James Ruse tops HSC for historic 25th consecutive year as public schools dominate top 10

James Ruse Agricultural High School has claimed the title of NSW’s top school for the 25th year in a row, an unparalleled achievement in the history of the Higher School Certificate.

Baulkham Hills High School was second, with North Sydney Boys’ and Girls’ high schools third and fourth. Sydney Grammar, at fifth, was the only independent school in the state’s top 10.

The top non-selective school was Ascham, at 11th. Mackellar Girls High, part of the Northern Beaches Secondary College (NBSC) network, was the highest-placed public comprehensive school at 43rd. Parramatta Marist High was the top Catholic systemic school at 46th.

Tangara School for Girls, which was forced to close for two weeks in August due to a COVID-19 cluster affecting senior students, climbed 78 places to 25th, its best performance in several years.

Concerns private school students would have an advantage over high-performing public students due to better remote learning resources and a shorter shutdown due to COVID-19 appear to have been unfounded, with more public schools in the top 10 than any year since 2014 and more comprehensive state schools in the top 100 than last year.

It also did not appear to affect overall results among top students, with 17,507 distinguished achievers this year compared with 17,122 in 2019.

Of the top 50 schools, 18 were government selective schools, one was a comprehensive state school, two were Catholic systemic schools, and the rest were independent.

Of 14 independent schools in the top 25, nine were single-sex girls’ schools. Single-sex public comprehensive schools also fared well, with Willoughby Girls’ at 59, NBSC Balgowlah Boys’ campus at 60, and Epping Boys’ High at 76. Chatswood High, a co-ed comprehensive school, was 69th.

The highest-placed Catholic systemic schools were Parramatta Marist High, Brigidine College Randwick at 49th, and St Ursula’s College at 79th.

Consistent improvers in the top 50 included St Luke’s Grammar School, which has climbed from 57th to 24th in the past five years, Loreto Normanhurst, and Al Noori Muslim School.

Overseas schools also performed well. The IPEKA Integrated Christian School in Jakarta, which has offered the HSC for almost 20 years, was 57th, and Australian International School Singapore was 89th, its best ever result.

Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta, which shut for two weeks due to COVID-19, also performed well, with 150 band 6 results.

James Ruse has finished first in the HSC rankings since 1996, when it took the crown off Sydney Grammar. It was originally established as a farming school, and agriculture is still a compulsory subject.

It has become the most sought after of the state’s 50-odd selective schools, and has the highest year 7 entry scores. Alumni include Atlassian founder Scott Farquhar and concert pianist David Fung.

The success rates (the number of band 6s/E4s as a percentage of entries) were slightly lower than last year. In 2019, schools needed a rate of 51.45 to crack the top 10. This year, it was 47.49.

Declan Zammit from Barker College and Sariena Ye from James Ruse Agricultural High School had more placings in particular subjects than any other students with five outstanding results each.

Declan had a first in Latin continuers, two second places for Classical Greek continuers and Classical Greek extension plus a ninth in Maths extension 1 and a 10th in Maths extension 2.

Sariena topped chemistry and physics, plus was ninth in mathematics extension 1 and third in extension 2 as well as equal 11th in Advanced English.

To calculate school and subject rankings the Herald uses Band 6 data from the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) which reflects marks of between 90 and 100.

Each band represents what a student can demonstrate they know, understand and can do. The average performance in most courses is usually a mark in the mid-70s or a Band 4. NESA only provides band 6 HSC data.

The Herald calculates its rankings by using success rates, which are the ratio of band 6 results at a school compared to the number of students that sat exams at the school. The Herald ranks only NSW schools where at least 150 HSC subject results have been registered.

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