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South Australian SACE results remain steady despite coronavirus pandemic

In a year like no other, South Australia's year 12 students have fought the odds to get their SACE, and the state has seen record numbers of Indigenous students and students with intellectual disabilities receiving their certifications.

It's been a long road to the end of high school for 2020's graduating class — but now some of South Australia's brightest students are finding inspiration for their future careers in the pandemic.

Key points:
  • The same number of students completed their SACE in 2020 as the previous year
  • A record number of Indigenous students and students with an intellectual disability attained their SACE
  • Students have been challenged by changes brought upon their studies by the coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19 threw regular learning out the window early in the school year, with reduced in-classroom learning for most students.

Online classrooms sprung up overnight and students had to bring the classroom into their homes for parts of this year.

Now, the results for their hard work have been revealed, with ATAR scores released across South Australia this morning.

Craigmore High School year 12 student Lara Clark has been working towards getting into medicine or biomedical science for years.

She said the coronavirus pandemic had cemented her dream of working in the field.

"I'm really happy about my result," Lara said.

"During exam week I really didn't sleep that much. My teachers got messages from me daily."

Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from December 15 with our coronavirus blog.

Her SACE score of 94.5 means it is likely she will be accepted into the course of her choice at Flinders University next year.

"I want to study at one of the SA universities, hopefully something in the medical field," she said.

"I kind of wanted to be a genetic pathologist before the pandemic, so going through this year has just reinforced there are job opportunities out there."

A young woman with blonde hair and an older woman stand behind a laptop computer A young woman with blonde hair and an older woman stand behind a laptop computer
Cathy Lovelock (right) says she is proud her daughter Lara (left) did so well despite a difficult year.(ABC News: Dana Morse)

Her mother Cathy Lovelock said seeing Lara achieve so much despite the disrupted academic year was a relief.

"I can't believe how much study she did. She was just amazing," Ms Lovelock said.

"Hats off to her with what she's managed to do and getting the score that she's actually got."

Coronavirus not the only challenge year 12s faced

For Tonya Frank, the pandemic has not been the biggest disruption to schooling she has faced this year.

Tonya Frank speaking at a SACE eventTonya Frank speaking at a SACE event
Tonya Frank completed her year 12 studies in the first semester of 2020 after finding out she was pregnant.(ABC News)

At the beginning of the year she found out she was pregnant with her daughter.

It is a story baby Violet will be hearing for years to come.

"Since the day I found out I was pregnant I was motivated to get my life together and finally get things done for myself," Tonya said.

"I finished a full year's worth of work in the first semester of the year."

Tonya plans to study at UniSA in 2021, with the goal of eventually becoming a social worker.

"My daughter motivated me. I did it for her," she said.

"She had better be so proud of me."

AFL hopeful Blayne O'Loughlin, meanwhile, is the second person in his family to complete the SACE.

His teachers helped him balance his schoolwork with football training, even during the pandemic.

"This year finishing school was my main priority before my season," he said.

"I wanted to have a good season but also finish my school and get my SACE."

Blayne O'Loughlin speaks at a SACE eventBlayne O'Loughlin speaks at a SACE event
Year 12 graduate Blayne O'Loughlin completed his SACE while taking part in an AFL academy.(ABC News)

The Roma Mitchell Secondary College graduate will work in construction next year while training with the Adelaide Crows Academy.

"It's all worked out and I'm extremely proud [of myself] and looking forward to next year," Blayne said.

SACE results steady despite pandemic chaos

While COVID-19 created plenty of challenges for pupils and teachers throughout the year, it has not affected all students' results.

Lara's school, Craigmore High, hit a major milestone for SACE results this year.

One hundred per cent of students enrolled in SACE completed their course this year — something that has never happened at the school before.

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The school's director of studies, Tanya Heys, said teachers were very proud of their students.

"It was difficult for staff and it was a lot of work," Ms Heys said.

"But it was more difficult for some students because a lot of them suffered mental health difficulties because of COVID, so it was really great they could come back in and pick their studies up.

"We're very proud of them."

Statistics show roughly the same number of students attained their SACE this year compared to last.

And reports show a record number of Indigenous students and students with an intellectual disability have achieved their SACE this year.

SA Education Minister John Gardner said that was an achievement students and teachers should be proud of.

"I'm really proud that our education system has stepped up when our community has needed it to and put our kids first," Mr Gardner said.

"We're very lucky here in South Australia that we haven't been as disrupted as other states.

"It's still a remarkable achievement that our year 12s have been able to do what they've been able to do, to succeed in the way that they've been able to succeed, and to inspire us all in the achievements they've undertaken."

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