TOP ATAR 99.95
13 ATARS OVER 99 (HSC & IB)
11 ATARs over 95
3 All-Round Achievers
14 HSC showcase and exhibition nominations
31 ATARs over 95
IB score 39/45
(97.3 ATAR equivalent)
IB score 29.8/45
Now that both our HSC and IB results for the Class of 2020 are in, we are able to share a complete picture of the very strong performances of our students in a tumultuous year that I am sure we were all happy to see the back of. A particular congratulations to Alistair Shaw, who achieved a perfect score of 45/45 in the IB and an ATAR of 99.95.
It is fair to say all the boys rose to the unique challenges of 2020 with most of them reaching – and in some cases far exceeding – their goals. Congratulations to every student, and especially to those who developed the inner resolve to work harder than they thought they could. I also hope that they feel like they have the integrity, the rigour and the character to now head confidently into the next stage of their lives.
Alistair’s outstanding achievement is just part of our 2020 story. Toby Goldschmidt and Kevin Wang were hot on his heels, both achieving ATARs of 99.75. During their time at Newington, all three proved themselves to be well-rounded young men. As well as his academic achievements, Alistair won the Jack Thorncroft Trophy for Loyalty and Service in 2020, and was Captain of both Fencing and Gender Equity. He is a Full College Prefect. Kevin Wang holds Manton House Honour Colours, was our Vice Captain of Music, holds Music Colours (having performed with our choir, the Senior Jazz Combo, the Stage Band, the Symphonic Winds and the Symphony Orchestra) and is a Full College Prefect. His piano playing is also pretty extraordinary. Toby Goldschmidt, our Captain of Water Polo (he played at representative level) and Kelynack Vice Captain, won the ONU Prize for Leadership, Scholarship and Sport. A Full College Prefect, he also holds Colours for Swimming and was a member of the Symphonic Winds. He is also great for a conversation in the driveway. There are many, many similar stories of all-round character and involvement.
Every year, students from across NSW are nominated and selected to be part of a series of HSC showcases and exhibitions. This year, 13 Newington boys were nominated in Art, Drama and Design and Tech.
At the same time, some of the results we are proudest of come from boys who were not aiming at the high 90s. I salute the boys who got a 70 ATAR when they had been tracking on a 60, or boys who managed to complete 10 units of HSC study when writing has been a challenge since the day they started Kindergarten. They generally do not want to be singled out, but rest assured I see them- their fortitude to complete the HSC in these circumstances is something I really admire.
As a school that offers both the HSC and the IB, we decided to wait until we had all the data before providing you with our 2020 results. The combined statistics paint a very different picture to the tables provided by media and give our boys good reason to be proud. Twenty per cent of our 2020 cohort achieved an ATAR (or ATAR equivalent) of more than 95, an outstanding result. Sixty per cent achieved an ATAR over 80. In terms of the average ATAR achieved by the cohort, they are our third strongest set of results over the last decade (they were pipped only by 2017 and 2014) which is pretty extraordinary given the challenges they faced. As universities’ admission processes evolve, a large proportion of our boys were offered places in their undergraduate degrees of choice before sitting their examinations, while the strong majority of others will be taking up their first preferences or re-evaluating their options after surpassing their own expectations.
From this year HSC and IB results are due to be released on the same day, allowing the boys to celebrate as a single group and our community to get a complete picture on the same day. This change will be warmly welcomed by both our boys and staff.
A perfect score – the holy grail of every IB student – wasn’t really on Alistair Shaw’s radar.
He’d started the two-year IB course hoping for 42/45 (no small achievement, given that would be an ATAR of 99.2).
Now, his final mark – 45/45 – has landed him an ATAR of 99.95 and earned him highest score at Newington College for 2020.
Alistair’s was not a typical journey to full marks.
His initial score of 43 had giving him entry to his chosen course, a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne. Then his philosophy exam and his extended essay were remarked.
The result: two extra marks and the coveted perfect score.
For Alistair, the turn of events was ‘a bit surreal’.
‘I had spent the last few weeks working down my expectations,’ he said.
‘At the same time, I’d tried to get away from seeing the final score as a reflection of how hard I’ve worked or how smart I am, so by the time the results came out, I was happy with getting into my course.
‘Since there was a fair delay between getting my first mark and getting the remarks the final result was a bit surreal. The reactions of my friends made it feel a bit more real.’
Alistair was drawn to the IB because of the independent nature of study it offered.
