From the Principal’s desk
Welcome to the new school year.
In 2020, we share 390 students with 110 government schools across rural and remote NSW. A special greeting goes to the students joining our school for the first time in 2020. Aside from our Year 6 and Year 7 cohorts, we also have new students joining our school in each of the other year groups. On behalf of the whole Aurora community, we welcome each of you to your new school.
The Aurora Opportunity Class Pilot (AOCP) is now in its second year. Phase 2 of the pilot, comprises 46 students in 21 rural and remote government primary schools. Our new Year 6 students are studying the content of the Mathematics and Science and Technology syllabuses. The AOCP curriculum has a STEM-focus, delivered through an inquiry based learning approach.
An evaluation of the pilot program by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) was completed late last year. Supported by this, and other evidence of the success of the pilot program, the AOCP working group (whose key members include representatives of the NSW Primary Principals Association and the Department’s High Performing Students Team) prepared and submitted to the Executive of the NSW Department of Education, a comprehensive business case detailing an operational model for an ongoing virtual opportunity class.
I am very pleased to inform you that the Department has approved the conversion of the pilot program to an ongoing provision. At Dunedoo Central School on Friday 28 February, Stage 3 students, Fletcher and William, were joined by Serena McLean (Assistant Principal), Carolyn McMurtrie (A/Deputy Principal) and Virginia Cluff (Head Teacher, Science) to hear the announcement by The Minister for Education and Early Childhood, The Hon. Sarah Mitchell, MLC. At the ceremony, Minister Mitchell said:
“By sustaining the long-term future of the virtual opportunity class, we are adding to the suite of gifted and high potential options for local rural and remote schools through Aurora College.
The sound demand for opportunity class places illustrates the value in which they are held by local families.
It now means that a student can take advantage of the virtual opportunity class in upper primary, progress to the virtual selective stream from Year 7 to Year 10, and then be supported through academically demanding HSC courses through their final years.
While Aurora College brings significant equity benefits to students, families and schools in rural and remote NSW, it continues to demonstrate that the learning model it presents also offers dividends for life and study beyond the curriculum.”
To be eligible for enrolment in the virtual opportunity class, students must also be enrolled in a NSW Government school which is classified as rural and remote. Students at schools with opportunity class provisions, or at schools within the drawing areas of existing opportunity class provisions, will not be eligible to apply for entry into the virtual opportunity class. Click here to view the list of eligible partner schools.
The first intake of Year 5 Aurora students through the Department’s state-wide process will be in 2021. These students will comprise Aurora’s first Year 6 cohort in 2022 and there will be a new intake of Year 5 students in this, and in each subsequent year. Applications for Year 5 placement in the virtual opportunity class in 2021 open Tuesday 28 April 2020 and close at 5 pm on Friday 15 May 2020. The Opportunity Class Placement Test for 2021 entry will be held on 29 July 2020. Parents and staff should visit the Department’s website https://education.nsw.gov.au/public-schools/selective-high-schools-and-opportunity-classes/year-5 for further details.
The conversion of the pilot program to an ongoing provision is wonderful news for our school and for the rural and remote communities we serve. I want to thank Serena McLean and our Stage 3 teachers, Lisa Pearson and Claire Houston, for their ongoing work with the Aurora Opportunity Class Pilot. Without their expertise, and their dedication and hard work, the pilot would not have been the success that it is. I look forward to working with Serena, Lisa and Claire, as we ready our school for this next exciting phase of its development.
In 2020, our 54 classroom teachers are shared with 34 other government schools – approximately half of the teaching staff being located in rural and remote communities. I am pleased to welcome 13 new members of the teaching staff this year. Jacqueline Diaz, Marnie Etheridge, Meutia Goodwin, Renee Hall, Gillian Halstead, Raymond Happ, Kerryn Ibbott, Alison Lee, Raymond Montalban, Courtney Rintoul, Alicia Townsend, Anne Vogelnest and Jason Webb each bring very valuable skills and experiences to our school. I would also like to thank our returning teachers for the assistance they have given their new colleagues throughout the summer break and in the first weeks of this term.
It is with mixed feelings that I inform you that our Deputy Principal, Kathy Klados, was successful in the merit selection process for the position of Principal, Georges River College – Hurstville Boys Campus. The Aurora team is, of course, very happy that Kathy’s skills and experience have been acknowledged and rewarded with this promotion, but we are also more than a little sad that Kathy’s time at our school has come to an end.
