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Sydney Catholic college is newspaper's School of the Year

Trinity Catholic College at Auburn in Western Sydney, a systemic secondary school in the Sydney Archdiocese, has been announced as The Australian newspaper's School of the Year for 2004.

The paper was impressed by the fact that while about 75% of the students speak languages other than English at home, and few have parents that are tertiary-educated, 60% of the students go on to university. The rest mostly find employment or go on to TAFE or other further education. Their average Higher School Certificate results are outstanding after an extraordinary turnaround in the past decade.

Trinity Catholic College is the product of an amalgamation in 1995 of two girls schools and a co-educational school, a decision made by the Archdiocese in response to declining enrolments in the girls schools and the need to pool capital resources. It has one of the most socio-economically disadvantaged school populations in Australia.

At the time of the amalgamation, interest in the school among the education community was high, but school academic performance was low. In 1995, only 26% of the HSC subjects offered at the school yielded results that exceeded the state average.

The paper's editorial writer puts the school's success down to its culture.

"The reason for the transformation has less to do with the standard solutions proposed by the public education lobby - higher pay for all teachers and smaller classes - than with the school's culture... Trinity teachers know their stuff, a third of them examine or assess HSC papers and two are chief examiners in their subjects. And the teachers believe in the school and what it can accomplish, with many volunteering to supervise out-of-hours study."

The Australian says Principal Paul Fensom has been leading the school's assault on academic achievement for the past five years. He says Trinity students now perform "to expectation and above expectation", the result of a concerted effort by the whole school to focus on teaching and learning as the first priority of every school day.

Recent HSC results bear this out. In 2003, Trinity achieved above state average results in 88% of its HSC courses.

An independent evaluation commissioned by the NSW Catholic Education Commission provides additional evidence that Trinity is doing something special.

"Trinity gets value-added results quite superior to what would be expected," says Tim McMullan, head of curriculum for the Sydney CEC. "(It) is not just doing some things right, but a lot of things right."

The school's strategy is not a new-fangled approach involving fashionable educational theories or expensive technology. It simply decided to minimise disruptions to daily routine and maximise the time students spent in the classroom with their regular teacher.

Unlike many other schools, Trinity has resisted the trend of offering an ever-increasing array of courses, rather reducing the number of courses and investing in specialisation rather than generalisation.

Students are encouraged to study HSC subjects best suited to their ability level. Minimum standards are set for students to achieve in Year 10 in order to study the most demanding HSC courses in years 11 and 12.

Anthony Gorman, the curriculum co-ordinator, says this encourages students to work hard to achieve their goals

College corners the market in excellence (The Weekend Australian 13/11/04)

Top picks spread across the nation (The Australian 15/11/04)
Teacher triumphs as schools get the tools (The Australian 13/11/04)
Editorial: Teachers can make good schools great (The Australian 13/11/04)
Students ditch 20th century for Pompeii (Sydney Morning Herald 3/11/04)
Trinity Catholic College
Catholic Education Commission of NSW
Catholic Education Office, Sydney

Schools cut back-up cost (The Australian 16/11/04)

16 Nov 2004