'Killara Academy' awards microcredentials at school

Students at Killara High are getting a taste of university study while still at school. Jim Griffiths reports.

A man with students sitting in a car. A man with students sitting in a car.
Image: Principal Robin Chand with Killara High students in a Tesla.

Students in junior secondary classes at a Sydney high school are getting a taste of tertiary education through real-world learning and a swag of microcredentials to prepare them for life as well as exams.

More than 200 students in Years 7 to 10 at Killara High School will this year participate in the 20-week co-curricular program at the innovative ‘Killara Academy’.

Principal Robin Chand said Killara Academy was developed as a response to the aspirations of local parents in northern Sydney who expect their children will attend university.

"We wanted to provide our students with the best possible experience, preparing them academically as well as equipping them with real-life skills to thrive in the world beyond school,” Mr Chand said.

"We believe in preparing our students not just for exams, but for life.”

In the Killara Academy program, students can study microcredential courses as well as attend practical workshops as varied as financial literacy, automotive maintenance and helping the community at Bondi’s Our Big Kitchen, which provides meals for people in need.

This means students are leaving Killara High School with more than the HSC, as they “study university while at high school” as well as gaining skills such as barista training at TAFE NSW.

Killara Academy students can obtain microcredentials in artificial intelligence, particle physics, citizen science and global biodiversity, and Java programming while at school.

The academy has also established partnerships with leading organisations such as Google, Qantas and Tesla to provide students with firsthand exposure to cutting-edge technologies and career pathways.

This year, students will hear from 15 guest speakers, including Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley; NSW Senior Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi; neurosurgeon Dr Gemma Olsson; heart and lung transplant surgeon Dr Emily Granger; and Qantas A380 pilot Wayne Daly.

Students have also learnt from real estate agent Katheryn Purdy on how to buy property in NSW.

A key goal of Killara Academy is to encourage a growth mindset, teaching students about resilience and perseverance in the face of challenges.

“We ask our guest speakers to share their experiences, to talk about where they have experienced setbacks and how they have dusted themselves off and kept moving forward,” Mr Chand said.

“We want to emphasise that success is built on overcoming setbacks and that there are no shortcuts to success.”

The Killara Academy has been running for three years, with the 2024 cohort the largest yet, and has proven to be a winning strategy with the local community.

“We're finding a lot of parents are choosing to enrol their children into Killara High School because they want their children to experience the Killara Academy program,” Mr Chand said.

Students participate in hour-long workshops on Tuesday mornings at 7.30, and often finish the day with a guest speaker that afternoon at 3.30pm.

Local primary schools attend some of the afternoon presentations, with the talk by the team from Tesla Chatswood a particular recent hit for public school students from Lindfield, Killara, Gordon and Roseville.

Students standing in front of two cars. Students standing in front of two cars.
Image: The academy has established partnerships with leading organisations such as Google, Qantas and Tesla.
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