What the HSC ranking doesn’t tell you

In NSW, the education system is comprised of a variety of different types of schools; selective schools, semi-selective schools, comprehensive schools and inclusive community schools. Each of these types of schools are incredibly different, with different missions, selection criteria, and the communities they serve. There is a place for each of these different types of schools in our society. Yet, unfortunately, many people in the broader community use a single standard of measure of success – the HSC league tables – as their only point of comparison between schools, without truly understanding the statistics the leagues use to formulate their rankings. The system is very simple, the league tables are formed by calculating the number of Band 6 results a school receives and dividing this number by the total number of exams sat, which creates a percentage. From this percentage, schools are ranked to create the league table. These league tables do not take into consideration the complexity or difficulty of subjects, ATARs, or university offers, which are a far fairer method of comparison. I believe that a fairer system would be to compare schools based on their median ATAR results or how many students got into their first choice at university.

At Moriah, we pride ourselves on being a non-selective, inclusive community school. We don’t have entry exams or exclude students on the basis of academic ability, we don’t ask students to leave if they don’t reach a particular academic standard, and we don’t encourage students to do easier levels of courses so the school will achieve more Band 6s. Yet many of our competitors, who we are directly compared to, do all of these above-mentioned things to boost their position on the league tables.

We actually achieve incredible results each year, especially considering that we are a fully inclusive school with the full range of academic abilities amongst our students. In 2022, we:

  • had a student achieve a perfect ATAR,
  • had a three students who topped the state in a subject,
  • had a number of students achieve a state ranking in their subject,
  • were ranked 27th overall in the state,
  • were ranked the top non-selective independent co-education school,
  • ranked 6th in the state for English Advanced and Extension,
  • had 127 out of 156 students awarded early entry to university,
  • had many university scholarship awardees,
  • and had students accepted into universities around the world, including Cambridge.

Each year, approximately 50% of our students achieve an ATAR above 90, compared to 10% of students in the state who achieve this. Yet, despite these excellent results, we still have members of our community who are very critical of our ranking in the league table, without understanding that many of the schools above us in the league tables are selective, even when they say they are not.

Many of the schools we are directly compared to are selective, or ask students who won’t achieve a Band 6 to leave, so that the school’s position on the league table won’t drop. At Moriah, we celebrate the fact that we are an inclusive community school catering for the whole range of academic abilities in our school. We believe that we are truly reflective of the range of academic abilities across the broader Jewish community in Sydney. There are very few schools in NSW that achieve the excellent academic results we do, whilst also providing for students to attend TAFE courses, or to complete a blended HSC with some ATAR subjects and some non-ATAR subjects, as well as providing for some students to make the choice to complete Year 12 and to not get an ATAR at all.

It is far more complicated and far harder to provide a variety of Year 11 and Year 12 options, as we do, which differentiate and cater for the whole range of academic abilities amongst our student body, than it is to simply provide a purely academic program.

I am often asked why Moriah’s position in the league tables is lower than it was in previous decades. I think there are couple of reasons for this. In previous decades, more less academically inclined students left school before Year 12 to complete an apprenticeship, attend TAFE, or to work in the family business. Nowadays, very, very few students don’t complete Year 12 and therefore the academic range in Year 12 is far greater than it ever was. Linked to this, we currently do a wonderful job in providing alternative Year 12 opportunities for students, so that they can stay at Moriah until the end of Year 12 and remain part of our community, whereas in the past these students may not have completed Year 12 at Moriah. Also, in the past, Year groups at Moriah were far smaller and there was not the wide academic range we currently experience. Although we still have approximately the same number of students who achieve a Band 6 as in the past, because of our mission to be inclusive and to cater for a wide range of academic abilities, we now have far more students who achieve below a Band 6 which impacts on our ranking in the league tables. There are also far more selective options for students in our local area presently than in the past, and more Jewish families are choosing a selective secular education rather than an inclusive Jewish education.

As a community, we should be so incredibly proud of who we are as a school and what we are able to achieve for every single student. We are not a Band 6 factory, like some schools are choosing to become, as we embrace and celebrate our academic diversity. It would be a sad reflection on our school and our community if we excluded students because they weren’t capable of achieving a Band 6.

Moriah is so much more than a nominal position on a league table each year, a league table which rewards selective schools and penalises inclusive schools. The fact that we were able to achieve a ranking of 27 out of 850 schools in the state in 2022, given the inclusive nature of our school and the wide range of academic abilities we cater for, is something we should all celebrate.

ABOUT THE AUTHORMark Hemphill headshot

Mark Hemphill is the Head of High School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.

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