Students help shape policy

This morning, three of our Big Picture students met with the Hon Adrian Piccoli, former NSW Minister for Education (2011 – 2017) and currently Director of the University of NSW’s Gonski Institute for Education, .

Maisie Randall and Em Black from Five Islands Secondary College in Wollongong, and Dylan Storer, all the way from Fitzroy Crossing in remote Western Australia, were there to tell Mr Piccoli about the opportunities opening up to them with the Big Picture Graduation Portfolio pathway to university.

As Director of the Gonski Institute, Piccoli is investigating alternatives to ATAR-based entry to tertiary education and reinvigorating education for 21st century students.

In 2020, both Maisie and Dylan, currently in Year 11, are hoping to gain accelerated entry to the university of Technology Sydney, UTS, and to the University of Wollongong (UoW), one of Big Picture Education’s 14 partner universities in the  Graduation Portfolio scheme.

Maisie, who has a strong passion for conservation and politics, and has just successfully staged a youth summit about climate change for seven local schools in Wollongong, called the ‘Collaborative Environmental Youth Summit’, is hoping to enrol in either Social and Political Sciences, or Economics, Philosophy & Politics, on the strengths of her portfolio and its Senior Thesis Project about climate change and the Global Sustainable Development Goals.

Dylan, who has been immersed in radio production, journalism and current affairs since his early years at primary school, is in town doing an internship with an ABC reporter and touching base with his journalist mentor. A keen radio journalist himself, with a long time interest in the environmental, rural, remote and indigenous issues, Dylan is already a prizewinning broadcaster, radio documentary maker and podcast producer.

His Senior Thesis Project is on the competing needs and beliefs about water management and land use in the Fitzroy Valley, WA. Dylan is planning to enrol in journalism at the UoW.

Em, a qualified yoga instructor, has already built an impressive portfolio around her passions for Ayurveda yoga, exercise science and nutrition. Currently in Year 10, she is already planning her Senior Thesis Project about yoga and its effects on exercise physiology, body image and eating disorders. She  plans to study a double degree in Exercise Science and Nutrition & Dietetics at UoW.

These students are great embodiments of the ways in which the BPEA design for learning enables students to pursue their interests and excel.

“Learning how to learn, giving young people the skills to explore what they need, instead of regurgitating education is the key.” (Em)


Currently, national interest in post-school pathways is rapidly growing, including a review of the HSC in NSW and the continued suitability of the ATAR to determine university entry. 

“I’m really hoping for a shift in public perspective about the ATAR. My parents and I took a gamble on this post-school pathway but it is really paying off.” (Maisie)


As part of its brief to transform education in response to a rapidly-changing world, BPEA is working with the Assessment Research Centre in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne to develop a Learner Profile, based on micro-credentials.  This is exciting, ground-breaking work and will open up more opportunities for students to follow their interests and be equipped to take their place as future global citizens.