More students are taking on hands-on electives in the HSC this year, and at one Sutherland Shire school, the proof is in the pudding and the paintbrush.
HSC figures show that in 2019, visual arts has trumped physics out of the top 10 most popular subjects.
Students are also eyeing jobs in food service, with hospitality being twice as popular as any other vocational education and training course.
At De La Salle Senior Cronulla Cronulla, some year 12 classrooms look more like kitchens or art studios.
The statewide statistics ring true at the school, with many students choosing to balance academic subjects with a more creative churn.
Head of visual arts Byron Hurst says the school keeps up interest in creative subjects through excursions overseas. Teachers also invite established artists including Archibald finalist Alexander McKenzie to be mentors.
“Art has been pretty steady at our school,” Mr Hurst said. “I’ve had cohorts in the 30s across the past decade. The numbers have always been solid. Other humanities have waxed and waned and haven’t grown as consistently.
“We took students to Italy and Greece this year, and we’ve always had help from local artists. Kids also like to see things like ARTEXPRESS at Hazelhurst and Art Rules, where people put their work out there.”
He says the rise of social media is also a big influence.
“Lots of kids get into art because there’s more of a creative cyberspace these days – more than any other time in history. It’s all about visual literacy with Instagram and Facebook,” he said.
Art student and aspiring interior designer, Jasmine Cruise, completed her major work to mark the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon.
“It explores how Galileo first discoverd the universe,” she said. “I’ve always liked art and always drew in my spare time. It’s a nice break from all my other subjects and a chance to express my creative side.”
When students are not mastering their artistic skills, others are reaching for their white chef hats and aprons.
Vocational coordinator, Yvette Kennedy, says she is not surprised at the popularity jump in students taking on hospitality for their HSC.
“We have two classes in year 11 and 12 – a total of 80 students, and next year we have a jump on that again,” she said.
The number of vocational pathways has grown, and this is an industry that continues to be strong.
“Lots more people are eating out, and with the combination of tourism and good employment, many students are getting jobs as baristas, and in clubs and bars. One of our students opened a cafe at Burraneer called Our Father, and another who is doing the HSC next year also works at Sea Level restaurant.”
She says reality cooking shows are also attractive to students.
“We actually have our own My Kitchen Rules assessment where students cook a three course menu in teams for their families,” she said.
Mentors – established chefs, form a vital part of the curriculum.
“One of our teachers is an ex-chef for Qantas, and our new training package requires us to use the industry more, so we have access to chefs in our teaching unit, and they assess students,” she said.
“This year we had Aldo from Masterchef willing to give his time.”
Year 12 student Michael Hughes swapped PE for hospitality, after being drawn to the subject.
“I saw my friends doing it and thought it was cool because they were making exciting dishes,” he said. “But I’ve always had an interest in cooking. Now my love of food has grown a lot more.”
From making margarita pizza in Naples, he is now paving the way for a career in the Australian industry.
“I definitely want to be in the kitchen,” he said. “It’s a creative space where you can be free.”
Japanese is the most popular language this year and maths and biology among the most popular non-compulsory electives.