Dear PLC Sydney Community

Connections_Paul Burgis_vertical

In this edition of Connections you will read of the stunning achievements of our students on the Science Teachers Association of NSW Awards Evening. Competing against students from all of the Independent, Selective and Catholic schools (e.g., James Ruse, Knox, Abbotsleigh) PLC Sydney students received prizes for First in Senior Physics, First in Senior Chemistry, First in Senior Biology, Third in Senior Biology, Best in Scientific Measurement and a ‘Young Scientist Award’. You can read the full details later in this newsletter.

When considered alongside the seven senior students who have been selected to attend the National Youth Science Forum, it provides strong evidence for our approach to STEM subjects, an approach that really values depth of learning. To really succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics students need to undertake studies with thought and care.

We always remember our goals of excellence and reach.

I will summarise in these few paragraphs our directions in STEM, but also some of the other changes that you can expect to see over the next twelve to twenty-four months:

  • We already have a Robotics Club in the Senior School. In the Junior School in 2016 we will introduce classes in Technology taught by a specialist. Just as Annie Martin teaches Science, so we will have coding, unpacking the back of computer works (see Raspberry Pi computers) and robotics taught in the Junior School by a specialist. When the new building is finished it will have a Technology laboratory as well as a Science laboratory.
  • Last week we met with the leaders in Education from Taronga Zoo. We are seeking a partnership with them to house some safe species of insects and marine creatures at PLC Sydney and to assist them in their quest to breed at risk species. This will be part of the new playground in the Junior School. You can see the new Junior School facilities by visiting
  • In the Senior School four of our teachers will teach a lighter load in 2016 in order to develop the Cambridge Physics, Chemistry, Technology and Mathematics courses in Years 9 and 10. We already teach the elective Physical Sciences. We are looking at a teaching framework for Years 9-10 that allows students to achieve in Science at a level that suits their needs. All students will undertake the NSW Board of Studies Science. We will have an option for students to still take the very popular Physical Sciences course. We are also going to offer the more exacting individual Physics and Chemistry courses in the middle years. If Australia is serious about teaching the sciences we need to expose them to the hard thinking in science. We will do what might be called the ‘science with zing’ that many schools are promoting as part of STEM, but the best scientists will be produced if we actually teach the Physics and the Chemistry. The results noted above demonstrate this.
  • Of course the new Junior School is being built. It is exciting to watch events occur. This change is one of the most important to be undertaken in the history of the College. We are placing a strong value on the learning that occurs in the younger years.
  • STEM has been highlighted, but there are many areas of growth. Mr David John, fitness coach for, amongst others, the Indian Hockey Team and the Parramatta Eels, will be working with our students in 2016. Each student from Year 7 will be given the opportunity to develop a personal health and fitness program. Students who represent the school in sport will receive this at no extra cost.
  • We are very grateful to the P & F Association for their support of ‘Native Speakers’ in our languages program. The benefits provided by these individuals to our students as they learn French or Chinese or Japanese or Italian are tremendous
  • The continued growth of English as a subject is critical. Teachers have committed to teaching writing very effectively, with a strong feedback loop. We continue to refine this process. We have reintroduced House Debating and our public speaking program continues to be robust.
  • We will have some areas of review in 2016. We will look at the area of ‘Women in Business’. There are opportunities to assist girls to consider how businesses function and to enable them to learn about start-ups. We will consider this carefully. We will also look at the Years 9-10 compulsory History and Geography structure. Our work with Cambridge will continue and we will consider expansion to other subjects. The creative and performing arts are a tremendous aspect of the College. We will look at how we structure these for the future to continue to be a school that can offer productions of the quality of Les Miserables and Art Exhibitions of the quality we offer each year.

One final, unrelated point. We spoke together in the Senior School this week about the events in France. We do pray for Paris. And for Beirut and Mosul. And we are seeking to assist our students to process the events they see on their screens.

Dr Paul Burgis