactly the same assessments as everyone else at the school and when they get their year 12 certificate they deserve it.”

Ballarat High School also has about 35 students completing their VCAL who hope to become mechanics, electricians, hairdressers, beauticians and other trades.

For those who are waiting for their ATAR results on December 15, Mr van Schie had some advice.

“If you don’t get the score you want, there are always different options. Don’t judge yourself by your ATAR score – it’s a snapshot of a time.

“Don’t let that number define you: let it drive you to ensure you are going down the right pathway in the long term.”