Northern Beaches Secondary College Balgowlah Boys’ Campus was second, putting it in the top 10 for English for the fifth year in a row, followed by selective school Hornsby Girls, eastern suburbs private school Ascham, and James Ruse Agricultural High.

When band 6 or E4 results in the three harder English subjects were compared with the school’s total enrolment in English, a compulsory subject, the highest-ranked school was Hornsby Girls High, with 82 per cent of its students achieving the top result.

They were followed by James Ruse, Sydney Girls’, SCEGGS Darlinghurst and Kambala. The 10th-placed on that scale was Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner School, a K-12 school of around 400 students where 57 per cent of all English enrolments achieved the highest result.

Killarney Heights also featured in the top 10 for English in 2017. Principal Hayley Emmerton paid tribute to her staff. “The secret is actually having amazing teachers,” she said. “We don’t waste a moment. Explicit teaching, helping students really understand it.”

Kiara began her HSC in advanced English, but abandoned it for standard within a term. “It didn’t sit very well with me,” she said. “I wasn’t enjoying English as much as I had, so I thought maybe standard would give me a better pace to enjoy myself again.

“I loved the texts we were reading, it was a quicker pace. Ms [Wendy] Lisle has been my teacher for two years, she has seen me grow. It was a lot better for me, being in her class.”

Ms Lisle said all the school’s English students, whether they were male or female, enrolled in standard or advanced, were passionate about the subject.

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When Kiara first began studying it, she would “sit there and be really quiet,” said Ms Lisle. “I was not sure I’d got her. Then a day later, she’d be, ‘What do you mean by this? What about this?’ She was taking it in and taking her time, and allowing herself to provide a more authentic voice to her work.

“I think that’s what’s standing out with the new syllabus, they are looking at that authentic voice in student work.”

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