Success is sweet for Catholic school students after the toughest HSC

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HSC high achievers Antonio Giusti, Alessia Gigliotti and James Papic from Clancy Catholic College West Hoxton. Photo: Patrick J Lee

There’s nothing better than teamwork for achieving a goal say Antonio Giusti and James Papic, who kept focus on their studies for the HSC through months of the country’s harshest lockdown restrictions.

With motivation flagging following the trial exams, the fellow classmates from Clancy Catholic College in West Hoxton in Sydney’s south west decided to set their timers and complete at least two past HSC papers together via Zoom every day.

Antonio, the 2021 College Captain and dux, and James were among the state’s high achievers, along with fellow College Captain Alessia Gigliotti.

“People think of the HSC as really competitive, but I think working to achieve together is one of the underrated sides of the HSC.” Antonio Giusti

“I was over the moon and in a little bit of shock because I wasn’t expecting to get as high as I did,” said Antonio, 18.

“James and I had similar ambitions for doing well in the HSC and we just pushed each other to stay on track and our teachers did as well, I couldn’t have done it without them.
“People think of the HSC as really competitive, but I think working to achieve together is one of the underrated sides of the HSC.”

Antonio hopes to study mathematics or engineering at university, while James wants to devote his studies to law and commerce.

Alessia agreed that the support from others also helped her to achieve her ATAR in the high 90s. “Knowing everyone else was in the same boat really helped,” she said. “It was tough but I’m just so proud of how our whole grade really bonded over this and not just the top students academically but everyone.

“It was such a crazy year and we needed to motivate each other to get through it. Our families and teachers were so supportive and I really think the whole experience has made us better leaders.”

The trio at Clancy Catholic College West Hoxton, were among the thousands of students from NSW Catholic schools to excel in the HSC despite extraordinary pandemic challenges.
Principal David Fetterplace said the latest crop of Year 12s gave the school its best results ever and it was all the more sweet because of the extraordinary challenges they had to overcome.

The school jumped an amazing 135 positions to become 81st in the state. “They did unbelievably well, particularly in English and Maths, outperforming many selective and private schools across the state,” Mr Fetterplace said.

“I think part of the reason for our success is we found out ways to establish a sense of normality as much as we could. Our staff and families are incredibly supportive and a real highlight was when we persisted in putting on a formal for the students late in December, which was a joyous celebration.

“The families and students were very appreciative that we were able to give them some of the things that they could normally have expected, despite the restrictions.

“We have a saying at Clancy Catholic College that, ‘We’ve got this’, which is what we kept reminding our students last year and they trusted us and responded with easily the best HSC results we’ve ever had.”

Eighteen Sydney Catholic Schools ranked among the top 150 high schools and confirmed its reputation as one of the top performing systems of schools in Australia. More than 3000 students from the 33 schools made the state’s list of distinguished achievers.

“These amazing results reflect the hard work and commitment of students, unwavering support of parents and carers and teachers and school leaders who stood out in the toughest of years as professionals who always put their students first,” Sydney Catholic Schools Director of Education and Research, Dr Kate O’Brien, said.

Sydney Catholic Schools’ Executive Director, Tony Farley, also extended his “heartfelt congratulations and admiration” to the class of 2021.

Other top-performers in the HSC included Catholic schools students who finished First in Course and attended schools in West Hoxton, Merrylands, Westmead, Fairfield, Rosemeadow, and Marayong;  all in so-called ‘Local Government Areas of Concern’ that were subject to the country’s harshest lockdown restrictions for months during 2021.

“For a student to top their subject in ordinary circumstances is a huge achievement but to do so while being locked down for so long is just incredible,” Catholic Schools NSW Chief Executive Officer Dallas McInerney said of their achievements.

Some of the other top students from the state’s NSW Catholic schools achieving First in Course awards included Max Leo from St Pius X College, Chatswood, in Mathematics Advanced, Toby Harland from John Therry Catholic College, Rosemeadow, in Visual Arts, Oliver Wells and Brock Wilson both from Aquinas Catholic College, Menai, in Construction Examination, Diana Vlahos from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College, Kensington, in Biology, and Lucrecia Carter from St Benedict’s Catholic College, Oran Park, in Design and Technology.

Premier Dominic Perrottet congratulated all of the HSC classes of 2021 on their outstanding results, particularly those students who achieved First in Course places during two challenging years.

“To top the state in an HSC course is an incredible achievement at the best of times; to do so today highlights even more so the grit, dedication and talent of the students being recognised,” Mr Perrottet said.