Why should any school kid have to commute up to 5 hours a day?

Quick fire update: smell of smoke here in Wollongong this morning, but Fires Near Me shows nothing close.  Could be hazard reduction…

A story that got my attention over the weekend was ‘No time to be kids’: The students travelling 100km a day for selective schools.

Data obtained from the NSW Department of Education under freedom of information laws also shows more than 300 students are travelling more than 100 kilometres a day between areas such as Frenchs Forest and Camden, or Moore Park and Wollongong to get to school.

Now of course I have a bit of a stake in this discussion, as a quick read of posts here tagged “Sydney High” will show.

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October 2008: SBHS/SGHS students arriving at Central Station en route home

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There was a student I recall a few years after Scott Morrison — and yes, I was working at SBHS from Term 3 1985! — who travelled from Liverpool, 40 km SW of Sydney, but that is nothing compared to a current student at SBHS who travels daily from Wollongong — 86 km! (I myself 1955-1959 as a kid travelled 31 km from Sutherland/Kirrawee/Jannali, and some classmates came from Cronulla, same by road but further by train. So not entirely a new thing.)

However, Wollongong? Ridiculous, in my opinion, especially given there is an excellent selective school right here: Smiths Hill High.

Back to that student from Liverpool last century: a memorable character. He arrived just for Years 11 and 12 and was absolutely determined. His background was far from affluent. In fact — and I am sure this cannot happen now — he told me near the end of Year 12 that he had been covering school expenses by making donations to the sperm bank!

Back in April 2006!

Yes, I was blogging way back then, and even further back! I have repaired the links.

In the city seeing my brother off

25 APR 2006

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It was a bit complicated getting to King Street Wharf as the city was still sealed off pretty much for Anzac Day. The bus deposited me near St James Church, not exactly close, but I got there in time after negotiating Martin Place which was full of people in kilts and/or playing bagpipes. Some Scottish regiment having a remembrance ceremony.

After seeing my brother off, I walked back to Circular Quay via the historic Argyle Cut (see pic) where you may still make out the occasional broad arrow left by the convict roadbuilders.

Easter Sunday in Surry Hills

16 APR 2006

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Just got a phone message from my brother Ian, who lives in Tasmania, from the above ship saying he was now off the town of Shellharbour, where our father was born, and expected to arrive in Sydney Harbour at 11am. So that’s where I am off to shortly.

Then at 1pm it’s off to St Vincent’s Hospital. Sirdan and I are having lunch with Lord Malcolm — I did see him yesterday — at a Thai restaurant near the hospital.

So no church for me today, but a special day nonetheless.

My past catches up

25 APR 2006

Got this email.

Hi Neil,

I was a former student of yours at Sydney Boys High. Perhaps you still remember my name. I certainly remember most of the stories you told us in English class, e.g. the fellow you met as a child named ‘Rear Admiral Sir Leighton Bracegirdle’. I also remember your recital of Caedmon’s hymn with proper old English pronunciation.

To cut a long story short, I am now working as a Computer Systems Engineer in the city and I am still in the office. I decided to do what I do whenever I am bored – an unclaimed money search.

Do you by any chance have ‘Thomas’ as a middle name? If so, the NSW Office of State Revenue has $76.80 of your money. Even if it’s not you, it should mean something that I thought of you when thinking of people to look up.


Indeed it does; but my middle name is not Thomas. Thanks, V.L. This sort of thing happens from time to time. 🙂

And look what intellectual stuff I taught in class, even if at that time — it was during John Howard’s first term — the reactionaries were bleating about dumbed-down syllabuses just as much as they do today! Pests.

Oh, and I didn’t meet the Rear Admiral: he spoke to us at a school assembly, possibly for Anzac Day.

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Leighton Bracegirdle in 1932

More from 2009: Sydney High revisited

Seems like yesterday! See also Tag Archives: Sydney High.

29 January: “The Mine”

They’ve been doing a lot of work at Sydney Boys High. The grounds look fantastic, even if the main building is due for a paint job. Even the web site has had a makeover!

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Some of the Class of 2014 (!) lining up outside the gym. I was Class of 1959!

