The Auracle – Volume 36, September 2019


From the Principal’s desk

The NSW Department of Education’s Rural and Remote Education Blueprint was published in November 2013. It contained a raft of measures to improve the quality of education for students in rural, regional and remote schools. Among the blueprint’s 21 pages of outcomes and actions was one sentence that was the genesis of Aurora College:

A virtual secondary school will be established, delivering quality curriculum to rural and remote students across the state.

The rest, as they say, is history; a history that is well known to many of you. In this edition of The Auracle, however, I would like to fill in some of the gaps between the blueprint’s pronouncement of a virtual school and the present. Your reward for indulging me is that you will learn about a truly remarkable woman who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to facilitate the many opportunities enjoyed by Aurora College students and staff.

(L to R) Chris Robertson, Sharon Ford, Kathy Klados and Mike Tom

At the time of the development of the blueprint, I had the pleasure of working in the Secondary Education Unit at State Office. Among the many streams of work being undertaken at that time was a wide ranging consultation process with key stakeholders, looking at the way rural and remote schools operate. A number of my colleagues were exploring what would need to change or be done differently so the state-wide education system could better support our schools. Leading this work was my line-manager, Sharon Ford, then Director, Secondary Education.

I recall the day, not long after the blueprint was published, when Sharon came to my work cubicle and encouraged me to apply for a position with responsibility for delivering the state’s first virtual school. Soon after being successful in the recruitment process, I was joined by Kathy Klados and, working with Sharon and Mike Tom (Leader, Rural and Distance Education) we began the heavy lifting of establishing Aurora College. In the frenetic weeks and months that followed, everyone who played a part in the development of our school was struck by Sharon’s encyclopedic knowledge of policies and processes, her meticulous attention to detail and her fierce determination to improve the educational opportunities and outcomes for public school students, regardless of their location.

The journey we have undertaken together in establishing and operationalising a school as unique and as innovative as Aurora College has obviously had its share of challenging times. Members of the Aurora community who know Sharon Ford, including our staff and your representatives on the Aurora State Reference Group, will understand what I mean when I say that Aurora College has had no greater supporter and advocate.

After a long and successful career with the Department, Sharon is transitioning to retirement. At a recent function honouring her contribution to public education in NSW, colleagues from every phase of her career spoke with admiration about her many achievements and also about the support she freely offered their own careers. A wonderful tradition within the NSW Department of Education is the presentation of a medal to retiring staff. Inscribed on this medal are the words “In the service of students”. Rarely have these words reflected a career so accurately. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have had Sharon as a mentor and I am honoured to also call her my friend.

Aurora students will have the opportunity to meet Sharon Ford at the upcoming residential school in Collaroy. Sharon will be delivering the keynote address at the presentation assembly on Thursday 31 October. Aurora families will be able to participate in this important event via livestream. Further details, including instructions on how to connect, will be forwarded via email to all families early next term. I hope you will be able join us in celebrating the achievements of our students and also thanking Sharon for all that she has done for our school.

Finally, I would like wish our departing Year 12 students every success in their upcoming Higher School Certificate examinations. I hope that the completion of Year 12 is the next step in happy and fulfilling lives for all of you.

Enjoy the school holidays!

Chris Robertson  | Principal

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Deputy Principal’s report

Farewell and good luck, Year 12

As Year 12 students stand on the threshold of the end of one journey and the beginning of another, we encourage them to continue to be engaged and inspired and to remain connected, global citizens. The achievement of all students is to be commended and we wish them all the best of luck in their future endeavours.

All partner schools have been sent a graduation certificate to issue to our shared Year 12 students. We have asked schools to present these at their graduation assemblies.

HSC written examinations begin on Thursday 17 October 2019. The 2019 Higher School Certificate timetable lists the dates and times of all written examinations.  Year 12 students may also download their personal HSC examination timetable from the Students Online website.

Students will not be required to be at school from day 1, Term 4. However, Aurora teachers will be available during their Aurora lesson times to provide assistance to students, up to the commencement of the HSC examinations. Students are encouraged to make appointments with their teachers during this time to ensure they maximise their learning opportunities.

Semester 2 reports for Year 12 have been issued through the parent portal in Sentral. These reports show the progress that each student has made towards achieving specific outcomes in their HSC course. This report is issued independently of the home school reports for the other subjects studied by each student.

