Forty and fabulous: Schools Spec back for 2023

All around the state more than 5,000 public school students are rehearsing for a very special Schools Spectacular. Glenn Cullen reports.

People standing for a photo. People standing for a photo.
Image: Sonja Sjolander (Arts Initiatives Advisor), Noah Smith (Barrenjoey High School), Ella Worley (Quirindi High School), Ben Gillard (Yass High School), Molly Owen (Quirindi High School), Micah June (Newtown High School of the Performing Arts), Abi Morgan (Asquith Girls High School) Rene Bagtas (Robert Townson High School), Sylvia Corish (Executive Director, Student Support and Specialist Programs) and Murat Dizdar (NSW Department of Education Secretary).

It may be turning 40 but there’s no hint of a midlife crisis for Schools Spectacular which returns this year to celebrate a special milestone.

Special guests on Thursday got a sneak preview of the talent that will be on show for ‘Fabulous’, an anniversary event for the much-loved show.

Led by Newtown High School of the Performing Arts singer Micah June, the vocal group performed a stirring version of the Vanessa Amorosi hit song ‘Absolutely Everybody’ as sponsors and key organisers gathered to launch the production.

‘Fabulous’, to be held on 24 and 25 November 2023 at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena, promises to be a spectacular addition to an event that was seeded back in 1983 when performed as a humble acoustic sound-check for the new Sydney Entertainment Centre.

The following year marked its first fully-fledged performance, with Schools Spec growing to the point where it is now considered the world’s largest variety show – it holds a Guinness World Record for 5,322 participants for the 25 November 2016 show.

This year some 5,500 students, 600 teachers and school staff and 387 public schools are involved. There will be a 2,100-person choir, 2,200 dancers, a 100-piece symphony orchestra, as well as 34 featured artists, nine backing vocalists and six featured instrumentalists.

NSW Department of Education Secretary Murat Dizdar said the event sends a powerful message about the power of the public school system.

“We are taken aback by the enormity of the talent, the enormity of the ability of our young people who perform so amazingly,” said Mr Dizdar, who has two of his children featuring in the performance.

“Our teachers and support staff often go as the unsung heroes who drive this opportunity.

“Doesn’t it put a smile on everyone’s faces when we see the breadth of schools that are represented? Don’t we all get a little bit prouder when we see our rural and remote colleagues represented, our small schools out there?

“That’s what I love about Schools Spectacular. It puts public education on the map front and centre, showcasing the true diversity of the state.”

The push to include performers beyond Sydney has been a key plank in the growth and interest in Schools Spec with regional, rural and remote students now making up around 30 per cent of the show.

Year 12 student Molly Owen of Quirindi High School described last year’s show as the best experience of her life.

Dabbling in the arts for a few years, it took a nudge from her principal to encourage her to audition.

“It was not what I expected. I’d heard of it and watched it on TV but being involved was just amazing,” she said.

“The exposure to the industry, the stuff you learn, just being a musical kid – the amount of stuff I learned that will also help me with the HSC.”

The only featured artist from her region last year, Molly has played her part in demonstrating what is possible to her fellow students from country NSW.

“I kind of showed kids from rural areas that you can do it. There’s a lot of travel but it’s 100 per cent worth it.”

The NSW Department of Education would like to acknowledge sponsors and supporters of the Schools Spectacular: Telstra, NSW Teachers Federation, School Bytes, RODE, Smartsalary, Teachers Health, Steinway Galleries, Event Partners: Qudos Bank Arena, Seven Network and Ticketek.

For more information visit

People standing for a photo. People standing for a photo.
Image: Murat Dizdar (NSW Department of Education Secretary), Mary Lopez (founding producer Schools Spectacular) and Sylvia Corish (Executive Director, Student Support and Specialist Programs).
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