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PATHWAY TO PURPOSE: TAFE NSW helps Ashton step out of the darkness


PATHWAY TO PURPOSE: TAFE NSW helps Ashton step out of the darkness

EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS: A former TAFE NSW Tertiary Preparation Certificate student has urged school leavers unhappy with their ATAR to consider going "back to school" at TAFE NSW.

21 January, 2020

A former Young HSC student forced to abandon his studies due to a battle with mental health has urged last year’s local HSC students “not to despair” if they didn’t get the ATAR they wished for.

Ashton Stewart, now 20, vividly recalls his own struggle to complete the HSC, and said a unique TAFE NSW course, which arms graduates with an ATAR equivalent, helped put his schooling and career back on track.

First afflicted by acute depression while in Year 10 at Young High School, Mr Stewart attempted to complete Year 11 three times before abandoning his studies each time.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to go to school,” he said. “There was a solid year where I could hardly leave my bed; I wouldn’t shower and I barely ate. In that state, the prospect of going to school was just too overwhelming.”

Just when he thought the HSC would be forever out of reach, Mr Stewart learned of two TAFE NSW courses – a Certificate III in Pathways to Further Study and Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation (TPC) – and decided to enrol at TAFE NSW Young.

The courses were a lifeline, and Mr Stewart thrived in the more independent, adult learning environment.

“The courses went for four days a week, four hours a day and it was a lot more manageable,” Mr Stewart said. “The teachers were so helpful. Even when you were doing assignments during school holidays, you could contact them and they would get straight back to you.”

Mr Stewart achieved an ATAR equivalent of close to 90, and soon after completed a Certificate III in Business Administration through TAFE Digital.

He is now enrolled in a Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping and plans to tackle the diploma upon graduating, with plans for a career in accounting.

He is also “earning while learning”, with a part time job in business administration at South Coast Hearing Solutions.

Mr Stewart said he was now managing his depression through exercise and “positive self-talk”, and offered some sage advice to others struggling with the pressures of the HSC.

“You don’t need to do it the traditional way that everyone expects to get it done,” he said. “The TPC is far more suitable for many people who respond better to a more mature learning environment.”

TAFE NSW Young Head Teacher of Career Pathways Karen Ward said Tertiary Preparation students were an eclectic group but most often students who were not happy with their ATAR and wanted to re-sit the HSC, people who needed a Year 12 equivalent or current members of the workforce who wished to change career and gain entrance to university.

“It’s a great way for those who haven’t studied in a while to improve their confidence, research and writing skills and gain entry to higher education,” Ms Ward said.

“I always say ‘don’t panic’ to HSC students … TAFE NSW can equip you will the skills you need for the career you want.”

To find out more about studying a career pathways course at TAFE NSW, phone 13 16 01 or visit

Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.