As many of you know, from 2014, I have had the privilege of working alongside Kathy to establish, operationalise and grow Aurora College. Her contribution to the success story that is Aurora College, cannot be overstated. In this journey, I could not have hoped for a more accomplished colleague or for a better friend. I thank Kathy for her dedication and hard work, and I wish her every success in her new role. Congratulations, Kathy!
With Kathy’s departure, I am pleased to welcome to the role of Acting Deputy Principal, Carolyn McMurtrie. While Carolyn is in the ‘Deputy’s chair’, her substantive position of Head Teacher English, HSIE and Languages will be filled by Luisa McDiarmid. I look forward to working with Carolyn and Luisa in the weeks ahead.
The Aurora College State Reference Group (SRG) undertakes ongoing consultation, development and review of the Aurora College model. Members include the college’s senior executive, parent representatives, senior officers of the Department, primary and secondary school principals and representatives from the teaching staff.
Having served with distinction for five years as one of your parent representatives on the SRG, Genie McMullen has decided to ‘call it a day’. Genie’s tenure on the SRG will be remembered for her wisdom and for her passionate advocacy for the rights of rural and remote families. On your behalf, I want to thank her for her contribution to our school. Aurora is stronger for the support you have so freely given, Genie.
Genie standing down from the SRG obviously provides the opportunity for another Aurora parent to join David Dubois as your representatives. In 2020, the SRG is scheduled to meet for four online meetings and one full-day meeting in Sydney on Friday 8 May. David Dubois is happy to discuss his first-hand experience of the role with anyone who may be interested. David may be reached via email at email@example.com Interested parties should complete an expression of interest here. Applications close 5 pm Friday 13 March.
I also invite expressions of interest to fill other very important roles in our school:
For further information on the positions and/or to complete your expression of interest, please visit here. Applications close 5 pm Friday 13 March.
As I write this article, staff in the coordinating office are working frantically on final preparations for our first Residential School of the year. This ‘res’ promises to be every bit as enjoyable and rewarding for our students and staff as the highly regarded previous events. Parents and friends of our school can stay in touch with all that is happening during the week by following us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AuroraCollegeAU
Communities all over the state continue to ‘do it tough’ in very challenging times, so I want to take this opportunity to again remind families that applications can be made to the Aurora Student Assistance Scheme for financial assistance with education costs for your child. For further information, please contact the coordinating office via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by toll-free telephone on 1300 287 629. Please be assured that any approach will be treated as confidential.
Enjoy the first edition of The Auracle for 2020!
Chris Robertson | Principal
Deputy Principal’s report
A warm welcome back in 2020 to all the Aurora families and a very special welcome to all our new students and their parents. We are looking forward to working with all of you this year.
Our thoughts continue to be with the families, schools, and communities that have been affected by natural disasters such as fire, floods, and drought. If your student is needing emotional and/or financial support due to these events please do not hesitate to contact the school so that arrangements can be made to ensure that this support is provided.
Who do I contact if I have concerns?
For concerns related to learning and assessment, students should always make their first approach to their class teacher. Students and their parents then have the option of contacting the relevant Head Teacher:
For most other concerns, the best point of contact for students and their parents is the Aurora College Coordinator (ACC).
Aurora College Coordinator (ACC)
In each of our partner schools, Aurora College funds the release of a teacher to fill the role of Aurora College Coordinator (ACC). The ACC adds an important layer of support for the educational, social and emotional needs of our students.
The role of the ACC is similar to that of a Year Advisor. The role has an administrative component, but the main focus is to support our shared enrolments. The ACC is also the key contact person for Aurora College teachers, students, and parents.
The ACC in your ‘home school’ is responsible for:
Your ACC has access to a range of information via Aurora College’s ‘home school’ portal on Sentral, including attendance rolls, details of assessment tasks, timetables, merits, and reports. Your ACC can also provide advice about who to contact if you have concerns they cannot assist you with.
More information regarding the role of the Aurora College Coordinator can be found on our school website http://www.aurora.nsw.edu.au/partner-school-information/
All other correspondence to Aurora College should be directed to email@example.com or toll-free telephone on 1300 287 629.
Assessment handbooks for Years 7 to 11 have been distributed via email to all students, parents and Aurora College Coordinators. The handbooks can also be accessed through the parent and student Sentral portals.
