All written HSC exams will go ahead and results will be released shortly before Australia Day 2022 after the exam authority and universities struck a compromise deal to ensure there is enough time for marking and university offers.
Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks will be released before the HSC this year, with ATARs released on January 20 and HSC results on the 24th, Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said as she released the official HSC timetable on Friday.
A preliminary version accidentally uploaded on Thursday afternoon and quickly taken down showed exams running over 19 rather than 18 days, beginning with English and finishing with food technology on December 3.
The written exams, which have been run since 1967 and are a massive logistical exercise costing about $100 million a year, were delayed until November 9 on health advice.
However, there have been questions over whether all exams would run or whether some would have to be cut to ensure papers could be marked and results processed in time for universities to begin offering places.
Exam authorities said they needed until January 28 to process all results, but universities wanted them by January 17. On Wednesday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the cancellation of some exams was still a possibility.
After days of negotiations, a compromise position was reached, the sources told the Herald. All agreed that to cancel some exams, and base results on school assessments, but hold others would be unfair to students.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the fairest and best result for all students was the opportunity to sit all their exams. “The universities have been incredibly helpful and open during this process, and clearly want the best result for the students,” she said.
“While I wish we could have provided clarity for students earlier, the sheer scale of the HSC - alongside the unpredictably of the pandemic - made that impossible.
“We are now in a good position. Students will have their timetables on Friday, all exams will go ahead and their access to university and tertiary education will not be impacted.”
Psychologists say the stress has been taking its toll on students, who are highly anxious but lack motivation to study for exams that might not go ahead.
The president of the Secondary Principals Council Craig Petersen said there would be a mixed response to the decision but the certainty was welcome. “Even if we don’t like the decision, people will be able to plan for it, which is a relief,” he said.
“I think in terms of equity, it’s actually a good thing [to hold all exams] because we don’t want just one or two subjects determining someone’s future, particularly for our non-English speaking students, our refugee students.
“The feedback I’m getting from some students is we’ve put everything into this, we want the finalisation, we want to get to that end point. Not everyone will be happy. But it doesn’t matter what the decision is, someone will be unhappy.”
Barker College principal Phillip Heath said the decision was “enormously welcome”.
“It’s of vital importance to the kids that the decision is made and that the decision honours the hard work they’ve already applied,” he said. “I like that they have the full exams and the length we prepared for.”
When a student showed him the leaked timetable, Mr Heath’s eyes went straight to the final exam - food technology on the morning of December 3 - so he could begin working out whether the school could run graduation events.
“That’s where my mind is going now, to examine ways in which we can make the best out of a difficult situation,” he said.
Under the road map to reopening, released on Thursday, hospitality venues will be able to reopen with one person per four square metres inside and one per 2 square metres outside from 70 per cent community vaccination, due in mid-October.
The NSW Education Standards Authority issued a statement on Thursday afternoon, confirming a preliminary timetable was uploaded in error. “We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused,” it said. “The 2021 HSC exam timetable will be released tomorrow morning.”
The story has been updated with confirmed dates for the HSC results and the release of ATARs.