Dear PLC Sydney Community


video-gallery-sidebar-icon Click the image to watch Vlog #6 From The Principal - Changes to the HSC

I am sure everyone in our community has heard that changes are being made to the Higher School Certificate. In this edition of Connections I wish to summarise some of the main changes for you.

The first year group to complete the ‘new’ HSC will be Year 12/2019.

The changes to the HSC are as follows. This summary comes from the report of the Board of Studies to the Association of Heads of Independent Schools in August 2016: 

1.The new HSC has a literacy and numeracy requirement. Students must achieve the equivalent of at least a Band 8 on the NAPLAN tests by Year 12 in these areas. At PLC Sydney about 89% of students have reached this standard by Year 9. This gives us three years to work with students who require further assistance. Students can complete the literacy requirements up to five years after they complete the HSC.

2.Students will be able to do the literacy and numeracy tests on demand online

3.Later this year BOSTES will release Pathways courses in Numeracy and Literacy to assist students to achieve the levels required

4.A key aspect of the new HSC English course is that literacy and numeracy expectations are explicit

5.Life Skills students (i.e., students in our Transition classes) are not required to reach this standard. The ‘Life Skills’ HSC will not require the HSC literacy/numeracy standard

6.Henceforth there will be a constant five year review cycle for all curricula in the HSC

7.The current review of English, Mathematics, Science and History is emphasising depth in understanding over breadth of knowledge

8.Some courses (the basic level courses in English and Mathematics – PLC Sydney does not offer these courses to the mainstream) will offer optional examinations. The notion of an optional examination is to support the student who wishes to challenge themselves

9.Publication of the final version of curricula will be early 2017 for a 2018 start and a 2019 HSC

10.New Courses:

a.Extension Science – bringing this subject into line with Mathematics, English and History

b.University courses for high performers – PLC Sydney already offers one first year University course in Computer Science. In future these courses may count towards the ATAR

c.Borrowing from other credentials – it is possible that the VCER (Victorian final exam) courses in Philosophy and Psychology might be offered.


a.The number of tasks will be capped:

i.3 in the preliminary year (Year 11)

ii.4 in the HSC year (Year 12)

b.There will be greater stringency re at-home assessments to limit opportunities for plagiarism
c.HSC questions will be redesigned

i.The view of BOSTES is that questions have been too predictable

ii.The new HSC will value student capacity to adapt knowledge

iii.The length of time for examinations is being challenged – they are asking ‘Do we need three hour examinations?’

12.There will be a common scale for Mathematics courses with a proportion of common content to allow scaling

13.Research is being done on computer-based assessment:


i.There is a desire to feed students different types of questions according to their answers to earlier questions. Examinations would thus be differentiated

ii.For example: If a student answered a question correctly they would be provided with a harder question next. If they answered the original question incorrectly, they would receive a question with less difficulty next. This would enable assessments to be created that would differentiate across all levels.

In the follow-up consultation with the Heads of Independent Schools there was significant praise for the following:

1.The decision in English to include studies based on genres, an understanding of how language works, and the Canon of literature as well as the current post-structural model

2.The decision in Mathematics to place all students on a common scale as it should provide greater reward for students attempting higher levels

3.The new Science courses

4.Ancient History and Extension History courses

PLC Sydney is undertaking significant work with students in Years 910 to ensure they are well-prepared for their senior studies. Our use of BOSTES and Cambridge courses is paying dividends in this regard.

Dr Paul Burgis