New student transition program
Each year, we conduct an orientation program to support our new students. Topics include:
This will be further enhanced through Masterclasses delivered to students and parents by mental health organisations such as Beyond Blue and Reach Out, on topics including resilience and wellbeing.
Expectations of all students
When a student enrols with Aurora College, they become a shared enrolment of two schools. It is the school’s expectation that our students will behave in a manner that reflects well on Aurora College and their home school at all times.
All students in NSW government schools are expected to:
Behaviour that infringes on the safety of others, such as harassment, bullying and illegal or anti-social behaviour of any kind, will not be tolerated. [Source: Core Rules – Student discipline in NSW Government Schools].
Our students should be prepared to engage in learning, by:
Respect themselves and others, by:
Behave safely, by:
As heavy users of the internet and online communication services provided by the NSW Department of Education, all Aurora College students must abide by the Department’s conditions of acceptable usage. Student use of digital devices and online services lists three key areas of responsibility for students when working in the college’s virtual learning environment. These relate to a student being Respectful, Responsible and Safe as a Digital Citizen.
Students need to attend school regularly to meet the course requirements of the ROSA, Preliminary HSC and HSC. Student attendance is recorded in each lesson at Aurora. The coordinator or parents/caregivers are required to inform the coordinating office of Aurora College within seven days if the student is sick, or:
The Aurora College coordinating office may be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free telephone on 1300 287 629.
Students on leave for extended periods
A Certificate of Exemption from Attendance must be obtained from the Principal of your home school if the student plans to be on leave for extended periods. An example of when this may be required is when travelling overseas. In the case where a student is granted a Certificate of Exemption, Aurora College requires a copy via the ACC. Students will still be required to complete assessment tasks and classwork as negotiated by the Head Teacher for each subject in order to meet course outcomes.
Home school excursions or events
Students involved in home school excursions, such as sports or swimming carnivals, must notify Aurora College via their ACC. This can also apply for special events in schools where the students will be absent from their usual Aurora classes.
What’s coming up?
Carolyn McMurtrie | Acting Deputy Principal
Opportunity class pilot
Year 6 has commenced the new school year feeling settled and ready for learning, following their orientation program last term.
The STEM kits with their various supplies have already been utilised, as students start to create their chariots. As we learn to code our Spheros over the next couple of weeks, we will be ready to race at the ROBO challenge evenings at the residential school.
These challenges will test our prototypes, and the collaborative space of residential school will allow students to share their ideas. The opportunity to race each other, provide effective feedback, modify designs and, of course, the prospect of winning the challenge, is definitely something our students are excited about.
Playing in the virtual playground in iSee this week has been a notable highlight for students. Meeting virtually and being able to interact with the benefits of spacial audio is something we are all enjoying learning about.
We look forward to many sessions in the iSee space as we meet for assemblies in the lecture theatre and the hang out in the virtual coffee lounge. Thank you to our ACCs for their efforts with the installation and set up of student laptops.
As we prepare for the excitement of residential school, our Year 6 students look forward to their first Aurora gathering at Narrabeen Sports Academy. Thank you to parents for entrusting us with your children. We know they will have a wonderful time away, filled with memorable highlights as well as new friendships and connections.
Lucy Jellema (Learning Support Teacher for Stage 3) and I had the opportunity to travel to Griffith East Public School and Leeton Public School to visit some of our new students. It was wonderful to meet parents, coordinators and siblings, as we talked all things Aurora. We loved seeing your beautiful schools and being able to pop into your Aurora classes. Thank you for your hospitality and we look forward to visiting more schools throughout the year.
Serena McLean | Assistant Principal
Faculty news – Science and Agriculture
A big welcome to 2020 from the Science Faculty. We are very excited to be teaching you all this year!
I am happy to be back as Head Teacher Science in 2020 after a couple of years away from this role.
The science faculty in 2020 is a mixture of new and returning staff from a wide variety of locations. We look forward to meeting all of our students IRL (in real life) next week at the residential school. We have a host of great science lessons, excursions, and experiences planned for the week.
In 2020, the Science faculty comprises:
We hope everyone has had a smooth start to the year. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Aurora Office.
Virginia Cluff | Head Teacher Science and Agriculture
Faculty news – Mathematics, Software Design and Development
The first few weeks of 2020 have seen our new students and teachers tackling the wonders of learning mathematics and Software Design and Development in our virtual environment.
