HSC: Freeman culture encourages excellence

Natalie Cortes

Natalie Cortes gained a perfect 100 in French Beginners HSC coursework.

An interest in French films and pop songs helped Natalie Cortes shine during her HSC French Beginners exams.

The Freeman Catholic College graduate placed second in the state in the subject after performing well in the subject’s reading, written, speaking, and listening exams. She names La vie en Rose, about the life of Edith Piaf, as a favourite film.

“I’ve always been interested in the French culture and language,” she said. “I also had two really great teachers who helped us and were responding to emails all the time.

“You have to practice the language at home as well because you can’t just learn it in those 50 minute lessons at school. Watching French movies and listening to French songs after school helped and it doesn’t feel like studying because it’s fun.”

Natalie plans to continue with the language at university. She went on a study trip to New Caledonia in April with nine others from her French class. They took lessons in the language of a morning and practiced their skills while being tourists in the afternoons. “It was also a holiday but we learnt so many things, even by just hearing the natives speak,” she said. “It was a really fun experience and really helpful.”

Despite her excellent results she admitted managing her time effectively throughout the HSC year was a bit stressful. “Once you find the balance between each subject then it becomes much easier to handle,” Natalie said. “At the beginning I had to learn to study for each subject evenly.

“I really liked speaking and writing exams, because you can be more creative. With reading and listening they are set questions you have to answer, but with writing you can really show the examiners what you have learnt.”

Natalie’s school and peers also had reason to be pleased when results were released on December 17.

Dux Michael Micali gained an ATAR of 99.7, and more than 27 students gained an ATAR over 90. The Bonnyrigg Heights school placed 104th on the Sydney Morning Herald’s list of the top 150 schools and 48th in the state for English. More than two thirds of the 2015 HSC class received Band 5 and 6 results.

Leader of Pedagogy Adam Moore said the school culture encouraged success, with students often surprised at how well they do in their HSC year.

“They are aspirational so they keep working and often surprise themselves with the results they get,” he said. “That’s the culture here. Despite what your marks might be at the end of each assessment you keep working and there is always the opportunity to do better.

“From Year 7 there is always that opportunity and there is that correlation between work and results.”

Mr Moore said teachers’ first impression of the results was that they had maintained a high standard.

“Straight away we saw that the numbers were good,” he said. “I think the best thing about it was that we have had a number of changes in staff in some subject areas and despite those changes we’ve been able to maintain a high standard.”

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