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 (

Coordinator of the term

Louise Seccombe has been nominated as coordinator of the term, being an excellent support person for our shared students at The Rivers Secondary College, Richmond River High Campus. She has also promoted their engagement in extracurricular activities at both the home school and at Aurora College. Louise is also supporting a student who is joining us next year and is completing our short course which commenced in Week 9 with the University of Sydney. We appreciate and congratulate Louise for her outstanding effort.

Professional learning

Last week, Carolyn McMurtrie and I had the privilege of attending the annual conference of the NSW Secondary Deputy Principals Association attended by over 550 delegates and presenters.

This year, the conference focused on leadership. The theme “Instructional leadership, Impacting Learning” acknowledged the pivotal role that Deputy Principals play in leading and impacting on the learning of students, teachers and the broader community.

We welcomed a number of keynote speakers, including Professor Stephen Dinham, Professor Emeritus at the University of Melbourne, who spoke on “The Power of Instructional leadership” which focused on leading, learning and teaching. Brian Miller, an independent educational consultant, examined the types of leadership practices needed to drive school plans. The address focused on ‘the how’, particularly on the strategies involved in delivering practical instructional leadership through the instructional leadership toolkit, which includes:

  • evaluative thinking processes for measuring impact
  • leading collaborative processes that develop teachers understanding of explicit teaching
  • authentic assessment and feedback.

Chris Munro, a member of Growth Coaching International, spoke on Instructional Coaching as one of the manifestations of instructional leadership in the pursuit of improved student outcomes.

The event has enabled us to look at new ways of thinking, learning and working as a result of the insights from the speakers and workshops.

There’s life after Year 12 exams for students and parents!

As approximately 200,000 Year 12 students near the end of high school, leading digital mental health organisation ReachOut Australia is reminding young people and their parents that there is life after Year 12 exams.

Prominent Australians, including actor Rahart Adams and journalist Sarah Harris have joined the likes of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Osher Günsberg to contribute video messages of support for this year’s Year 12 students.

For the first time, ReachOut is also providing tips and information for parents of year 12 students.

What’s coming up next term?

  • Applications for entry into Year 7 in 2021 open on 8 October 2019 and closed on 11 November 2019. The Selective High School Placement Test for entry to Year 7 in 2021 will be held on 12 March 2020.
  • Applications for Year 11 (2020) opened Wednesday 17 July 2019 and close Friday 25 October 2019.
  • The next Residential School will be held from Monday 28 October to Friday 1 November at Collaroy. All Years 7 to 10 students must attend. For further information, please visit the ‘latest news’ page on the school website.

Kathy Klados | Deputy Principal

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Attendance notifications

We have now been using our new attendance notification system for a term, and I would like to thank all parents who have embraced this system as a method for communicating with us. We have had a few reports of bugs that we have worked hard to identify and remove, with the next version being released for the start of Term 4.

Included in the new version is the ability to track and process partial absences, those absences where students may have been absent for a portion of the class, but not the whole class. Notifications for these absences will be sent to students, requesting they provide an explanation for their absence from class.

Explanations provided by students will then be sent to their Aurora College Coordinator for verification before being returned to our school for entry into the attendance system. If any explanation is rejected by the Aurora College Coordinator, our Head Teacher Secondary Studies will follow up with the student, parents, and home school.

Students will need to ensure they respond to these emails quickly, as Department policy is that absences must be explained within seven days, or they will be recorded as ‘unjustified’.

As always, we will be monitoring this system throughout Term 4 to identify any issues and have them fixed as soon as possible. If you notice something that does not work as you believe it should, please let us know.

If you have any questions about our attendance notifications system, or our attendance policy in general, please call us on 1300 287 629 or email at

Greg Smith | Head Teacher Secondary Studies

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HSC Study Days 2019

Almost 11,000 students form across NSW have attended one of our HSC study days this year. This is almost three times the number of students who attended the 2018 program!

Students in a NSW Department of Education school (rural, remote or metropolitan) were able to connect and revise with other students from across the state in the following subjects: Biology; Chemistry; Economics; English Standard; English Advanced; English Extension 1; Mathematics Standard; Mathematics 2 Unit; Mathematics Extension 1; Mathematics Extension 2; Physics; and Software Design and Development.

Many thanks to our expert presenters for their generosity in sharing their knowledge, answering questions and providing revision materials.

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We wish all HSC students the very best in their upcoming exams.

Kaylene Taylor | Head Teacher, Teaching & Learning (Rel.)

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Faculty news – English, HSIE and Languages

Year 7 English – Creating Visuals

In their recent unit, Creating Visuals, students engaged with a wide range of visual texts including picture books, and learned to analyse elements of visual language.

