|Vol. 16, March 2017
In this issue:
3B Smalls Road
Phone: 1300 287 629
From the Principal’s desk
Despite having only a basic understanding of economics, I know that a downturn in the economy can have a potentially devastating impact on many rural and remote communities. The inevitable job losses that follow an economic slump can force families to relocate in search of employment, making it more difficult for those remaining in the community to support local businesses and services. Of course, this spiral of decline, unemployment and relocation is a phenomenon that is not unique to NSW, with rural and remote communities across the globe being similarly susceptible.
In many ways, the local school is like the canary in the coal mine. This is so because the local school’s ability to offer a broad curriculum is largely dependent upon its ability to attract enrolments. Obviously, when families move from a community and enrolments fall, the local school finds it more difficult to offer the opportunities that it would like to. As the curriculum in a school continues to shrink, parents also become more likely to relocate to another community in search of additional educational opportunities for their children. In many cases then, the curriculum choices that are available in a local school may be a good indicator of the vibrancy of the community itself.
The aim of the Department of Education’s Rural and Remote Education – a blueprint for action is to close the education divide between rural and urban students. As a key deliverable of the blueprint, Aurora College was created to provide a broad range of curriculum opportunities for students in government schools in these communities. Adrian Piccoli MP (then Minister for Education) wrote in the forward to the blueprint:
“This is not just an issue of equity. Skills are a vital part of the economic future of our regions. Helping children to transition effectively to school, and young people to stay in school so they can go on to attain higher level qualifications, will support economic development in regional and remote areas.”
The positive impact that Aurora College can have on the curriculum offerings of partner schools was not lost on Janine McGrath, who as Principal of West Wyalong High School said in our video, Strengthening Local Communities:
“Aurora College has allowed us to provide extra courses to students. In Year 7 to 10 it actually allows us to provide a selective stream of gifted and talented students. It’s something that we haven’t really had before because of our rural and remote location … It keeps the local school a really solid option for parents.”
One of our new partner schools in 2017 is Billabong High School in the Riverina town of Culcairn. As you will read in the Community liaisons section, Virginia Cluff visited our eight shared enrolments last week at the invitation of the Principal, Kurt Wawszkowicz.
The local newspaper, The Boarder Mail, was at Billabong High School for the official opening of the magnificent new workspace of the Aurora College students. On the day, Kurt said how critical it was that all students “have access to the curriculum at the level they require.” He later observed that the impact of Aurora on the students involved “had been profound.” I encourage you to read the full story here. Welcome to the Aurora community, Billabong High School!
At the Residential School in Week 6, students and staff were interviewed by the Education Editor from the Sydney Morning Herald. As many of you are no doubt aware, our story was featured in the Sun Herald on 5 March 2017. As is often the case, a number of other news outlets picked-up the story, including the Merimbula News. Soon after, I was contacted by the ABC’s Behind the News program and the resulting story went to air on Tuesday 21 March. Also at the Residential School was the media unit from the Department of Education. I am pleased to say that the video will soon appear in a project called Faces of Education. I would like to thank the staff and the following students for their contributions to these wonderful stories: Harry Bottero (Year 8, Tumut High School), Maria Tynan (Year 8, Leeton High School), Eva Knox (Year 9, Guyra Central School); Liam Wymer (Year 9, Young High School); Alexandria Williamson (Year 7, Jindabyne Central School); Mac Webster (Year 7, Cowra High School); and Ashley Sher (Year 7, Eden Marine High School).
On 29 March, I was very pleased to accompany Greg Smith (Head Teacher, Secondary Studies) to the award ceremony of the Macquarie Park Operational Directorate Executive Director’s Recognition Program. Greg was a worthy recipient of an award, given in recognition of the outstanding work he does, including in support of our partner schools. Congratulations, Greg!
Finally, if you find yourself at the movies in the next few weeks, keep watch for a short 30-second commercial for Aurora College which will play in a selection of regional cinemas over the Easter break.
Our first residential school for 2017 was held from Monday 27 February to Friday 3 March at Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation, Narrabeen. Students and staff travelled from all parts of the state to enjoy a range of curricula and extra-curricula activities.
