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Excellence on display at annual awards

The innovative work of schools and the outstanding commitment of students, parents and staff have been recognised at the Minister’s and Secretary’s Awards for Excellence.

Sarah Mitchell and Takesa Frank.

The Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, Sarah Mitchell, with Takesa Frank.

Student achievement that ranged from earning 100% on an accelerated university course to environmental leadership was recognised yesterday at the 2019 NSW Minister’s and Secretary’s Awards for Excellence.

Around 115 individuals and schools were honoured at the annual awards, which showcase NSW public school students, teachers, staff and parents who have made significant contributions to their school communities and serve as role models to their peers.

They also acknowledge schools that have embraced innovative programs to turn around school results and are changing the way education is delivered within the government school system.

Among the 37 students receiving a Minister’s Award for Excellence in Student Achievement were William Gao from Penrith High School and Takesa Frank from Ulladulla High School.

William is just one of 10 students accepted into an accelerated computer science course at the University of Sydney where his results are currently 100%.

Takesa, who gave the Acknowledgement of Country at the awards ceremony at Sydney Town Hall, is school captain at Ulladulla High and has championed environmental awareness at the school resulting in her receiving an Environmental Future Leaders Award this year.

Fellow award recipients India Becroft and Connor Higgins from Wagga Wagga High School gave the vote of thanks during the ceremony.

India told the audience that student excellence was dependent on the support of teachers and families.

“We know that the diligence and support required to strive for and ultimately reach our goals is inspired by those who exemplify what it means to embrace every opportunity,” she said.

“And isn’t this what is truly at the heart of our public education system? The provision of opportunities for hundreds of thousands of students to find our path of fulfilment and success, to strive for our personal criteria of accomplishment through our own aspirations of excellence.”

Connor, a “proud Wiradjuri man”, said he had been encouraged at school to embrace his culture and now took pride in mentoring the next generation of Indigenous leaders at Wagga High.

“This is Bridging the Gap at its very foundation,” Connor said. “This is the embodiment of equitability. And this too is the heart of public education, the nurturing of individual aspirations and significance attributed to diversity of cultures and learning needs.”

Connor urged those at the awards ceremony to be advocates for public education throughout their lives and to “remember the part it has played in the inspirational people you have become”.

The winners from across NSW were selected in the following categories:

  • Minister’s Award for Excellence in Student Achievement
  • Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • Secretary’s Award for Excellent Service
  • Secretary’s Award for an Outstanding School Initiative
  • Secretary’s School Achievement Award
  • Public School Parent of the Year

The NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, Sarah Mitchell, said the awards affirmed the high standards and dedication that underpinned the public school system.

“These awards highlight the tremendous contribution that students, teachers, principals and the school community make to public education in NSW as we strive for learning and teaching excellence,” Ms Mitchell said.

Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott said the awards celebrated excellence within the state’s public education system by showcasing those who had made major contributions as role models to their peers, their schools and the wider education community.

“The range of achievements reflected in the awards is representative of the many components that make our public school system so strong and is just the tip of the iceberg in innovation and commitment to outstanding learning outcomes that are happening across the NSW public education system,” Mr Scott said.

“Whether it is the school parent who is now in her third generation of service, students’ academic excellence and extended community service or the dedicated teachers and staff guiding and supporting them – everyone is helping to lay solid foundations for a strong and vibrant society.”

The Public Education Foundation’s executive director, David Hetherington, said the foundation was proud to host the awards on behalf of Education Minister Ms Mitchell and Department Secretary Mark Scott.

“The event is always the highlight of the education calendar, showcasing the wonderful people and extraordinary talent across NSW public education – schools, students, teachers, school staff and parents,” Mr Hetherington said.

You can read the award citations on the Public Education Foundation website.

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