The focus questions were: How do composers use visual language to communicate meaning? and How can we use codes and conventions to benefit our compositions? 

With this in mind, students designed a double page spread or two consecutive pages for an original picture book. They presented these pages to the class and gave a speech analysing and reflecting upon the creative and technical choices they made in their images.  

Enjoy this selection:

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Year 8 English – Buy It Now 

Year 8 students have been exploring the world of advertising in the unit, Buy It Now.

We have deconstructed a range of advertisements including print, television and multimedia. Students designed their own ad campaigns and pitched their ideas to the class as the final assessment task for the unit.

This was a fantastic opportunity for students to think creatively and critically and to refine their collaboration skills in working as part of a team. 

Enjoy the following selection by:  Jack Davies; Jeorge Collins; Rory Stein; Tara Tiffen; Will Callaghan; and Will Kojetin. 

Year 9 English – Wide Reading

This is the third Wide Reading task that Year 9 students have completed in 2019.

For this task, students were asked to complete a book review including a brief summary of the plot of their chosen text and a recommendation of what type of audience the text would appeal to.

Following are reviews by: Grace Kennedy; Lachlan TaylorLilly Davis; Lucas Stacey; and Renee Apap.

Year 10 English – Study of a Poet

In their recent unit, Study of a Poet, students read and examined the works of the poet Margaret Atwood with a focus on the technical aspects and contextual concerns that characterise her work and shape the perspective offered. 

The focus question was How does a poet’s body of work represent their experience in particular contexts? 

Students had to write and present a 4-5 minute speech that examined how the poet’s work reflects their context. The speech was in the form of a TED Talk for an audience of young people. The students had to make reference to two poems from Atwood and include images in their presentation.  

Enjoy reading this selection by: Callum Weppler; Callum Weppler part 2; Chloe Gruber; Elizabeth Hoyle; Elizabeth Hoyle part 2; Ellie Giger; Ellie Giger part 2; Jackson Winter; Leah Wiatkowski; Leah Wiatkowski part 2; Maggie Zannon; Roshan Caldwell; and Roshan Caldwell part 2.

Carolyn McMurtrie |Head Teacher English, HSIE and Languages

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Faculty news – Science

Aurora College offers Stage 6 Science Extension to all rural and remote students in NSW. In this course, students learn the process of scientific research by conducting an investigation on a topic of their choice. The requisite for this course is that you are doing one of the sciences in Year 11 and Year 12.

Here are the modules that we study:

  • Module 1: The foundations of scientific thinking
  • Module 2: The scientific research proposal
  • Module 3: The data, evidence and decisions
  • Module 4: The scientific research report

The subject is challenging, engaging and gives the opportunity to liaise with scientific institutions to collect data and enhance research skills.

At the end of the course, students submit their research report and portfolio as an assessment task, which is then submitted to NESA. The report is used as reference in the final exam.

Following is some of the research completed by our students this year:

  • The effect of colour on immediate recall on figures
  • Efficiency of photo-voltaic orientation – a case study
  • Verticillium wilt on cotton biomass and physical features
  • Expression of genes in the phenotype of Gossypium hirsutum (cotton)

Join us! You will be well supported in this journey to become a successful researcher.

Fiona Boneham | Head Teacher Science (Rel.)

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Da Vinci Decathlon 2019

Congratulations to our 2019 Da Vinci Decathlon students.

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Students competed in activities in; English, Mathematics, Science, Ideation, Art and Poetry, Creative Producers, Cartography, Engineering, General Knowledge and Code Breaking.

Here are the  2019 results:

  • 3rd Engineering – Year 10
  • 3rd English – Year 10
  • 3rd Ideation – Year 10
  • 3rd Poetry – Year 9
  • 2nd Poetry – Year 10
  • 2nd Code Breaking – Year 9
  • 1st General Knowledge – Year 9
  • 1st Science – Year 9
  • 1st English – Year 9
  • 2nd place overall – Year 9!

We are very proud of how you represented yourselves and our school!

Greg Smith and Kaylene Taylor

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Library news

Australian Reading Hour 2019

Australian Reading Hour 2019 was well supported by students and staff at Aurora College. A wide range of books were read for an hour on Thursday 19 September,  as people all over Australia were encouraged to rediscover the power of books to learn, escape and relax.

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50 word short story competition

Can you write a story in 50 words – exactly?

Each year at Aurora College we run this competition and it is time to start creating 50 word stories for 2019!