‘The IB program allows students to study how they like, without the distractions of regular assessments,’ he said.
‘At the same time, a lot of subjects reward students for perusing topics they’re especially interested in. For example, the whole internal component in most subjects is simply one long investigative piece wholly chosen by the student.’
Alistair studied Italian, Maths, Physics, Philosophy, Language and Literature and History for his IB diploma.
The support he received from his teachers during his years at Newington (‘a massive help’) and the expectation of his parents that he work to his capacity rather than focus relentlessly on his marks were key factors in his final result.
‘My parents thought I did my best. Since they were already happy with how I balanced my social and academic lives, in their eyes the final score was a bonus.’
Co-curricular activities also played an important role.
‘They are also something I’m massively grateful for,’ Alistair said. ‘They helped me develop as a person and not just a study machine.’
Alistair is already looking to the future.
‘I hope to follow whatever opportunities pop up and eventually pursue philanthropy.’
Kevin Wang – one of Newington’s most accomplished musicians – has proved himself a real all-rounder.
His IB mark of 44/45 puts him among the state’s highest achievers in subjects ranging across Italian, Economics, Physics, Mathematics and – of course – Music. He admits he’s ‘extremely excited’ for what the future holds.
‘I’m glad that my work has paid off after these last couple of years … I’m excited and kind of relieved at the same time,’ he said.
Kevin’s mum was alongside when he checked his results. He wasn’t expecting the impressive score, which equates to an ATAR of 99.75, and was ‘pleasantly surprised’. He wasn’t the only one.
‘My family was very happy, including my dog!’
Kevin puts his success in the two-year IB program down to constant effort, attention to past papers, his co-curricular activities and keeping things in perspective.
‘My main tip with studying is two things: First of all, and it might sound a bit counter intuitive but don’t put too much stress on yourself when studying,’ he said. ‘And don’t take it too hard. Do what you feel is right, not what you feel you must do.
‘I think Co-curricular is also quite important, especially at Newington because everyone is very lucky to go to a school which offers a very broad range of co-curricular. I did a lot music when I was here, including the musical, as well as sport from Year 7 to Year 11, which really helped me cope with the academic stress and to have some time off.”
‘The best part about Newington is the community of students and teachers. The main difference I see with Newington is how close you can be with your teachers, especially in the senior years. Co-curricular activities help strengthen that connection but also give you really good time to reflect and do what you want to do so that when you do need to put your time into studying it’s not as tedious or difficult.’
Kevin hopes to study maths or science at university, and to study overseas (if that’s possible).
‘There’s a chance I might study music too, depending on where I get admitted.’
Samuel Gresham thought he’d do well in the HSC – just not quite as well as he did.
With Band 6s in Biology, Chemistry, Advanced English, and Software Design and Development, an E4 in Mathematics Extension 1 and an E3 in Mathematics Extension 2, all contributing to an ATAR of 98.8, Samuel was ‘more than very excited’ to finally see how the effort he’d put into his HSC had paid off.
‘I thought I’d do well, but it’s always up in the air until you really get them,’ he said.
The Vice Captain of the 2020 Newington Challenge raced downstairs to tell his parents the news (they were unsurprisingly ‘very happy’) before receiving a text from the University of NSW saying he’d gained entry into its Bachelor of Advanced Science and Bachelor of Computer Science degree.
‘I’m really interested right now in pharmacology – making and designing medicines,’ Samuel said. ‘My goal right now is to design drugs and hopefully cure some diseases.’
Samuel attributes his great result to moderation, especially after school had wrapped up and he was in the study period.
‘It was important for me not to get overrun by work,’ he said. ‘It’s almost counter-intuitive but sometimes stepping away from the books and allowing yourself to do things you enjoy really clears your mind and allows you to be more effective when you study.
‘If I was getting stressed or getting questions wrong, I’d just get up and walk around the block or go walk the dogs or I play my guitar.’
And the impact of covid?
‘For me, covid wasn’t too bad. I found it really important to keep in contact with people and I feel very lucky that Newington put so much effort into having online classes.’
Cassidy Cummins saw working on his HSC Visual Arts major project as an escape from a ‘crazy year’.
That attitude has paid off, with Cassidy one of two Newington students to be selected for ARTEXPRESS, the annual exhibition of exemplary work by Visual Arts students.
