NGS News

Subject Selection and the Search for Band Six

The Sydney Morning Herald’s (SMH) Education Editor wrote that HSC students appear to be ‘ditching’ difficult subjects in pursuit of a Band Six mark – meaning a mark above 90%.

There is a great deal of irony in the SMH publishing an alarming article about this, given that it is the same Herald which publishes the HSC-based league table of NSW schools every year. Their table is calculated solely by counting the proportion of Band Six results which a school’s students achieve and is arguably the key factor responsible for the obsession with Band Six results in the first place.

However, setting this aside, the article does identify meaningful trends in the number of students picking, or not picking, certain HSC subjects since 2012.

The subjects gaining enrolments since 2012 include Biology, Business Studies and PDHPE. We have seen similar trends at NGS with strong demand for these subjects.

In contrast, the SMH warns that student numbers in those subjects which are perceived to be the “hardest” is falling across the state – for example, Physics and Chemistry. In addition, they claim that demand for extension subjects like Maths Extension 1 and English Extension 1 is “flat-lining”.

Largely ignored, but definitely looming in the background, is the worsening teacher shortages, particularly in those subjects which are losing enrolments, like Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. This will obviously make the task of reversing the declining trends across the state even harder.

However, the experience of NGS over the last few years is that demand remains very strong for subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Modern & Ancient History, and the Extensions – Maths 1 and 2, English 1 and 2, History, Music and Science. 

We run many HSC classes every year in these subjects and proudly continue to cater for students who are pursuing academic excellence across a wide range of courses and at the very highest levels. Furthermore, there are plenty of girls who choose Chemistry, Physics and the top levels of Extension Maths.

Tackling the myths and legends surrounding the HSC is a crucial part of the HSC subject selection process in Year 10. We always strongly advise students that they should not pick subjects solely because they have heard rumours about scaling or because they believe that they will get a mark above 90%. 

Instead, the advice traditionally offered by NESA and its predecessors was always the best – pick subjects which you are good at, which you enjoy, and which you are prepared to work hard at. This means the so-called “hardest” ones just as much as the others. Furthermore, be academically ambitious for yourself and choose subjects at the highest level at which you can flourish – if that means an extension, then go for it.

As a school, we will continue to work very hard to help, support and educate every student to achieve their very best.

Philip Fielden
Director of Strategy and Innovation