Entries close OCTOBER 18th 2019

Open to students in Years 7 – 10 and all Staff

All students who enter – and you may enter as many times as you like – will be awarded an Astra. There are vouchers for the pop-up bookshop for the 50 word entries that the Aurora College judging panel vote as worthy in each year group. So get creative and submit your entries to:

Pop-up bookshop

The Children’s Bookshop will be onsite to provide access to a wide range of titles for students and staff at our Collaroy Residential. Details of how to pay for purchases will be provided with Residential School information.

Kaylene Taylor | Teacher Librarian

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Connect locally, learn globally

Hi my name is Shannon and I am in Year 9.

I live in a very small town called Nyngan, which is most known for the massive statue of a bogan in our main street, aptly named the “Big Bogan”. The town is also referred to as the gateway to the outback with Nyngan a popular stopover for tourists travelling across the state.

I enjoy the tight-knit community, and the community’s pride and support in everything that is Nyngan. I love playing rugby league on weekends and going to the gym, as well as walking around town with my friends.

My home school is Nyngan High School which has about 180 students overall, with Year 9 having roughly 40 students. There is one other student in Year 8 who also attends Aurora but other than that, there’s only the two of us.

When I leave school I hope to have a career in psychology and therapy, working with people who need help with their mental health or personal issues, while continuing to play sport.

I love being a part of Aurora as it has given me the confidence to come out of my shell and make many friends all over NSW for life, as well as learn at a pace that suits me best. I hope that as a senior student in Aurora I might be able to help any new kids that are coming through, and encourage others to learn.

Shannon (Year 9, Nyngan High School)

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Bright lights

School Captain 2020!

Hello everyone! I’m Charlotte and I’d like to think I’m a pretty average person; however, my economics teacher thinks I’m pretty cool and asked me to write this article. I’m in year 11 at Goulburn High School as well as with Aurora College, studying economics (and loving it).

I’d like to think I’m relatively involved in my community and school. Recently, I was inducted as Goulburn High School’s captain for 2020 after possessing the position of SRC president for the previous two years. I also hold the position of Mayor of the Goulburn Mulwaree Youth Council.

I think volunteering your time is an extremely rewarding experience which can give you valuable skills and introduce you to some amazing people. Through my involvement in the school and community I have received some incredible opportunities, including attending the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament in 2018 and 2019 and then progressing on to the state level for the Lion’s Youth of the Year Quest. Through these experiences, I believe I have become a well-rounded individual.

I really enjoy the opportunities that have been presented to me by my school and community and would encourage everyone to take every opportunity offered to them.




Regional athletics competitor

Jordan is competing at CHS athletics in the Girls 15 yrs 400m.

Best of luck for a great run, Jordan!




Future Bright Lights

If your child has a passion outside of our virtual classrooms, please feel free to email us a few words and an image. It is always lovely to know what our students are up to in their local communities! Please email:, marked: attention The Auracle.

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Spotlight on… Zoe Smith

Where was your previous teaching appointment?

Burwood Girls High School

What is your local community like?

I live in a diverse community. Lots of lovely Italian Nonnas and Mrs Mae, our Korean neighbour, who always brings fresh vegetables home from her job at the fruit market. We have large leafy streets and a big park with plenty of trees where lots of people gather for walks and various activities all day long.

What’s your favourite subject to teach?

I love teaching both English and Drama.

What do you like about teaching at Aurora?

I grew up in a regional area and I feel privileged to teach young people who are living in similar communities.

What are your other interests?

I listen to a range of music and going to the theatre is one of my favourite things to do.


Zoe Smith | English Teacher

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The annual R U OK? Day was held on 12 September 2019, and I’m sure on this day across all our school and local communities, people were asking RU OK?

R U OK?’s mission is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life.

What strategies do we use when someone says “No, I’m not”?

You can follow the R U OK? ALEC conversation steps to show them they’re supported and help them find strategies to better manage the load.

  1. A – Ask
  2. L – Listen
  3. E – Encourage Action
  4. C – Check in


The following clips illustrate ALEC in Action: How to be a Good Mate and How Do I Ask? in School

If they are OK, that person will know you’re someone who cares enough to ask.

The R U OK? website ( has some excellent resources for starting conversations, and the following clip highlights the importance of trusting the signs.

Trust the Signs, Ask R U OK? R U OK? (Day 2019)

R U OK? are encouraging us all to keep the message alive everyday.


Cathy Groth |Wellbeing Coordinator

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Technology update


We will be holding our annual stocktake during Weeks 1 and 2 of Term 4. Students will be required to take their laptop to their Aurora College Coordinator for “sighting” during this period. It is a quick process, as the ACC only needs to verify the devices identification number.

