Senior secondary schooling in New South Wales has recently undergone substantial reform. The aims of this reform include raising standards;enhancing equity; and developing a senior secondary curriculum which is relevant to the education and training needs of the broadest possible range of students. The reformed HSC is in its first year of implementation across NSW high schools. Given the early stage of implementation, only limited information exists concerning the impact of these reforms on school practices and student experiences and outcomes. In this paper we focus on vocational education and training (VET). The paper details the changes which have been made to VET courses, assessment structures, reporting processes, and the relationship of these to the HSC. Adopting a policy cycle approach, we explore the potential policy trajectories of this reform and considers its refraction within specific local school contexts. We are exploring the hypothesis that the contribution to enhanced equity made by VET within the new HSC it is likely to be impeded by the simultaneous focus on raising standards and the specific structure of new vocational courses. Specifically, the potential exists for particular vocational courses to be dominated by already privileged high attaining students destined for university, while those students who have tended to undertake vocational courses and who stand to benefit most from participation in the new courses may be excluded from these. These issues are being investigated by simultaneous study of student intake and course development.
Annual Conference of the Australian Association for Educational Research, 2000. Abstracts of the 2000 AARE Conference (Sydney 4th-7th December, 2000)