Students defy lockdown with HSC glory

South-western Sydney students have triumphed over COVID restrictions to secure best in the State status in the HSC First in Course results announced today.

Image: Reassured: Michelle Ung was co-dux of her school in 2021 and now best in the State for Advanced English.

Students who endured the toughest lockdown restrictions during NSW’s COVID-19 lockdown last year have shone in the HSC First in Course list.

Of the 89 schools represented in the First in Course release announced today, 14 of the 33 government schools included are located in the Local Government Areas of concern that suffered the highest infection rates.

Students in these areas were unable to attend their schools for more than 16 weeks and were subject to strict rules around their movements outside their homes.

Deb Summerhayes, executive director of the Metropolitan South and West School Performance Directorate, said the success of these students was amazing news that should be celebrated.

“This is an amazing achievement from students who were significantly impacted by the lockdowns in the LGAs of concern,” she said.

“The outstanding results are a testament to the commitment, hard work and resilience of the students and the dedication and relentless focus of their teachers and schools in ensuring continuity of learning and wellbeing support throughout an incredibly challenging 2021.”

Among those honoured was Prairiewood High School’s Michelle Ung, who was one of three girls to share the top spot in Advanced English.

Michelle was supported in her studies with the Public Education Foundation Agnus Borsody scholarship and recently received a Susan & Isaac Wakil Foundation scholarship to help her undertake tertiary study in 2022.

Prairiewood High School principal Belinda Giudice paid tribute to the 2021 HSC cohort.

“We are incredibly proud of Michelle and the entire 2021 HSC cohort. Students’ have displayed strong resilience and work ethic whist teachers and leaders have balanced high academic standards with genuine care for student wellbeing,” she said.

Michelle said while she was confident she had done well, she had not expected to top the State.

The child of Cambodian refugees, she said her parents considered it a great achievement and were extremely proud.

She admitted the lockdown had not made the HSC experience easy and said the study bubbles at school in Term 4 had been a great help.

“It was very difficult under lockdown. There were many challenges and finding the right study techniques was hard,” she said.

Michelle, who is planning to study a Bachelor of Commerce/Law at UNSW, said her teachers had been great motivators.

“They would give us a lot of pep talks especially during our zoom lessons to keep us going,” she said.

Other First in Course places from students from schools within the LGAs of concern went to:

  • Roaa Amhed, Arabic Continuers, Beverly Hills Girls High
  • Melissa Tieve, Chinese Continuers, Bonnyrigg High School
  • Andjela Nikolic, Business Services Examination, Bossley Park High School
  • Elena Stojcevski, Business Studies, East Hills Girls Technology High School
  • Daania Alameddine, Family and Community Studies, Fairvale High School
  • Moksh Bhatia, Investigating Science, Hurlstone Agricultural High School
  • Ayeshah Baig, German Beginners, Mitchell High School
  • Marcin Konczyk, Polish Continuers, Secondary College of Languages Ashfield Boys Campus
  • Princess Marcos, Filipino Continuers, Secondary College of Languages Bankstown Girls Campus
  • Christina Solyom, Hungarian Continuers, Secondary College of Languages Bankstown Girls Campus
  • Teona Petreska, Macedonian Continuers, Secondary College of Languages Bankstown Girls Campus
  • Ting Jun Liang, Chinese in Context, Secondary College of Languages Birrong Boys Campus
  • Marta Abicic, Croatian Continuers, Secondary College of Languages Liverpool Boys Campus
  • Lisa David, Khmer Continuers, Secondary College of Languages Liverpool Girls Campus
  • Anika Popovic, Serbian Continuers, Secondary College of Languages Liverpool Girls Campus
  • Lovisha Gangwani and Harkirat Singh, Punjabi Continuers, Secondary College of Languages The Hills Sports Campus.
Image: Favourite subjects: Kate Chipman from Hornsby Girls High School received two First in Course awards.

In other results Hornsby Girls High School had three First in Course spots with two secured by Kate Chipman, who topped the State in English Extension 1 and Modern History, and Jessica Lui earning the Legal Studies award.

North Sydney Boys High and Sydney Boys High also had three first places while Merewether High School in Newcastle had two top places.

The NSW School of Languages had six First in Course winners while the Secondary College of Languages secured 17 winners across its various campuses.

Hornsby Girls High principal Dr Justin Briggs said the school was “incredibly proud of all of our students for the amazing effort they have put into their studies”.

“Kate, our school captain, is an outstanding and highly disciplined young woman with the world at her feet. To achieve a first place in the HSC is an incredible achievement.

“Well done also to Jessica, who has also performed at a very high level throughout her studies. Some very good news for our school community.”

Kate, who will go to the Australian National University to complete a double degree in International Studies and Politics, Philosophy and Economics, said she was “very, very, very surprised” by the result.

“I’m totally shocked but very happy,” she said.

While Hornsby Girls High was not in an LGA of concern, Kate was impacted as her home was within the hard lockdown zone and she missed over a term of face-to-face learning.

The teenager said she had not done anything special in those two subjects, but credited her success down to great teachers and enjoying the subjects.

“I had two really amazing teachers who were really supportive during lockdown and went above and beyond in being available on zoom and emails and [English and Modern History] were my two favourite subjects so I just genuinely enjoyed them.”

First in Course winners from public schools were spread across the State with Jadzia Wolff, from Kingscliff High School near the Queensland border, one of four students to top Drama.

Eight students shared the Advanced Mathematics First in Course honour including Karina Kuang, from Willoughby Girls High, who was one of two girls included in the list, along with Fort Street High School student Gordon Huang and Sarfaraz Ahmed from Sydney Boys High School.

Sydney Boys High School’s Hanyang Zheng secured Mathematics Extension 1 and Luchith Thenuwara, from Baulkham Hills High School was first in Mathematics Extension 2.

NSW Secondary College of Languages principal Sana Zreika said 2021 has been particularly challenging for the students.

“This was a uniquely impacted HSC cohort, who had engaged with online learning twice in their preliminary year, only to be faced with a return to remote learning in the lead-up to their final school assessment and the HSC itself,”. she said.

More than 3,000 students at SCL transitioned to online learning for an extended period in Term 3 and Term 4 in 2021, and 872 HSC candidates successfully completed their Trial examinations online.

”Our HSC students have demonstrated extraordinary strength, adaptability and resilience,” Ms Zreika said.

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