Any devices not sighted during this period will be collected from students in Week 8 of Term 4 and returned to the office for the duration of the end of year break. Such devices will be returned at the beginning of Term 1, 2020. We would prefer to avoid this as much as possible, so please make sure to see your ACC during Weeks 1 and 2 next term.

An email will also be sent to all students, ACCs, and teachers with this information.

Good time to back up!

A reminder that backing up of student data is the sole responsibility of students. If you have not backed up your important files, either on your laptop, or your school computer, this might be a good time to do it. Be sure to copy all your important files, and make sure you have more than one copy. A good phrase to remember here is “One is none”. It means that if you only have one copy, then as soon as something happens, it’s gone. You might as well have none. By copying your data in two, three, or even four different places, you make sure that a single problem cannot become a catastrophe.

Remember that students all have free access to Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive as part of their Department software package. These services both help you back up your data and make sure it is available from anywhere with an internet connection. And since “one is none”, perhaps also save a copy of the important files to a USB drive and hide that away in the back of the desk drawer as well.

Year 12 devices

Year 12 students, please remember that all loaned equipment must be returned. When you sign out of your school after your exams, please make sure that you return the device, charger, pen, and case to your ACC. This will make it easier for everyone involved. If you have any questions about the equipment, please feel free to send us an email at

Good luck with your exams!

Photos from Res 1

We are looking for any photos that students or staff took during the first Residential Camp this year. If you have any you would like to share, please email them to, along with a description of what was happening when you took the photo.

Adobe Connect upgrade

During the coming school holiday period, the Department will be upgrading our Adobe Connect system to version 10.2.5. This will resolve a number of bugs that have caused us issues in the last term or two, including the incorrect error message when users log in asking them to enter a guest name. Teachers will also have access to the “Manage meeting information” menu item in rooms again.

Due to this upgrade, there will be outages to the Adobe Connect system during the holidays. If you have any issues accessing rooms or viewing recordings, please try again at a later date.

School computers get an upgrade!

The Department has released a new computer system with Windows 10 v1903, which includes Office 2019. This system is for the school owned computers that students use to connect to the Adobe Connect classrooms (not the loan laptops that Aurora College provides). Schools may choose to update their existing computers with this new system from Monday 23 September.

The biggest changes to be aware of is that the new Office 2019 system does not include OneNote, as this is now a part of the Windows 10 operating system. If you are using the OneNote 2016 application on your desktop computer, you may find that the new application looks a little different, but it does have all the same features.

Again, this would be a good time to back up any data you have on these school computers, just in case they get updated soon!

Ben Hillsley | Learning Technologies Support Officer

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From the engine room

Important notice

We cannot accept explanations of absences from students.  We also cannot accept explanations of absences from teachers via students. If your child cannot attend an Aurora lesson, please email stating the reason for the absence.


As residential is fast approaching, we suggest labelling your child’s clothes and personal possessions. We had a significant amount of lost items from the last residential camp that have not been claimed. If items are marked with your name, we will be able to return the items to you.

We wish our families a safe and happy holiday.

Denise Deaves | School Administration Manager

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The corkboard

  • The New South Wales, Victorian and Queensland Governments released the Terms of Reference for the Review into NAPLAN. An interim report will be provided to Education Council later this year and Stage 2 of the review will be presented to Education Council in 2020. A copy can be accessed via this link.
  • The 2019 HSC written examination timetable may be downloaded as a PDF by clicking this link. Here you can see what exam equipment you can and can’t take into the exam room, including approved calculators, and other exam advice and resources. Students can also view their personalised timetables via the Students Online website.
  • The preliminary national results for this year’s NAPLAN assessments are now available. Student reports were sent to schools to distribute to parents from 16 September. ACARA has included a note on this year’s student reports advising caution in interpreting NAPLAN results if a child experienced disruptions when taking the tests online.
  • NESA has produced videos with examination advice for courses in a range of key learning areas. Visit here and follow the links for each subject in the left hand navigation panel.
  • The University of Sydney has an exciting opportunity for parents of gifted children on 8 November to learn about research-informed strategies to help their child achieve their best. This session will be addressing identification, assessment and support of gifted children. For further information click here.
  • Westpac offer scholarships to technology-interested Year 12 students, available in partnership with 5 Universities (University of Wollongong, Western Sydney University, QUT, RMIT, Murdoch). Applications for 2020 are now open. For further information, click here.
  • If your child is interested in participating in a GERRIC program over summer at UNSW, click here.

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