Skip to Main Content

The VCE Advantage 

HRS is the only school in the Northern Territory offering the internationally recognised Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). Here we explain what the VCE is, how the ATAR works and options like the VCE Vocational Major that are part of the VCE pathway.

NEWS 30 May 2024

While most students in the Northern Territory graduate from high school with the Northern Territory Certificate of Education and Training (NTCET), Haileybury Rendall School students graduate with the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE).

As an internationally recognised certificate, the VCE can open many future pathways for students who decide their future lies with university, an apprenticeship or the workforce.

At HRS, the VCE pathway is two-fold to ensure it has something to offer students with diverse interests and with wide-ranging plans for what life after HRS will look like.

Students can study the VCE and complete assessments and examinations to achieve a final ATAR score that opens doors to university, or complete the VCE Vocational Major (VCE VM) or Pathways course. The VCE VM is more suitable for students who wish to pursue apprenticeships or a more practical pathway after school.

So, what are the key differences between the two VCE pathways?


Most students study the majority of their selected VCE subjects over Years 11 and 12. However, there are opportunities for some students to accelerate into studying one, two or even three VCE subjects in Year 10, allowing them to spread their VCE load over three years instead of two, as well as enjoying the challenge and benefits of accelerated learning. This helps them divide their attention between subjects and gives students the best chance of scoring well across a balanced learning program.

Each VCE subject is comprised of four units of study and students accumulate scores from their examinations and assessments to achieve a final Study Score for each subject. At the end of Year 12, those combined Study Scores are used to produce a student’s individual Australian Tertiary Admission Rank or ATAR.

Most students study five or six VCE subjects that combine to make up their ATAR. While many high schools in the Northern Territory offer a limited number of subject choices at Senior School level, HRS currently offers almost 30 individual subjects for VCE at Year 12.

Universities use the ATAR to determine which students are offered a place in different under-graduate courses. Generally, the higher the ATAR, the greater the choice of university courses available to students. HRS students also receive bonuses to their ATAR as many Australian universities take into account the remoteness of Darwin when offering places to NT students.

“Students in countries outside Australia also study the VCE so it is very well-respected internationally. It is a rigorous education program that sets up students for tertiary study — it gives them a great grounding so that they are ready for university,” says HRS Principal, Andrew McGregor.

“Our students have enjoyed a lot of success and they have achieved great results along the way. This is due to brilliant teaching and the development of our accepted hard-working student culture. Our students want to do well, they work together, and our classrooms are always great learning environments”
Andrew McGregor, Principal

“We also offer modern facilities, robust infrastructure and the best forms of digital support for students. It’s a contemporary package that helps our students produce their optimum results, whichever VCE pathway they choose.”

VCE Vocational Major

University is not for every student straight out of Year 12. The VCE Vocational Major is an ideal choice for students who want to complete Year 12 with a recognised certificate, but who are not going to university and do not need an ATAR. It is a sensible option for students who want to pursue an apprenticeship, vocational training program or enter the workforce directly from school.

“Students can still do VCE English and Maths, but they don’t have to do exams because they don’t need an ATAR. They also complete a work-related skills and personal development program to build the kinds of skills and knowledge they need to work effectively with other people”
Linda Hartskeerl, VCE and Careers Coordinator

During Years 11 and 12, VCE VM students also complete 180 hours of Vocational Education and Training (VET) studies. HRS offers certificates in Sport and Recreation for students interested in working in a gym or with a sports club.

“We also offer VET Music and offsite we offer Automotive Technology for students who want to do a diesel mechanic apprenticeship, and Construction that can lead to carpentry or cabinetmaking apprenticeships,” says Linda.

Allied health, childcare and beauty therapy are also available for VET studies.

Choosing the right path

HRS has a range of measures and supports to help Senior School students figure out the VCE pathway that is best for them.

Indigenous students who board at the school and who are often without family support close by, gain useful insights and advice through the Clontarf Foundation and Stars Foundation at the school, as well as HRS’s Careers Department.

“In Year 9, we meet students to discuss their subject choices and we discuss the pathways available to them. During Years 10, 11 and 12, meetings continue, and students are supported with completing their tertiary applications and working out a back-up plan. They begin to understand that there is more than one way to get to their finishing point,” says Linda.

“For those who do the VCE and get an ATAR, it won’t define who they are beyond Year 12 if that ATAR isn’t exactly what they hoped for. There are always other pathways for students to get from where they are now to where they want to be in the future.”