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


  • Yes, I like this very much.
    However in preparation to further studies many universeties require certain subjects and exams.

    • Maybe universities should change their way of accepting student and teaching as well.


  • Now this is just silly. You can choose the subjects that you would like to study in traditional schools. If students only ever do what they are passionate about we will have so many intellectually illiterate people.


  • Fantastic, nurturing kids passions is the best way to give them a real start in life, why should they study what they are not interested in and will never use in their life. I would have loved a school like this for me and also for my son.


  • Sounds like a very interesting experiment – will be interested in the outcome from this school in a few years time.


  • I’m trying to get my head around this new concept. On one hand, it sounds interesting and beneficial to certain groups of students, i.e. ones who can self-direct, be self-motivated, inquisitive. On the other hand, students who do better by taking instruction the traditional method might not learn as effectively as other students. Also, have all Universities in Australia that typically accept ATAR agreed to accepting porfolios instead of requiring them to meet a certain mark to get into certain degrees? How would the portfolios be graded in a fair manner such that it is equivalent to other the required ATAR?


  • I do like the idea of this. However, as the majority of universities apply a very traditional approach to teaching, I wonder how these children would perform once reaching university.


  • Sounds like an excellent idea to me especially for children who struggle in main stream schools. Be interesting to see how it fares after a year or so.


  • This school would also meet the needs of students who have been home school to get that extra edge.


  • I would be interested in how it works out. I like the way it is going to be run. Some people do not survive in the traditional system and we need to allow for this type of teaching.


  • I would want to see how these students fare in the long run.


  • Sounds too good to be true to me very very interesting


  • I think its a great idea and takes away the anxiety of failing


  • Some of these ideas sound good, I think kids need more help with strategies to cope with life outside if school. I’m not too sure about no exams though. I a,ways thought exams were used to see how much information their retaining, to see what areas need more work


  • I think as long as it doesn’t cut them off from other study paths, it’s worth trying.


  • What about younger children though? I’m not the biggest fan of how they shove so much into our little preps face in their first year of school. Children are geniuses in their own rights and should be able to grow their strengths at schools.


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