A new Australian school is doing things very differently with no exams, no set classes and no ATAR at the end of year 12.

The new independent high school, is due to open soon in Sydney’s West, and will be fostering a unique environment encourages student-lead learning.

Students enrolled at CathWest Innovation College, will complete two terms of set projects, after which they will develop solutions to issues, build portfolios to apply to university and put together idea pitches to the business sector, as reported in SMH.

Mentors And Projects

“By term three, students will be constructing their own projects and working with teachers and mentors within the college and across industry,” the college’s principal Cathy Larkin said.

“Our students will certainly be assessed throughout their projects and on the basis of their portfolios but they won’t have to sit through the three-hour tests that even I sat 40 years ago.”

“Rather than beginning with the syllabus, we’ll begin with the student and we’ll have as many learning pathways as we have students,” Ms Larkin said.

Ditch The ATARs

As universities begin to embrace less conventional entry methods, schools are responding with replacing the ATAR-path with project-based programs.

CathWest is expected to open in 2020 with, campuses in Mount Druitt and Emu Plains.  150 students will be enrolled across years 10 and 11 and will eventually cater up to year 12.


One student spoke to SMH, saying that moving to CathWest will mean an end to the classes she dreads.

“There are some days when I don’t like my subjects and I don’t want to go to school, but at CathWest you can do what you’re passionate about all the time,” India Wilcockson said.

“I also like the idea of doing schooling in a non-traditional way. At most schools teachers lecture and some people struggle in class, but there it’ll be more hands-on.

“Having mentors is something that intrigues me too, you can have one-on-one personal time.”

No Staff Room

Principal Larkin said the school will be very different to other conventional educational structures. Students will have a dress code rather than a formal school uniform and the timetable will be less structured and more flexible.

“We’re doing a complete refurbishment … we’re effectively gutting the science rooms and they’ll become our makers space with state-of-the-art innovation technology and the classrooms will become design studios where students will do their original work,” Ms Larkin said.

“At the front, instead of a student reception, there will be a student-run cafe, a hairdressing salon and a retail outlet, because those are all vocational subjects that we’ll offer … students and staff will share all the same facilities. There won’t be a staffroom and I won’t have an office.”

Would you be keen for your child to attend a school like this one? Tell us in the comments below.

More On Mouths of Mums


  • Ok if education is first and paramount, and will be interesting to see how it pans out.


  • Interesting but so hard for them when they go to uni and it all changes.


  • I like the idea in theory but would love to see how students are coping after leaving this school


  • It would be interesting to revisit this school in ten or so years time to see how their graduates have faired in life. If it’s running in ten or so years. In theory, it sounds brilliant, but who knows how it will bide in practice


  • I would love for my kids to attend a school like this. I believe learning should be fun and hands-on! There are other pathways to university if that’s their future goal.


  • My eldest just finished yr 12 and didn’t sit exams. He still passed year 12 but doesn’t get an atar score. He has no intention of further school and if he does in the future then he can apply for mature age


  • How will they cope at TAFE or University. Real world is much different.


  • That’s very different. I guess Homeschooling is similar in the fact of sometimes but doing the hsc, and if keen enough you can get into university other ways.
    Not everyone needs to go to university anyway


  • I don’t know what to think about this to be honest. I don’t see how someone can be accepted into uni without doing the HSC etc but it will be interesting to see what happens that’s for sure!


  • Not sure if this will work but it will be interesting to find out.


  • Hmm, interesting to see how things turn out. I’m a bit skeptical though.


  • The ones who want to learn will do what they have to I guess


  • I’m not sure how I feel about this.


  • I like this as students and parents not getting unwanted pressure.


  • How good would this be, taking the pressure off school. Only worry would be about going to Uni, how would that work?


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