An educational and fun-filled program included students participating in a range of activities. Year 7 took part in LEAP, a special program to build their sense of self. Year 8 completed mentoring activities with our industry partners. Both cohorts attended the Narrabeen Rock Platform, followed by a surf awareness and skills lesson at Long Reef Beach. Years 9 and 10 participated in the ROAR program which develops skills in problem solving and collaboration, whilst reinforcing the importance of physical activity and wellbeing. This program was followed by an excursion to the Museum of Human Disease at the University of New South Wales. Years 11 and 12 participated in the Future Leaders Program and subject related practicals.
Planning for our second residential school program is well underway. It will be held in Bathurst from Monday 23 October to Friday 27 October. Details will be forwarded to parents and students early in Term 3.
Throughout 2017, Aurora College will again be providing parent masterclasses. These masterclasses will provide parents with information related to a number of topics, including: the use of technology at Aurora; supporting gifted and talented students; how to support a child with mental health issues; and Cyber safety. Our first Masterclass, Using Sentral and Safe Laptop Use took place on 23 March and helped parents to use the Sentral Parent Portal and to understand safe student laptop use at home.
For more information, please visit our website.
Interim reports were issued via email and the Sentral parent portal (https://aurora.sentral.com.au/portal) on Friday 31 March 2017. This interim report indicates how your child has begun the new academic year, identifying areas in which he or she might require further attention or support. The report also provides an opportunity to make contact with teachers in each subject about student progress.
If you have any concerns regarding your child’s progress or well-being, please contact the coordinating office by phone on 1300 287 629 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coordinator of the term
Mr Stuart Campbell has been identified as a ‘star Aurora College Coordinator’ this term. As a new Aurora College Coordinator, Stuart has shown himself to be to be very proactive and has taken the initiative to implement processes at Billabong High School that support our shared enrolments.
Along with his duties in completing timetable plans and forwarding relevant documentation, Stuart can always be relied upon to respond in a timely manner. Thank you for doing a great job, Stuart!
Assessment handbooks and Scope and Sequences
Assessment handbooks and scope and sequences are now available in Sentral via the parent portal link. This will allow parents to further support their children by accessing timelines for formal assessment tasks and topic outlines of each subject.
A reminder that students should be connecting to their virtual classrooms on a Department of Education computer supplied by their home school.
A parent’s guide to health and safety issues related to laptop use can be accessed at:
A student’s guide to health and safety issues related to laptop use can be accessed at:
Please contact Ben Hillsley by telephone on 1300 610 733 or email AuroraCollegeITSupport@det.nsw.edu.au for further information or assistance with technical issues.
What’s coming up next term?
Connect locally, learn globally
Featured in this edition of Connect locally, learn globally is Year 7 student, Mitchell Bennett from Young High School.
What are the good things about your home town?
A good thing about living in a country town such as Young is the feeling or sense of being part of the community. The freedom of space and a more relaxed atmosphere makes life not as hectic as being in a city.
What is your home town known for?
Young is known as the cherry capital of Australia. It is also known for producing sheep and crops such as wheat. Lots of people in Young work in local businesses and at the abattoirs. Cherry orchards employ a lot of people (mainly back packers) just before Christmas in cherry season.
What do you like the most about your community?
Recognising many people as I walk down the street, running into my mates and being able to say g’day. It’s a very supportive community and I help Dad with an organisation that assists domestic violence victims. Each year, Young has an event called the Cherry Festival where floats parade down the main street and I’m usually on one of them.
What do you like doing?
Soccer is my all-time favourite sport, so during winter I play soccer. During summer, I play touch footy with Dad and my mates. My family also like water sports, so we go to Burrinjuck Dam quite often with our boat.
Is your home school a large school?
In Young, Young High School is the biggest high school, but I’m not sure how many students there are.
Can you tell us something interesting about where you live?
Underneath my high school (literally, underground) was the old gaol route from the courthouse to the gaol.
What do you hope to do when you leave school?
I’ve always said to Mum and Dad I want to be a professional soccer player, but I don’t know yet. Perhaps a firefighter??
What’s the best thing about being part of Aurora College?
It’s a challenge and I love challenges. Aurora pushes me more than primary school did, which forces me to think about my school work more than before. Also, making new friends is great and being taught by awesome teachers. Does that mean I get an A?
Why choose Aurora? What has the experience been like so far?
