By Elizabeth McArthur
St Clare’s College at Waverley has been named the highest performing Catholic Systemic High School in the Archdiocese due to its remarkable rise in HSC rankings from 279th to 77th in the State in just five years.
The significant and sustained improvement has seen the school climb from the middle of the pack in 2014 to well in the Top 100 in the 2018 HSC rankings.
And the leap of 202 places has reflected a marked increase in enrolment enquiries for the eastern suburb school.
The college puts the incredible improvements down to nothing other than hard work from teachers and students and hopes that trend will continue.
St Clare’s principal, Antoinette McGahan, who incidentally also arrived at the school five years ago, believes much of the success can be attributed to “providing effective and efficient feedback to inform personalised learning and teaching”.
“We approach all learning by addressing the individual needs of students. Whatever challenges they experience we address,” she said.
“We do that by providing variety in educational experiences and programs.
“The students here have a voice. If there’s something they want to try, we’re always open minded and willing to see how we can make that work.
“To give a specific example, currently we have a student whose strength is in science so we’ve connected her with universities to ensure her needs are met and her talent is encouraged.
“Another example of where personalised learning can help is if students are struggling to meet exam expectations. In that case, we put measures into place to address the challenges they’re facing.”
However, Mrs McGahan is quick to point out that academics aren’t the only thing that marks a student’s success.
“The community here is just beautiful and very supportive … they are engaging, collaborative and show great resilience,” she said.
“We have worked very hard in implementing structures to assist the development of the whole person. Academic rigour and wellbeing go hand in hand.
“We now have a culture of high expectations that aligns brilliantly with our positive psychology philosophy/approach to everything we do.”
St Clare’s dux of 2018, Kate Darby, achieved an ATAR of 97.95 and has just begun a dual degree in Law and International Studies at UNSW after a well-deserved holiday travelling around New Zealand with friends.
She says the teachers’ sense of community were extremely supportive and instrumental in her achieving such great results.
“If I needed to send a practice essay or get help with maths or was worried about my art major, the teachers would always find time to assist me and give me feedback to help me improve,” she said.
“You form a great connection with all your teachers which allows you to approach them easily. You also have the opportunity to make friends with all year groups and build a strong support network.”
Kate’s advice to current Year 12 students is simple: “Set a goal … this might be hard but imagine where you want to be at the end of the HSC. This doesn’t have to be a number – I know for me it wasn’t”.
As for how parents can support their kids through the HSC, Kate says: ‘Knowing that someone understands how you are feeling and is there for you makes the HSC experience a lot better.’
St Clare’s is an all-girls Catholic school founded by the Poor Clare Sisters in 1884. In 2011, the Poor Clare Sisters made the decision to hand over the school to the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.
In 2013 St Clare’s officially became part of the Archdiocesan System of Schools. The college retains a Franciscan focus and links with the Poor Clare Sisters.