Leading the Way: St Hilda’s Approach to Academic Excellence and Beyond

Parents choosing to send their daughters to St Hilda’s do so for many reasons. One of the top…

Parents choosing to send their daughters to St Hilda’s do so for many reasons. One of the top three reasons is the school’s academic success in lifting all students to meet their personal best. As the person responsible for the direction of teaching and learning at St Hilda’s, I work with my team of quality teachers to ensure that we provide academic opportunities to meet each student at their point of need.

The building blocks commence in Junior School where we focus on laying the foundations so that when they reach Senior School, they are ready to excel. Providing our students with the skills of being numerate and literate from such an early age is invaluable as a comprehensive understanding of literacy and numeracy underpin all facets of future, life-long learning.

When considering the learning in the Senior School, we continue to adapt to a rapidly changing tertiary landscape. The pathways to tertiary studies available to students are now more flexible. While the media bemoans the decline of Western Australian students choosing to study ATAR, St Hilda’s continues to buck the trend. Academic success, which is achieved through challenge and persistence, is important for our girls and has been for many years.

Trends such as ATAR data is pivotal to the discussions we have, the decisions we make, the courses we offer and the support and acceleration that is provided. For more information about our Teaching and Learning philosophy click here .

Since 2022, TISC (Tertiary Institutions Service Centre) has not calculated school median data, which is why St Hilda’s no longer calculates or publishes a median ATAR. While some schools continue to independently calculate their median ATAR, potentially compromising the data’s integrity, it was most interesting to see other independent schools choosing to follow our lead and not share a school-calculated median.

What is of great interest in our curriculum planning and decision-making process, is our longitudinal distribution of Year 12 ATAR scores. Below shows the ATAR trend for students who have graduated from St Hilda’s since ATAR’s inception in 2010.

Anyone who has studied statistics will be familiar with the concept of the ‘Bell Curve’. This curve refers to the ‘normal distribution’ of data where the peak sits in the middle as the most common result, and the values on either side decline as they are less common. In a non-selective school such as St Hilda’s, you would expect our Year 12 result bell curve to follow a similar shape. However, the St Hilda’s curve is anything but common.

Our ATAR results over the last 13 years peak convincingly in the 95+ band, meaning that since 2010, more girls have graduated from St Hilda’s with a 95+ ATAR score than in any other ATAR band.

This data informs the strategic growth of our offerings in many ways. For example, this year we have a record number of students taking ATAR Mathematics Specialists, (23 in Year 12 and a further 18 in Year 11) the most challenging ATAR Mathematics course, studied by only 11% of WA students.

This graph also informed us that an ATAR option isn’t the most rewarding pathway for everyone and that the school needed to broaden its offerings, ensuring there were other pathways for students to achieve well in their WACE or non-ATAR pathway. We have been deliberate in providing the resourcing and opportunities for students to complete Certificates, enrol in UniPrep courses, and attend work placements. This year we have an increasing number of students who are embracing different pathways and discovering a newfound confidence in their academic journey.

Our bell curve reflects the high work ethic that our girls embrace and their dedication and self-motivation to achieve their best. These are the qualities that position them well for continued success post-schooling. ‘Who’ a St Hilda’s girl becomes, is equally as important as ‘what’ she achieves. Her success is unique and diverse, and this is celebrated in partnership with her academic growth. The world needs scientists, artists, engineers, influencers, teachers, ethical hackers, software developers, dancers, doctors, and musicians. These are the future pathways that sit behind our enviable curve.

 

Nicole Adams
Director of Learning Reimagined