The Deputy Principal at my primary school suggested that I should consider sitting the entry exam as her son was part of Aurora’s first year. Dad thought it would be good for me also and we only go to school once! So far, the experience has been challenging.
What helps when you feel angry, upset or stressed?
Students and parents can practise the following strategies when feeling angry, upset or stressed.
Different strategies will be more effective at different times, so have a list handy that you can go to whenever you need it.
This year our Term 1 Residential School was held at the Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation in Narrabeen. A new venue for Aurora College, it offered the capacity to accommodate our growing number of students and staff, as well as provide facilities to run lessons and on site outdoor learning activities.
Despite the long journey for most, students and staff arrived eager to see each other. The opportunity to connect with friends, teachers and colleagues, was evident in the photos, staff and student surveys.
Some students were encouraged out of their comfort zone through a range of onsite activities hosted by Sport and Recreation. These activities included raft building, canoeing, high ropes, rock climbing, problem solving, and archery.
Students also had the opportunity for face to face class time with their teachers for each subject. Many teachers took this as an opportunity to team-teach and combine their classes.
Staff and students were offered an opportunity to provide feedback and over 100 students (more than 50%, of those who attended the Residential School) responded.
According to students, the best bits were:
The not so good bits were:
Other comments, included:
The good news is that overall, 93% of students enjoyed the Residential School and are looking forward to the next one in Term 4!
R/Head Teacher Teaching and Learning
Opportunities to shine
The National Youth Science Forum
The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) is a 12 day residential program for students entering Year 12 in 2018. Attendees are students who have a passion for science, technology, engineering and maths.
At the NYSF, participants:
Students can commence an application by visiting the NYSF site. The applications are open now and close 31st May 2017.
Yasmin, one of our former students from Parkes High School, was a successful applicant and attended the National Youth Science Forum in January 2017. Yasmin also applied to attend the International Youth Science Forum in London in 2018 and was chosen as 1 of 20 Australians selected to attend. I recently spoke to Yasmin about her experience and she shared the following:
“Earlier on this year I attended the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF), a 12-day residential program held at the Australian National University, Canberra, for Year 11 students about to enter Year 12 who are passionate about science. 400 students from all over Australia are accepted to go to one of the two sessions, with over 2000+ initial applications. The initiative is endorsed by Rotary and the process of applying includes associating with the local club and attending an interview (I travelled to Grenfell for this).
After attending the NYSF there is an opportunity to apply for international programs, however, these positions are also available to NYSF alumni so the selection criteria is extremely strict. I am the first female from Parkes in over 20 years to attend the National Youth Science Forum and will be the first person ever from my town to attend the London International Youth Science Forum (LIYSF).
Only 20 people from Australia are chosen to attend LIYSF (from the starting 300+ applications) to attend with a larger group of 400 from around the world. I will get to participate in various laboratory visits and experiments and listen to many keynote lectures from internationally renowned scientists such as Dr Fabiola Gianotti, Director General of CERN in Geneva.
I am extremely excited to attend LIYSF and look forward to the diverse range of people, incredible lectures and wide variety of science on offer. The experience will be phenomenal and I look forward to sharing the highlights when I return home to empower younger students to pursue their passion in STEM subjects.
Editors note: If you would like to contribute to Yasmins’ fundraising effort, please visit her GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/parkes-telescope-to-london-eye
If any students at Aurora in Year 11 2017 would like to apply to attend the program in January 2018 we would be happy to help you in any way we can with your applications.
Head Teacher Science & Community Liaison Officer
Australian representative at the FIFE United Space School Program
Recently, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime as I was selected to be the only female Australian representative to attend the FISE United Space School Program in July and August this year. I was lucky enough that the University of Sydney’s Broken Hill Department of Rural Health has a partnership with the Foundation for International Space Education and has been offering this opportunity to Broken Hill girls for the past 9 years.
The 2-week program is held in Houston, Texas every year and students between the ages of 15 and 18 from many different countries around the world come together to participate in masterclasses, seminars, group sessions and various activities leading up to the final project where we will be split into groups and be given a task which we will present at the end of the program. Myself, along with another boy from Perth, will be staying with host families in Houston and we will have the opportunity to participate in educational activities along with other activities such as paintball and carrying the US flag onto the pitch at a NFL game. After the conclusion of the program, my family and I will be spending a little more time travelling around the US and experiencing as much of the atmosphere as we can.
