Every student at the school who lives in the Flemington towers successfully completed their VCE or their VCAL, principal Dani Angelico said.
“They all passed, they all got through,” Ms Angelico said.
“We had about 12 year 12s in hard lockdown. We were still able to help them.
“I mean, thank god for Zoom. Teachers were just going that extra mile, even after the hard lockdown ended, they were in daily contact.”
The small government school’s average ATAR has soared from about 51 in 2019 to 72, Ms Angelico said.
“It’s a really wonderful way to end the year, as we know it’s been really tough for year 12s,” she said.
“Kids who we just didn’t think would excel, have.”
She said schools worried most about their year 12 students this year.
Among the successful year 12 students at Mount Alexander College is Haniyah Abou-Said who got an ATAR of 78.85, strong enough to get into her dream course, a bachelor of fashion and textiles (sustainable innovation) at RMIT University.
Haniyah spent several days in hard lockdown inside her family apartment in the public housing towers in Flemington in July, when the state government shut them without warning to contain a COVID-19 cluster.
But she said she felt relaxed during exams and ahead of results day, thanks to the intensive support of her teachers and the special consideration process.
“Especially because of the special consideration I wasn’t too worried about getting into the course,” Haniyah said.
“I think everyone was really prepared, despite everything that happened.”
Keilor Downs Secondary College principal Linda Maxwell said she was blown away by the resilience her students had shown in the most uncertain year imaginable.
“These kids have done even better than an average year, just a little bit,” she said of their results.
“They lost so much – we couldn’t do proper celebrations, we lost our formal – but they were just determined.”
Multiple members of the school community caught COVID-19 during the city’s second lockdown, generating fear of contracting the virus, including among the large government school’s student cohort.
Despite these challenges, with the tireless assistance of their teachers, they remained focused on their schoolwork, Ms Maxwell said.
“Our teachers probably communicated with students more rather than less [during remote learning], which is the reason teachers would tell you they are so exhausted.”
Students at Keilor Downs were individually assessed for educational disadvantage due to COVID-19, in a statewide process involving their teachers and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority.
Ms Maxwell said she was certain the special consideration process had helped her students get the results they deserved, without suffering a penalty due to the school’s multiple closures and extended period of learning remotely.
“Some students barely saw their teachers face to face for seven months,” she said.
Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority chief executive Stephen Gniel said results would probably not have been as consistent without special consideration.
“I think we would have seen in some of those schools probably lower results if we hadn’t had consideration of disadvantage,” he said.
“At the schools that were closed we checked in on them and we’re seeing it’s broadly consistent with previous years,” Mr Gniel said.
“What we’re seeing is that the process has worked to restore students’ results to where they would have been if they weren’t impacted by the pandemic.”
Special consideration was given to all students this year. Mr Gniel said the VCAA had worked through 830,000 pieces of data.
“The teachers deserve the credit for that,” Mr Gniel said. “They know their students best and we know teachers are best at assessing performance and to tell us what level of impact either the coronavirus or, importantly, bushfires from earlier in the year, had on this cohort.”
He said students had requested no mention of special consideration on their public results statements.
Catholic Regional College Sydenham, which is also in Melbourne’s north-west, had more than 30 students and teachers become infected with coronavirus, one of the city’s worst school-related outbreaks.
It also had to deal with a COVID-19 scare in term four, during which many members of the school were sent into quarantine as secondary contacts.
Principal Brendan Watson said he was relieved the year was over and that many students had done well, including a college dux with an ATAR of 97.25.
Eight per cent of the college’s students got an ATAR of 90 or higher, Mr Watson said.
“We’re extremely happy,” he said. “Staff at school worked really hard in ensuring the students had opportunities through online learning, and all credit needs to go to the students for maintaining contact with their teachers; it was a year like no other.”
The college has staff on-site today to help students who need to alter their university preferences and who did not get the results they were hoping for.
Mr Watson said it was important for students to remember their ATAR did not define them.
“Life can throw up a whole lot of things, but don’t worry about the score, there are more pathways and every young person can find their way with support,” Mr Watson said.
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Adam Carey is Education Editor. He joined The Age in 2007 and has previously covered state politics, transport, general news, the arts and food.
Anna is an education reporter at The Age.