Cassidy’s HSC body of work, Scars, took his grandma’s diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis as its starting point. His work features a series of detailed drawings of his grandma integrated with complex anatomical imagery and medical notes that fade into the background, mirroring the physical effects of MS. Through the work, Cassidy explored the concept of biological deterioration and complex themes from his own family’s history that parallel the immune system’s self-attack in MS.
Cassidy said his personal emotional connection with the subject matter was an important starting point for the work.
‘It began with asking myself what I really care about and what I have an emotional connection to,’ he said.
Conversations with his grandma helped him to develop his ideas.
‘I talked to her about the emotional aspects of being diagnosed with the disease, learnt from her about our family tree and strange stories from our family history that related to the historical discovery of Multiple Sclerosis.’
Cassidy’s grandma gave him scans of her central nervous system, spinal cord and brain, which he incorporated into his work.
While his grandma was involved in the earlier stages of the creative process, Cassidy said he tried to keep the creation of the works themselves from her.
‘I wanted the end result to be a big reveal,’ he said.
‘She is still in disbelief. It was an emotional moment when she came to the Concordia Gallery to see the portraits and burst into tears.’
Despite the serious subject matter, Cassidy found working on his major project was an escape from the challenges of completing the HSC.
‘It stopped me from going insane while being trapped inside and was a breath of fresh air from studying.’
He said his nomination for ARTEXPRESS came as a surprise.
‘It still feels surreal. It feels good to be able to do something that you love and get recognition for it.’
Cassidy’s work will be shown in the ARTEXPRESS exhibition at The Armory, Sydney Olympic Park, in 2021.
Oscar Liu is clearly comfortable with suspense.
He made a deal with a friend not to check his HSC results until the traditional Newington brunch on the day results were released, then – discovering that his friend had jumped the gun – gave his phone to his brother to check how his subjects had played out.
A few hours after learning that he had landed Band 6s in Business Studies, Earth and Environmental Science, an E4 in Mathematics Extension 1, an E3 in Mathematics Extension 2, a Band 5 in Advanced English and a Band 4 in Legal Studies – giving him an ATAR of 97.95 – he still hadn’t told his parents (although he thought his mum might know, her number having been the contact for his ATAR).
His ATAR was almost three points above his expectations and has Oscar – who hopes to become an investment banker – exploring an expanded range of options.
‘I’m looking at doing engineering and commerce at the University of NSW and now I’m considering actuarial because of my ATAR. When I explored doing actuarial I was told “no bonus points, you need 97.5”. I didn’t think I’d get that ATAR … but now I have.’
Oscar was ‘gobsmacked, just really shocked’ when he received his mark.
‘My goal was a 95. I put my marks into ATAR calculators throughout the year and it was about that. But I smashed it by three points!’
His advice to boys below him is to know the syllabus and focus on the details of each subject.
‘Really look at your trials and just crack down on everything. I ignored the things I already knew – you know what you already know. It’s the ones you don’t know that you need to really fine tune. You have to keep on practising.
‘For me, it was a case of going to the study centre where it’s peaceful, it’s quiet and you can put in the work for the whole day.
‘Your HSC is going to be over in a flash so you might as well put in the work.’
How do you feel after two intensive years of study for the International Baccalaureate that has yielded a mark right at the top end of the mix?
‘It’s quite a big change from having been to school every day for so many years,’ says Toby Goldschmidt, who achieved 44/45 in the IB and has applied to study a Commerce/Law degree at Sydney University.
‘To be honest, I’m enjoying the feeling of not knowing what to do with myself!’
Toby opted to find out his result alone in his bedroom, but says his family were thrilled when they heard what he had achieved.
‘Mum and dad were very happy. My brother was there too, and we sort of cheered for a little bit.’
Toby captained Newington’s water polo team, competed with the AAGPS U17s and holds a Gold Service Learning award. His IB subjects included English (the subject he says he most enjoyed studying for), Italian, Mathematics, Economics, Geography and Physics.
He says balance is a critical factor for any senior student.
‘My advice would be to have balance in your study – and not just in what you’re studying but also by having a sport and social life. I know people hear that a lot, but that’s because it really does mean a lot.
‘If all you do is study, then it might be difficult to see the bigger picture. A balance works best.
‘When I realised how close exams were I really picked myself up in the things I was least confident in or enjoyed the least, and I think as I got more confident I was then able to enjoy studying more.’
‘My advice would be to not think that your final ATAR means everything but to definitely give it your best shot.’