The selection process for the program involved a written application and interview where I was asked questions about education, personal attributes and how confident and independent I am. Independence will be a key skill that I must utilise in this trip as I will be travelling on my own and although navigating US airports on my own seems daunting, I am looking forward to the challenge. For me to be able to go on this trip, I need to fundraise a lot of money to cover the costs of transport and accommodation and I am looking forward to engaging with the community to allow for this to happen. I hope to learn a lot from this experience and bring back lots of knowledge to share with everyone in my school and the wider community.
Year 10, Willyama High School
The mission statement of the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA) is Working together for equity of access to education for all students who live in rural and remote Australia.
This year, the NSW ICPA annual state conference, hosted by the Louth branch, was held in Bourke. The guest speaker this year was Glen McGrath.
I had the pleasure of representing Aurora College at the conference. This gave me the opportunity to meet ICPA members and promote Aurora College as a means to address the needs of gifted and talented students.
These conferences are a chance for parents in rural and remote areas of NSW to address the equity issues that exist for their children with access to education in regional, rural and remote communities. They provide a platform for parents to lobby politicians, educational departments and agencies to ensure that our students’ needs are heard.
I would like to congratulate the Louth branch on organising a wonderful conference and thank them for their hospitality. In Aurora College, the ICPA has a kindred spirit.
Head Teacher English
Spotlight on … Kathy Howard
Where do you normally teach?
I have permanent position with Aurora College. Until the end of 2016, I was teaching at Denison College of Secondary Education – Bathurst High Campus.
What is your local community like?
I live in Bathurst which is west of the Blue Mountains, about 2.5 hours from Sydney. Our city has a population of approximately 37 000. We are most famous for our world class motor racing track at Mount Panorama. For more information about Bathurst, click on this link: https://www.bathurst.nsw.gov.au/
What’s your favourite subject to teach?
I love teaching mathematics. I love the logic, the patterns and the challenges that it offers.
What do you like about teaching at Aurora?
I am brand new to Aurora. I look forward to working with students and staff across New South Wales and am really excited about the technology which we have available to us. The Residential School was a highlight for me, but I look forward to not having to travel for the next one.
What does a typical day look like at Aurora for you?
A typical day for me includes communicating and teaching using Adobe Connect. I also have regular meetings and communication with the Mathematics and Software Design staff. I work with faculty members to evaluate and refine our teaching and learning programs.
Head Teacher Mathematics
Our senior Physics and Chemistry students were invited to attend a masterclass on special relativity provided by CAASTRO. Steven Murray, researcher at Curtin University, presented this session which explained the principle of relativity by looking at bouncing light in fast trains. You can watch a neat demonstration on the principle of relativity and frame of reference on YouTube.
Last month, most of the students in Years 7 to 10 attended a masterclass presented by the Black Dog Institute titled Talking about mental illness – a young person’s insights. Black Dog Institute presenter Shannai shared her experience with mental illness, highlighting the importance of reducing the stigma around mental health, understanding the causes, knowing how to seek help and how to stay well.
An overview of topics presented included:
Some facts about mental illness from Black Dog Institute:
I encourage parents to explore the following online support resources with your children and open the opportunity to talk about mental health:
The following masterclasses are those scheduled so far for Term 2:
R/Head Teacher Teaching and Learning
Student work samples
English students in Year 7 have just completed a unit on Storytelling, which allowed them to engage meaningfully with a variety of ballads, short stories and myths. Through these texts, students were able to learn about the techniques used by storytellers to convey their narrative to an audience, while understanding the cultural significance of these texts. See student work samples below.
Head Teacher English
The Aurora mathematics staff have welcomed a number of new staff in 2017, including me. I was very excited to be successful in my application for the position of Head Teacher Mathematics in this wonderful school. While I have missed the staff and students at my previous school, I already feel very attached to my new school, my dedicated faculty members and my wonderful students.
Other new members of the Mathematics staff include: Karen Bellamy (Wadalba Community School), Tali Chew (James Ruse Agricultural High School), Michael McKenzie (Armidale High School), Heather O’Brien (Port Macquarie High School), Sandra Sievers (Coolah Central School), and Marea Taylor (Northern Beaches Secondary School, Manly Selective Campus). We have experienced a steep learning curve as we have made the transition to teaching in the virtual classroom and have really appreciated the ongoing support of the other faculty members.
