Cabramatta’s principal Lachlan Erskine said Julina’s is the first top ATAR he has seen in 20 years at the school, but strong results are common despite the area’s refugees and new immigrants, many of whom arrive at the schools without speaking English.

“A lot of our students achieve highly,” he said. “Julina is an outstanding example, but we consistently get a lot of band 6 results.

“Throughout the schools in the network, our results in NAPLAN and the HSC show high growth. The teachers and staff are very dedicated. Although it might be a disadvantaged area, the value put on education [by families] is very high.”

The schools also work together to train teachers, and there is a strong focus on literacy. “A lot of that is seen in the growth and results. We are very much data informed, and data driven in terms of our approach, so really looking at NAPLAN results, HSC results, we do a lot of evaluation and analysis, and then try to target teaching and programming to build that,” he said.

“Because they’re great schools and a great atmosphere, we retain a lot of qualified and experienced staff.”

Many schools in disadvantaged areas produced strong results in 2020, especially those in regional areas.

Casino High, on the NSW north coast, which is in the lowest quintile of advantage, achieved seven band 6s. Carinya Christian School in Tamworth, also in the lowest quintile, achieved 14 top results, while Inverell High achieved 13.

In Sydney, at Doonside High four students achieved seven band 6s in English advanced, visual arts, biology, French and community and family studies. Strathfield South High, which also has a higher-than-average level of disadvantage, achieved 14.

While Julina was busy doing the school work that would earn her a bunch of band 6s and a top state rank in economics, she was also the Cabramatta co-captain, raised money for bushfire victims, and was selected to represent Australia in a STEM competition.

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