We feel very privileged to have new members of staff: Alison Lee (Denison College of Secondary Education, Bathurst High Campus), Raymond Montalban (Arthur Philip High School) and Meutia Goodwin (based at the Aurora coordinating office). Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Goodwin are teaching mathematics, while Mr. Montalban teaches our Year 11 Software Design and Development class.
In a very busy start to the school year:
Have a look below to see some of the fabulous work that our students are completing at the moment.
Our Year 7 to 10 teachers are working together to design some exciting activities for our week 6 residential school. We are really looking forward to catching up with our returning students again and meeting our new students.
Kathy Howard | Head Teacher Mathematics, Software Design and Development
Learning and support
Spotlight on learning resources
In the previous edition of The Auracle, we focused on the transition from primary to high school and between stages 4 to 5 and 5 to 6. As a follow on, in this edition we are focusing on learning resources that will assist parents/carers to support their child’s learning, and resources that the students can access and use themselves – especially when revising.
The following link is from the Department’s website:
The page is called ‘Practical help for parents and carers’
There are also resources available from:
Support your children’s education with engaging videos, games, competitions and other fun educational resources. Find entertaining programs, including videos that help explain the news to kids, or read thought-provoking articles about parenting and the latest education news. ABC Education is funded by the Australian Government and is non-commercial.
Raising Children Network
Reliable, up-to-date and independent information to help your family grow and thrive together. The network is funded by the Australian Government, reviewed by experts and is non-commercial.
An Australian Government website and app providing hundreds of articles on all aspects of your child’s learning and development, from the early years to the end of high school, with more articles added all the time.
On this page, there are also links to:
We encourage you to take a look as there is a wealth of information contained in these pages and what better time than the beginning of a new school year!
Cathy Groth | Wellbeing Coordinator
Top borrowers for 2020 were: Alice Harris, Hayley Fraser, Anna Dubois, Iris Cuddy and Zoe Cowled. Astra’s have been awarded to those students and to our top borrowers from Term 4: Lucas McDonald, Alice Harris, Rani Tiffen, Mali Hopkins-Davies, Leo Jones, Iris Cuddy, Heidi Parkin and Laura Wood.
Over the summer, we ran a Summer Reading Challenge – a number of very enthusiastic students participated and they have each been awarded an Astra. Some students will be presented with prizes at the residential school for their outstanding participation in the challenge.
Library orientation sessions
Year 7 and all new students in Years 8-10, as well as staff, have already undertaken orientation sessions to learn about our digital school library (OLIVER). Students have access 24/7 to our online subscriptions, ebooks, and audiobooks.
We source our ebook and audiobooks via Overdrive and Wheeler’s, to give a greater breadth of resources. All of our library materials are digital and students access them via their student portal login. Students only need an internet connection to access our resources, some of which may then be downloaded and accessed offline on a portable device.
The student devices loaned to our students are suitable, along with a range of other devices, families may already have. On our OLIVER home page, are live links or login details to further subscription services, such as World Book Online, Cosmos Magazine, and SpineOut.
Author visit – J.C. Burke
We are very excited to be welcoming J.C. Burke to our residential school. She will be presenting to students in Years 7-10. A number of her award-winning books are in our digital library for students to read before the ‘res’ to become familiar with her writing.
As a service to our students, we invite a bookshop to pop-up at our residential experience. This residential, we are being supported by Merimbula Extra.
Families would have received a credit form as part of the residential information pack, a copy is here for your convenience as well. Please feel free to use the form to authorise a spending limit for your child, if you prefer not to send cash. Payment can only be made at the residential school via cash or the credit form.
This is an opt-in activity, and there is no obligation to participate.
To recommend resources for our digital library, it 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!
I am very excited to be supporting student reading and learning at Aurora College in 2020.
Kaylene Taylor | Teacher Librarian
It takes a village
Throughout this black summer adjectives like ‘unprecedented’, ‘heroic’, ‘tragic’ and ‘catastrophic’ have been part of our daily conversation, but so too has the adjective ‘generous’. Much has been written about the generosity of the firefighters who worked so hard in the service of their communities. Standing shoulder to shoulder with us were the other emergency and support services including Fire and Rescue, SES, Ambos, Police, and Defence.
But away from the limelight, there were many acts, great and small, reflecting the generosity of the Australian spirit. As a firefighter, I have been lucky enough to experience this generosity first hand.
