A resounding success: Meriden completes historic online HSC Trial Exams

31 August 2021

Meriden has again proven it is at the forefront of innovation in education as it wraps up its first-ever HSC Trial Examinations to be undertaken by students remotely. The School is proud to have facilitated equitable and reliable online exams during the state-wide lockdown.

Year 12 girls and their families were relieved the exams could go ahead, giving students the opportunity to showcase their uninterrupted learning as they move closer to the HSC and their aspirations beyond it.

Meriden Principal, Dr Julie Greenhalgh, said the School’s leadership team made preparations for a range of Year 12 examination scenarios when Sydney’s lockdown commenced in July, including online and covid-safe onsite exams.

“We highly value the Trial Exams and we wanted to do everything we possibly could to ensure our girls could complete them,” she said.

“We know our students have continued to work hard throughout the online learning period, persevering even on challenging days. We wanted to give them the opportunity to show us what they know. Additionally, we wanted to identify any gaps in the girls’ learning and any room for improvement, because the period after the Trial Examinations is one of the most valuable periods of learning for Year 12 students. Final progress before the HSC is usually based on feedback they receive from the Trials. Furthermore, the Trial exams offer reliable, valid and fair data about the students’ academic performance in the event that we need to provide an estimate for an HSC result. We’re not anticipating having to do this but it’s very good to have backup data, just in case – and we’re doing a lot of ‘just in case’ planning this year!”

In an extraordinary convergence of academic and technical expertise, the School facilitated forty-seven online exams over eleven days.

The process was smooth and the girls were well-supported. For each exam, students entered a digital “examination room” before breaking off into small groups which were closely invigilated by teaching staff. Prior to the commencement of each exam, the invigilator asked each student individually to present their workspace and surroundings to demonstrate they were compliant with the rules of the examination. Students were not permitted access to digital devices other than the computer running the exam software. A webcam provided invigilators a clear view of each student working at all times. To support the integrity of the assessment, the School invested in a number of cutting-edge digital tools, including a secure browser that locked down access to other sites and software while the exam was in session. Essays were typed directly into the examination software, while subjects requiring calculations, such as Mathematics, Physics, Engineering and Chemistry, were done on paper and then scanned into the browser.

Dr Greenhalgh said the historic exams would not have been possible without the passion and dedication of Meriden staff and the diligence and enthusiasm of the students.

“Our staff were pioneering new technology and combining it with the highest standards of academic rigour. I’d like to acknowledge Mrs Christine Kenny, Head of Teaching and Learning; Mr Ben Robson, Coordinator of Learning Link – Technology and Innovations; Mr Richard Loane, Dean of Studies; Ms Danuta Orlowski, Year 12 Coordinator; and all the Heads of Department and Year 12 teachers. Preparing school-based exams is a feat in itself, let alone doing this while also implementing this new online system, its processes and fail-safes. Our staff ensured the system was efficient, secure and user-friendly, adapted papers appropriately and made time to support the girls as they practised using the technology. They are extraordinarily hardworking and I thank them for their ongoing dedication to our students and the School,” Dr Greenhalgh said.

“Additionally, our students have shown that they really are trailblazers who will adapt as necessary to succeed in a changing world. I am certain that this attitude will stand them in good stead for a world in which technology plays such a large role and in which optimism, flexibility and confidence to overcome challenges are required for success,” Dr Greenhalgh said.