Blazing a trail towards HSC success

Free tutoring for senior students from HSC high achievers is improving academic performance at The Forest High School. Sophie Lambert reports.

A student and teacher sitting at a desk. A student and teacher sitting at a desk.
Image: Zali van der Veer, a former Trailblazer and now a teacher at The Forest High, mentors HSC student Isabel McPherson.

Senior students at The Forest High School are learning from former HSC high achievers in a program developed to enhance academic performance and self-growth.

The ‘Trailblazer’ mentors are former students now studying at university who were high achievers in various HSC subjects and are enthusiastic about working side by side with current students.

Students can choose to receive intensive coaching from Trailblazers either individually or in groups of three to four.

Forest High School principal Nathan Lawler said the Trailblazer program has helped students improve their HSC results since launching in 2019.

“Since the inception of the program, a high percentage of Year 12 students have ranked in the top 20 per cent of the state in the HSC in multiple subjects,” he said.

“Our data suggests that many of these students worked closely with Trailblazer mentors to achieve these successful results.”

Mr Lawler said the Trailblazer Program regularly reviews, solicits and addresses feedback on performance from students, staff and the school community.

Trailblazers collaborate with staff to build on the program, working alongside teachers in classes to ensure they are aware on how they can enhance the role of the teacher.

The program received the Secretary’s Award for Outstanding School Initiative in 2020 and has proven a useful strategy supporting alumni who are completing university teaching degrees.

“We currently have three past students employed as Trailblazers who will go on to apply their skills as teachers once they graduate from university,” Mr Lawler said.

Zali van der Veer, The Forest High 2018 school captain, was a former Trailblazer while at university and is now teaching at the school.

“Zali is a highly valued member of our staff, working as a Human Society and Environment teacher,” Mr Lawler said.

Ms van der Veer said the Trailblazer Program took a holistic approach to improving student outcomes, rather than just addressing academic performance.

“A unique emphasis on nurturing confidence, preparedness, and personal growth in a diverse range of students makes this initiative a true stand-out,” she said.

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