Some acts of generosity were truly grand. On our fiercest night, as we battled to save houses with too few trucks and embers raining all around us, I saw a couple leave their own house and drive to the neighbours’ to lend them a pump and water cart because the neighbour’s house was under greater threat.
In the immediate aftermath of the fires, groups from Sydney drove food vans for hours to some of the most devastated towns to cook meals for the locals in a welcome gesture of support and compassion. The food vans were soon followed by trucks carrying fodder. Other acts were less grand but just as overwhelming.
I can’t remember the last time I paid for a coffee or a snack, at least not when in uniform. In so many small cafes and shops across the firegrounds we’re told “no charge…and thankyou”. And if it isn’t the shop owners, one of the other customers might step forward to pay our bill. It’s embarrassing, and we don’t expect it, but we smile and accept because we know this generosity is a thankyou not so much to us as individuals, but to all of us as volunteers.
Meanwhile, the donation tins on the shop counters have been filling up as fast as we can empty them. This is on top of extremely generous direct donations from individuals and businesses. Our local club put on a Christmas dinner for our brigade, all we could eat and an open bar. Then they topped it off with a fundraising raffle. The tavern did something similar a few weeks later.
After Christmas, an ‘extended family’ of about 300 members of the Lebanese community, who holiday every year in our local caravan park, held an impromptu fair and raised thousands of dollars. As the fires spread like tentacles through the landscape, seemingly unstoppable in the rugged forests, a local earthmoving contractor organised to have firebreaks ripped around all his neighbours’ properties.
The fires have generated enormous interest in volunteering, but you need to be trained before you can pull on a set of yellows and jump on a truck. So people found other ways to volunteer, through groups like BlazeAid, providing shelter, repairing fencing, feeding stock and helping people rebuild their lives. Employers have been exceptional in their generosity, granting volunteers leave, and in some cases even continuing to pay them, despite the disruption to their businesses.
Above all, it is impossible to overstate the generosity of our families. Volunteers are always on call. The pager goes off at all hours with no warning. During a relentless season like this, the toll on families is real. Yet despite the disappointment, the exasperation and the fear, our families continue to give us the most precious support of all.
These are just some examples of the generosity I have experienced over the last few months. I have no doubt that every firefighter would have similar tales to tell. These generous acts have been the yang to the yin of our dark summer. It is a cliche to say that disasters bring out the best in people, but cliches usually grow from a kernel of truth. This disastrous fire season has shown the Australian community at its generous best. According to the apocryphal African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. In Australia, we might say “It takes a village to fight a fire”.
Geoff Goldrick | Science Teacher
Spotlight on… Alicia Townsend
Where was your previous teaching appointment?
My last teaching appointment was at Hunters Hill High School, on the lower north shore of Sydney. Prior to becoming a teacher in NSW, I worked in various roles in the food and pharmaceutical industries, and I also worked as an ESL teacher in Japan for 4 years.
What is your local community like?
I live in Lane Cove, which is another suburb on the lower north shore of Sydney. Lane Cove has a beautiful national park and is really close to the CBD.
What’s your favourite subject to teach?
Science, of course!
What do you like about teaching at Aurora?
I really like that through Aurora, we have the opportunity to connect with students who are in different regions of NSW, sometimes regions that would take several hours to travel to. I also like that there are opportunities for students to extend their knowledge through the Aurora masterclasses where they can ask field experts questions.
What are your other interests?
I enjoy watching various genres of movies, like anime and sci-fi, and listening to different music. I also enjoy traveling, visiting museums and learning about other cultures. I have a particular interest in Japanese language and culture. During my time in Japan, I loved visiting different regions, so whenever I get the chance to go back I like to visit regions and towns I’ve never visited before, to explore temples and local foods.
From the engine room
Welcome to our returning and new families. We have certainly had a rocky start to 2020 with fires, floods, mini cyclones and king tides!
Residential school 1 is in week 6 of this term and we remind parents to label all student items. We have amassed a large amount of lost property from previous camps with only a few items being claimed. We will return all items that are clearly marked with your student’s name within a couple of weeks of the residential school.
Our primary source of contact with parents is via email. If your contact details have changed (address, telephone numbers, email), please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your new details.
Our telephone number is 1300 287 629 (local call charge) and our office hours are 8:30 am to 3:30 pm Monday to Friday.
Denise Deaves | School Administrative Manager