It will be a bumper year for Gunnedah’s high schools in 2019.
More than 200 students are enrolled in Year 7 for the start of term one at St Mary’s College, Gunnedah High School and Carinya Christian School.
Carinya will introduce Year 7 for the first time and will have one class, which will be capped at 24. Currently, there are 20 enrolments.
“We don’t have a lot of spaces left,” principal Chad Kentwell said.
“We’ve got students coming from as far away as Narrabri.”
Gunnedah High School has 90 students enrolled for Year 7 so far.
St Mary’s is boasting the highest number of enrolments at this time, with 93 students on the books – a number which hasn’t been matched in 18 years. The closest was 90 students in 2014.
Max Quirk has been principal since 2013 and said it was a significant jump from the 67 students enrolled in Year 7 for 2018.
“It’s the first time anyone can remember having a waiting list,” Mr Quirk said.
Teens are also feeding into the school from out of town, with “more from Boggabri than ever” and “big numbers” from Narrabri.
The principal attributed the 2019 enrolments to a number of key elements including a renewed focus on learning, and the Building Links program, which gives Year 6 students a taste of high school.
“I think the main factor is a cultural shift in the school; that we are a place of learning,” Mr Quirk said.
“We come to learn and every student has a right to learn in every lesson every day.”
It’s the first time anyone can remember having a waiting list.Max Quirk, St Mary's College principal
Initiatives include award presentations at the weekly assembly and the introduction of a a new role – leader of pedagogy – to help maintain and develop quality teaching and learning.
Following the release of the 2017 NAPLAN results, the school resolved to pour resources into improving literacy, introducing four classes a fortnight for Years 7-9.
“Most of our learning comes from reading and understanding,” Mr Quirk said.
“That’s why literacy is so important – it improves learning across every subject.”
A new initiative breaking ground is the creation of mentoring groups for male students. The school has been trialling the concept with Year 9 and 10 students this term with positive results.
“We’re targeting boys and the way boys learn,” Mr Quirk said.
The students undertake one 20-minute activity at the start of each day and also recently embarked on an excursion to Lake Keepit where they were set challenges including building a raft with limited materials.
“The boys liked it and the teachers think it is working well,” Mr Quirk said.