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New tennis courts. There are new basketball courts on “The Flat”

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These were amazing, changing as you walked around them. Note Craig Wing on the mug shots top left, and Andrew Goodwin behind the top head…

Sixty years on

Yes, next year will mark sixty years since my final year as a student at Sydney Boys High. They had trams still then — I wonder if the troubled new ones will be running next year?

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See also 1959 revisited and The year my voice broke…, which refers to 1958.

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Recently I downloaded the latest Flying Higher — an excellent new publication. And look, my Maths teacher 1958-59 is still with us! He was my boss too from late 1985-1987, and then 1989 through the early 90s. He claimed, probably correctly, that I owed him a Maths assignment from 1958…

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How many HSCs is that now?

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald two once-familiar faces illustrating They topped the HSC over the past 40 years – what are they doing now?

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Jason Hui (left) who topped the state in the 1988 HSC, is now a gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Sydney. 

I remember them both but not from Year 12 as 1988 I was at Masada College in St Ives.

Actually I have gone through 50 years of HSC, though out of the fray for the last eight. Some tutoring in Sydney’s Chinatown in 2010 was my last hurrah.

Now as for FIFTY years ago see Shire: Jannali, Cronulla, family.

1966 I began teaching at Cronulla High School, now in Scott Morrison’s electorate. My second HSC class there — and the second HSC ever! — have a reunion planned. I have been invited, but am not sure I can make it. Night-time events in Sydney are an issue for me these days, but I will surely be there in spirit.

Class of 1968 member Paul Weirick has also sent a list of those attending. Brought back lots of memories.  Fortunately, I had been able to attend a couple of events around the 50th anniversary of the school itself — so I haven’t totally missed out.

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1978 I was on secondment to teacher training at the University of Sydney, but knew the Class of 78 at Wollongong High.

1988 is already covered. 1998 I was at Sydney Boys High again. Also finishing my Grad Cert TESOL at UTS.

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Students at Sydney Boys High School sit their HSC English exam on October 25, 1981.

Photo from Essential Kids.

More on Jason Hui — found online.

HSC stars 10 years on  (Edited Extract From “Sunday Life” January ’99)

Jason Hui, 27, of Sydney Boys’ High, came first in the state in 1988 with 496. He studied 4U maths, 2U English, 2U physics, 2U chemistry and 2U economics and is a doctor.

When he arrived in Australia at 13, Hui’s English skills were poor. He started year 9 and could barely understand the teacher.

His parents had sent him and his older brother out from Hong Kong to study. They boarded with an Australian family throughout high school and their parents visited when they could. “If you come from overseas with the aim of studying and going to university, you tend to be very focused and less distracted by other things. As the HSC drew closer I just studied whenever there was time. But I loved maths, physics and chemistry so it wasn’t a burden.

“Working hard was the norm in my school. It was a fantastic year with a lot of very bright people—there were two 4-Unit maths classes. I think we all pushed each other along and there was a lot of competition. I’m sure I wouldn’t have done as well at another school.”

At the time, Hui was tossing up between medicine and engineering and says he probably chose medicine “because there were a lot of engineers in my family and I wanted to do something different.” Looking back, it was the right choice. I can’t imagine myself in anything different.

“The amazing thing about medicine is you never stop learning. At each stage you encounter new situations and you have new and difficult decisions to make. That’s what makes it so interesting.”

Hui did six years at Sydney University, sharing the University Medal with Mark Gorbatov (88)—a former Sydney Boys’ classmate who came second in the HSC in the same year with 495.

“When I did the HSC, people said it was the hardest exam you ever did. At Uni, you quickly realise that is totally untrue. Exams get harder as you become more advanced and studying and working at the same time is much harder. To work 9-10 hours a day and then get home, have dinner and spend three or four more hours studying is very difficult.”

And that sparks my memory! I recall — and this was before my getting expertise in teaching English as a second language — seeing in 1985-6 that Jason had a problem. I referred him to a then neighbour of mine in Chippendale — unfortunately I can’t recall his name: a delightful young man who was then doing Linguistics at Sydney University under the famous Professor Michael Halliday and Dr Jim Martin. The neighbour gave Jason some help with his English.