Just a few years ago, student numbers at Sir Joseph Banks High were dwindling; it was far from the first choice of school for many and its reputation meant neighbouring high schools attracted the best and the brightest.
But within three years, the dedicated team of teachers, led by principal Murray Kitteringham, have turned the school around and for two years in a row, every student from the Revesby school who has applied for a university place has been accepted.
The school expects the same exceptional result this year when the University Admissions Centre (UAC) makes a large round of NSW university offers on Thursday.
Mr Kitteringham said when the school’s population dipped below 500 students, the staff knew they had to make big changes.
“What we wanted was to be the school of choice and it was wasn’t that,” Mr Kitteringham said.
He said the school had a reputation of being a “rough school” and the local Arabic population favoured single-sex schools over Sir Joseph Banks.
But while the school is still dominated by boys, the number of girls is rising and there has been an overall growth in enrolments of 10 per cent in 18 months. It is also the top school in its area for student growth – the most important measure in education.
The school has used some of its federal Gonski funding to employ a youth worker for years 7 to 10 students as well as a senior studies coordinator, Amaney Khazma Roumieh, who develops a personalised learning plan for every senior student.
Her job is to ensure every student knows the pathways available to them, from traineeships and apprenticeships to university.
“For many of our students, they will be the first person from their family to go to university,” Ms Roumieh said.
About half the year 12 cohort, or about 35 students, have applied for university each year for the past two years and all have been offered a place in an undergraduate degree.
The school works closely with the University of Technology Sydney, with university students coming to the school as tutors.
It also has partnerships with Western Sydney University and Sydney University, which makes offers under its Early Offer Year 12 Scheme (E12) for students from a disadvantaged background.
Mr Kitteringham said the teachers’ dedication, including working with students before and after school and during the school holidays, had changed the school.
UAC will release its December offers at 7.30am on Thursday via the UAC app or its website.