When the 2011 Higher School Certificate results were announced over the school break, one thing stood out: Strathfield’s high achievers were more successful than ever before.
Some schools achieved their best scores in a decade and improved their rankings in the HSC and International Baccalaureate.
In the analysis that followed, two factors were cited for the extraordinary results: innovations in teaching methods was one, but the particularly bright intake was another.
Meriden did particularly well, rising an amazing 35 places in the Sydney Morning Herald’s list of 100 top schools. The list ranks schools based on credits (score of 90 and above) divided by the number of times all students in a class sat an exam.
Principal Dr Julie Greenhalgh, who has reformed the school’s teaching methods over the past five years, says this is the tangible benefit of highquality staff and strong academic programs starting from primary school.
“Meriden has restructured our learning programs so that for example with English, we teach our primary school students to become more analytical and to fully understand the concept and meaning of the literature, rather than just reading the book,” she said.
“The HSC is not the main focus of our teaching. We place a great emphasis on physical, emotional and spiritual education.”
But Greenhalgh does not deny Meriden’s 2011 graduates were an exceptional group of academically gifted students.
“Meriden is a comprehensive school which accommodates all students,” she said. “But this year we had a particularly talented year group and there were a fewer number of academically weaker girls. “
MLC was also lauded for its results in the International Baccalaureate. Co-ordinator Anne Layman says the school’s solid reputation for outstanding results leads many parents to choose MLC specifically for the diploma.
Since 2002, 13 girls from the school have achieved a perfect diploma score while in the HSC, 32 per cent of girls scored a UAC rank or ATAR equivalent of 99.0+ and 82 per cent scored 90.0+.
“We have students who have come from our competitors, specifically to attend MLC because we do have outstanding IB results every year,” Layman said.
“The IB is growing in popularity. In 2011, 38 girls graduated, this year we’ll have 42 and in 2013, 50 girls will graduate in the IB.”
The curriculum prerequisite requires students to choose three higher-level and three standard-level subjects as well as completing a Theory of Knowledge subject, an extended essay and Creative, Action and Service activities.
IB teachers must undergo intensive training before they are employed and Layman says the point of difference between MLC and other schools that offer the program is that MLC requires prospective teachers to take several classes before they are considered for the position.
“We put the teachers in front of an IB class and ask them to prepare several lessons so we can see the connection they have with the students,” she said. “There are very specific requirements of the IB syllabus and we make sure all our teachers are up to date with any changes and we make sure they are retrained every couple of years.”
The teachers at MLC are not strictly limited to either the HSC or the baccalaureate, something Layman says gives the teachers a greater depth and understanding of their respective subjects.
“The teachers are across both the HSC and the IB so MLC doesn’t have specific IB and HSC teachers,” she said.
“I think our teachers benefit from being across both curriculums and it strengthens their teaching abilities. Our teachers are highly motivated and hard working.”
Other schools in the municipality that performed well include Santa Sabina College, St Patrick’s College and Strathfield Girls High School.
Girls scored particularly well, receiving two-thirds of the first-in-course positions.
Boys, however, topped the table in highest tertiary rankings: of the 49 who achieved 99.95 , 30 were boys.
The split between public school and private school students was about 50-50, says Board of Studies president Tom Alegounarias.
Homebush Boys was on the list, and Burwood Girls High was strongly represented.
Santa Sabina moved to 68th from 39th, while Strathfield Girls High School rose from 103rd to 89th.