Pride and joy as Northern Rivers students start HSC

The sun was shining in Lismore as 72 HSC Northern Rivers students achieved a major milestone against the odds, writes Linda Doherty.

Image: Sweet relief: HSC students from The Rivers Secondary College, from left, J-J Coleman (Richmond River High campus), Tigerlily Corkill (Lismore High Campus) and Sophie Painter (Kadina High Campus)

“Pride” is the word Chris Williams used to describe the feeling of Northern Rivers principals, teachers and school staff as the Class of 2022 today started their first written exam for English just months after floods devastated the region.

Mr Williams, the acting Executive Principal of The Rivers Secondary College, said staff at the three campuses, students and their families were still rebuilding their lives and homes and many remained in temporary accommodation with uncertain futures.

“We all felt incredible pride; the fact that these kids have achieved this major milestone and they’ve walked out of their first exam,” he said. “When you talk about resilience and grit, these kids have been through a lot.

“I was privileged to attend two of the three campus graduation ceremonies last term. Every year adviser was in tears talking about the kids, the cohort, the fact they were still standing ready to go into their HSC after two floods, bushfires, and COVID-19.”

Despite the loss of major projects during the floods – with some students losing two or three – the HSC students had started from scratch and submitted high-quality works before today’s written exams.

The HSC students – from the campuses of Lismore High, Kadina High and Richmond River High – sat their first English exam together in the Lismore High Campus Hall. The college has a total of 125 students sitting HSC exams over coming weeks.

A psychological boost was the sunny day because rain can cause anxiety in students, some of whom lost everything in the floods.

“The kids came out of the exam pretty positive and smiling; they said there weren’t too many surprises and their teachers had prepared them well and covered the coursework in class,” Mr Williams said.

The Richmond River High Campus was destroyed by flood and the campus has now been relocated to a temporary site next to the Lismore High Campus.

“The staff have been incredible because a lot have been flood-affected themselves, or are working in temporary schools, sharing spaces, being in classrooms without the resources they would normally have,” Mr Williams said. “But they have stuck together and supported each other to ensure the kids got what they needed for the HSC.”

Teachers gave up time in the school holidays to run study days for students and all the HSC students have been supported with wellbeing strategies and study preparation. The college is also providing breakfast, uniforms and essentials to any student in need.

Mr Williams said students and staff appreciated the commitment of the NSW Education Standards Authority to put in place individualised support via the Flood Support program.

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