Mr Whiteway was very busy earlier this term, organising Aurora College student enrolments in the Mathematics Challenge for Young Australians (MCYA). Our number of entrants has increased significantly this year. Students who are participating met during the Residential School in Week 6 and heard from students who have previously participated. Their advice was valued by their peers. More information is available at this link from the Aurora College website:
Our students expressed their excitement during the mathematics activities at the first Residential School for 2017. We ran several fun and educational activities for our students with a focus on collaborative problem-solving. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and working with them in person.
Head Teacher Mathematics
On Monday 27 March, I had the pleasure of visiting Billabong High school in Culcairn NSW. The facilities that this school community have designed and built to support our Aurora Students are amazing.
The community has created purpose built spaces that are the gold standard for Aurora College work spaces. The rooms were constructed within the library and are quiet and wired for the latest technology. They are equipped with new desktop computers, are air conditioned and they even have Aurora College decals on the doors!
Students are able to access their on line learning easily and with line of sight supervision from the librarian. There are large pin boards and white boards to display the student timetables, latest assessment tasks and any other important documents. A whiteboard contains important messages and reminders for students to refer to.
As a visitor in the school, I was able to meet with our Aurora students and help them to set up their laptops with all of the little shortcuts, bookmarks and essential pieces of software to make the Aurora experience complete. I was able to assist the students with:
I was also able to meet with the Billabong High school staff and tell them a little about the program. Many of the Billabong High School parents came along to meet with me and the Aurora College Coordinator, Stuart Campbell.
I am thankful to the Principal, Kurt Wawszkowicz, the ACC, Stuart Campbell, and the students and parents of Billabong High for inviting me to visit their school.
If you or your Aurora students are unsure on how to access any of the items I demonstrated at Billabong High School, please contact the Aurora office and we will guide you through the process.
Head Teachers Science & Community Liaison Officer
The pop-up bookshop at the Residential School
With great success, this year we hosted our first pop-up bookshop at the Sydney Residential School. Paul and Beth MacDonald, from the Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft, arrived to the eagerly awaiting students, keen to shop through their lunch break! Over 170 popular titles were purchased by our keen readers.
A very big THANK YOU to the staff who assisted on the day to provide this opportunity for our rural and remote students.
Summer reading challenge
Aja Bailey and Jonah Menzies were outstanding entrants for the Summer Reading Challenge. They are pictured with some of the books they selected with their award winning vouchers at the pop-up bookshop.
Roshan Caldwell and Nigella Stevenson were our two top borrowers in 2016. They are pictured here with some of the books they selected with their vouchers at the pop-up bookshop.
All Aurora College students have been emailed a link to a student survey. It focuses specifically on our library services and ways our students would like to be supported in their reading and learning habits. Please encourage your child to complete the survey.
Aurora College students have access to a wide range of digital subscription services. Recently, I have undertaken training in using the interactive science platform, Stile, and how to utilise features of Cosmos magazine online. Our students are using Stile in their lessons, but they have access to a wealth of topics in Cosmos magazine online, covering physics, biology, technology, palaeontology, mathematics, space, and the latest in scientific research. Access is via OLIVER in their student portal.
Recommending resources is as easy as sending me an email (email@example.com) with a subject, book title or author’s name. This is our school library, so student and staff contributions are most welcome.
From the engine room
The Department of Education is undergoing a number of changes including a new finance system with schools no longer possessing individual bank accounts.
We commenced training in March 2017. As a consequence of this change, from 5 May 2017 we will no longer be able to accept direct deposits. Online payment transactions will be temporarily unavailable from 5 May 2017 to 22 May 2017. All other forms of payment will be temporarily frozen from 17 May 2017 to 19 May 2017. This should not affect us too much as our Residential Camp 1 is now completed.
School Administrative Manager
A message from our technology sponsor, Microsoft
You may have heard of the term STEM and it’s applicability in modern teaching. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, and Microsoft has a vast range of STEM tools available to parents and students.
Click the poster above to download a brochure with links to resources for embracing STEM with Microsoft!
Aurora College; 3b Smalls Road, Ryde, NSW 2112