“There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” (Colin Powell)

Over the past fortnight, our Year 12 students have completed their final Unit 4 VCE internal assessment tasks and will now receive teacher feedback to direct their focus and areas of study in preparation for the commencement for the VCE Exams in late October. I witness every day at St Catherine’s, our VCE teachers meeting students to ‘go through’ their final assessment pieces, providing integral feedback and, more importantly, feed-forward; what they need to do next time.

Managing a VCE student at home in the coming months is not unlike coaching an elite athlete. They need a well-balanced diet, 7-8 hours of quality sleep, encouragement to believe in their ability to perform and the message that ‘practice, practice, practice’ is key. Equating academic learning with ‘fitness’ conjures up notions of training and practice and is a powerful way to emphasise the control girls can have over their learning; and is something many girls who train for a sport or learn a musical instrument can relate to. This in turn can motivate them to refine their approach to learning and build more productive study behaviours.

For many Year 12 students across Australia, the levels of anxiety is also something that needs to be carefully managed at home, and in partnership with School. Researchers from the University of New South Wales interviewed 722 Year 12 students from a representative sample of Sydney schools, finding that 42% suffered from high-level anxiety and 16% reported severe levels of anxiety. Just over half of the students felt that too much was expected of them in Year 12, identifying workload as the main pressure they faced.

Statistical analysis revealed in the UNSW research that the greatest source of pressure in the following ways: nearly half (44%) said the pressure they felt was self-inflicted, with other sources including family (35%) and school or teachers (21%). Gifted students, however, were the most likely to say that pressure was self-inflicted, with 47% saying they “put pressure on themselves to achieve top marks” compared with 24% of average-ability students.

While the result that 42% of students experience high levels of anxiety in Year 12 is concerning, the UNSW researchers state that ‘it is the impact of pressure’, however, what is most concerning is 44% of students describing themselves as regularly being agitated, irritable or nervous. Academic pressure leads to stress and altered learning behaviours, such as procrastination, lack of sleep and all-night cramming sessions. The result is that even the most academically able students can do poorly on exams due to the impact of stress.

During Term 3, St Catherine’s Years 7-12 students completed the Resilient Youth Survey which has been completed in 800 schools nation-wide by 180,000 young people. The evidence based survey measured student responses to three Resilience Pathways: Safety, Health and Fulfilment. Whilst the survey results were largely encouraging, particularly with our Years 7 and 8 cohorts compared to national results, the survey revealed comparable data showing a level of strain significantly rises in Years 10 to 12.

Youth mental health prevention and management group, Generation Next, has posted a link to an article listing tips for parents and carers on helping children escape the cycle of anxiety. Tips include:

  • Seek to help students manage anxiety rather than remove or avoid stressors.
  • Express confidence that your daughter will learn to manage anxiety over time, and let them know that you appreciate the work it takes to tolerate anxiety in order to do what they want or need to do.
  • Don’t ask leading questions such as ‘Are you anxious about the big test? instead ask open-ended questions such as ‘How are you feeling about the test?’.
  • Model healthy ways of handling anxiety.
  • Listen to your daughter talk out her feelings without resolving that you have to ‘fix’ the problem.
  • Encourage problem-solving: Ask your daughter if they can think of a solution; brainstorm different solutions with them; agree on a solution; remind her to put the plan into action; review the plan at a later time to see if it has worked or whether something needs to be done differently.

To support the VCE students over the coming break, the Nicholas Library will be open from 9.00am-4.00pm and supervised by teaching staff. This will provide a quiet study environment, free from the distractions of the television, the holiday movements of siblings and the opportunity to hand in your phone as you walk in the door of the Library.

I wish all our VCE students the very best in the coming months as they prepare for the forthcoming examination period. The School staff, in particular the VCE Team and Heads of Faculty, have many years (and years) of experience and expertise in assisting girls through the examination period. The feedback and feedforward processes will also prove invaluable to their preparation.

Snowsports Success

Congratulations to our Snowsports team who achieved great success at National Championships at Mt Buller over the weekend. The Junior and Senior School teams again finished in a very commendable first place for the fourth year in a row. It has been a fantastic Snowsports Season, made all the more pleasant this year with an abundance of snow in recent weeks. All girls competing created a wonderful team experience and achieved their very best.  A sea of pale blue could be seen around the mountain with our girls all wearing their St Catherine’s gear.  I would like to thank the Snowsports Auxiliary and all of the parents for their continued support throughout the week of competitions. Your time volunteering as Race Officials (albeit in some less than ideal conditions at times) is greatly appreciated.

All girls performed exceptionally and we are very proud of the efforts of all students. A full set of results are listed in this Blue Ribbon for the Junior and Senior School teams.

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal