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May 18, 2021

Byron Steiner principal rejects ‘HSC cheating’ claim

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The SMH yesterday that highlighted the Byron Steiner School's high rate of 'misadventure' claims in relation to the 2014 HSC exams.
The SMH yesterday that highlighted the Byron Steiner School’s high rate of ‘misadventure’ claims in relation to the 2014 HSC exams.

Chris Dobney

The principal of Cape Byron Steiner School, Nerrida Johnson, has told Echonetdaily she was dismayed that a reference to the school had been included in a Sydney Morning Herald article on HSC cheating.

Yesterday’s article, entitled ‘The many ways to (attempt) to cheat in the HSC’ was accompanied by an infographic that included a section on so-called ‘misadventure’ applications in a highlighted box.

It showed that 25 per cent of Cape Byron HSC students lodged misadventure applications last year, the second highest percentage in the state.

Ms Johnson said the percentage hides the fact that Byron Steiner has a tiny HSC cohort compared to most, with just 24 students last year completing it.

She added that the misadventure applications were not cheating but a request for special consideration in extenuating circumstances and that the school was confident its students’ applications last year were bona fide.

‘Misadventure applications are where an HSC student is away or sick, or something happens on the day of the exam that could affect the student’s performance of the exam. The Board of Studies has provided an opportunity for those students to put in an application for special consideration,’ Ms Johnson told Echonetdaily.

‘I know when I was down in Bellingen there were floods that cut off the river, for example.

‘It’s not just a matter of saying “oh, I felt sick”, they actually have to provide medical certificates and a fair bit of documented evidence about what that misadventure is.

‘In the past we’ve had students that have been diagnosed with glandular fever and they would get special consideration for that.

‘The school’s role is simply to assist them with the paperwork, to sign off and say “yes, the student didn’t turn up to the exam” or “yes the student turned up to the exam and couldn’t speak” or whatever it was.

‘The school signs off on the documentation and sends it off to the Board of Studies; then the Board of Studies looks at that and makes a decision about whether they will provide special consideration and what form that special consideration will take.’

She said that usually the Board would not have students re-sit the exam because ‘the exam paper’s already out there’, rather they would ‘take into account their major work and internal assessments’ when giving a final mark.

Ms Johnson said an ‘awful virus swept the school late last year that wiped out almost all of our staff at one point’ and that could have distorted the percentage figure.

‘If you have a big school with, say, 600 students, 25 per cent would be a concerning figure.

‘In a small school like ours it only takes a couple of students and something like that to be going around and suddenly you’ve got a problem.’

‘And these are students who have studied really hard all year, come to their final exam and wake up with a horrible virus and are horribly sick – then that is going to affect how you are going to perform and you have every right to ask for that to be considered.’

She added that ‘we would like all our students to be really well, to be fit and healthy and to sit their final exams because our students actually get really high results and do well.’

‘One of our students had the highest score for drama in the state, we had a significant number scoring in the high 90s. Our students actually did quite well in their own right without special consideration. It was one of our best years, in fact.’

without special consideration. It was one of our best years, in fact.’

A spokesperson from the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) told Echonetdaily, ‘Illness/misadventure applications are for students who become ill or suffer an accident that affects their exam performance, including bushfires (such as 2013 for the Blue Mountains), bad weather (in Lithgow last year), family tragedy, or an accident on way to or just before an exam.

‘They do not confer any advantage. If an illness/misadventure application is upheld, BOSTES will consider other indicators of the students’ performance, such as school assessment marks, to ensure that the students are not disadvantaged by this occurrence.’


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