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There are some people who, on principle, don’t like testing in schools. They think, somehow, that testing is the enemy of learning. And while it is true that plenty of learning takes place without testing, if we think of test results as evidence of learning, then we might have a more nuanced view of testing, and a deeper understanding that testing and results are an important way to know when and what learning has happened.

It’s not about the results, it’s about the learning. The results are a happy byproduct, but not the main game. Learning, and a platform to launch into life beyond school, that’s what it’s about.

When we learn how to ride a bike, there is no official test that tells us that we can. But there is an unofficial test which is whether you fall off or not. When we learn how to drive a car, there is an official test. The official test enables us to graduate from our L to P plates and drive by ourselves. The feedback that the test gives is clear – pass and get your Ps, fail, and do the test again until you can pass.

We use all sorts of tests that provide feedback to students, from things as simple and informal as asking them to explain something in class right up to formal assessments. Some tests give feedback along the way, others give feedback at the end of the process, and we need both, just as we need the informal and formal types of test. Tests and test results bring things into the light. The feedback they provide lets us know how we are going, mainly individually, but also together.

It seems strange, considering my view that it’s not about the results, that I am going to share some of our results from last year. I am proud of the hard work of students who achieved them and of the hard work of the staff who worked with our students in their school journey. We were delighted with our 2023 HSC Results. As you are already aware, we ranked 88th on the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) list, up from 132nd. Of the exams our students sat, 18.3% resulted in a mark of 90% or higher. This is our best result to date. Our aim is to have above 20% of exams gaining a mark of 90% or over.

The SMH also looks at success in English, which was a particular highlight in 2023. We ranked 41st in English, with 34% of exams leading to a mark of 90+. This result put us equal with Pymble Ladies College, and above independent schools such as Barker, Knox, Queenwood, Roseville College, Loreto Normanhurst and St Luke’s Grammar. It also put us above selective schools including Manly Selective, Sydney Girls, Fort Street High and Normanhurst Boys. It’s not a competition, but it is good to know how things are going. This is the result of a significant amount of hard work on the part of students and staff. It comes from explicit interactive teaching, clear feedback, a love of learning and students being up for the challenge.

For us, it is not about the results, but what they represent. They represent learning, they represent the growth and reality of our vision, Love Learning. They represent the wonderful mix of learning, effort, and character, that will set our students up for success beyond school. They represent the hard work of students and staff.

Tim Watson