I’ve read a lot of blogs and articles on this topic of the 2021 HSC recently. Most of them have been penned by politicians or education higher ups. You know, people who know all about the plight of HSC students, without having even been remotely near one of you in the flesh for decades.

And none of them have hit the mark. Not one.

So today, I write you to both:

  1. Confirm that, yes, this situation officially sucks. It is major poo sandwich territory. Sometimes, we need this acknowledgement.
  2. Give you heart that you WILL survive this and other adversities. Because you can do tough stuff.

Year 12, you are absolutely correct in thinking that no one is really talking about the fact that your final two years of schooling have been a festering shit storm. Year 11 began with horrendous bush fires and your schooling experience has been punctuated by extended lockdowns, death by zoom classes (or so you tell me) and torturous postponements of your final exams. You know…for your ‘wellbeing.’

After 13 years of toil, no one is talking about the ripping away of your rites of passage: proper graduation and award ceremonies, fun teacher student activities, trivia nights, scavenger hunts, muck up day activities. The events that ALL students, rich, poor, sporty, musical, academic alike, begin envisioning themselves participating in with eager eyes in Year 7. The events which actually keep many students who HATE school attending.

Here I am delivering my Captain’s Speech to our graduating class (1996) yep…I am old.


Year 12 Formal in the fabulous 90’s.

Unlike the HSC examinations, which seem to have no expiry date and to be as expanding as the elastic in the pandemic diet trackies we playfully joke about on our zooms, devastatingly, these events may never be rescheduled.

Sadly, some of you won’t even be able to remember what your last day of school was like.

Year 12, you are right in saying that no one is dissecting the utter inequities of your 2021 HSC. The fact that some students, particularly those in LGA’s of concern, haven’t physically been at school or seen their teachers for whole terms, whereas those geographically blessed have continued to access face to face teaching and maintain some semblance of a normal routine. The fact that even now with most of NSW locked down, some of you are smashing your revision out in plush study nooks, with personalised schedules, while nibbling macrobiotic snacks, while others are struggling to access the resources, technology and well…Wifi that school provided them.

You’ve now sat your HSC trials (ermmm…actually, some of you have sat your HSC trials at school, others have sat them online, open book, at home, others still have had their trials cancelled and been given alternate tasks, while finally, others have received an estimate). And yes…this mish-mosh of incomparable marks IS contributing to your overall HSC…ewww, David.

You’ve been told you WILL sit your HSC a full month after you should have. You’ve suffered widespread gossip and news reporting of exams being cancelled, or cancelled for certain subjects. There was even talk of you sitting your exams outside! You’ve been told examination schedules will be published…and they have been published. Accidentally. And then ripped down off the NESA website again. And finally published again this week.

Thus, as no educational body or spokesperson will acknowledge the true suckyness of the situation…allow me!

Class of 2021 – We hereby acknowledge the poo sandwich that you are currently eating as you continue your marathon preparation for HSC.
Your parents acknowledge it, we acknowledge it. We all think it suckety sucks.

We understand when we see your colour drained faces (across a screen) and hear you say things like:
“I wish they’d just estimate us.”
“I have sub-zero motivation and just want it over.”
“I’m still trying, but I’m not sure how long I can maintain this momentum for.”

With that done, we must now take a turn to positive town! Pom poms out and lessssgo!

When we reach 70% vaccination rates…

Some schools remain ever hopeful that you may return for some much-needed revision and final frivolities. How good will that be!? And even those schools who have announced that school finishes next week are hoping that you may return for some 1:1 teacher advice next term. And we’ll be back next term in person the millisecond Health NSW gives the nod!

As a business, while we’d normally be ramping up for HSC Holiday Masterclasses…this year – we’ve cancelled them.

Because for the first time ever…we’re encouraging (and the inner tyrant in me is struggling to form the words as I type them LOL)

Completely Study Free Holidays. Told you there was some good news in all of this!

We think it’s essential that you unplug, sit in the sun, exercise, spend time with your friends and family, watch bad reality television and just be! Woot Woot!

And when we return in Term 4 (online until we’re out of lockdown), Week 1 of Term 4 to usher our 2021 HSC Boot Campers through their final weeks of school? In these last weeks, we’re going to try and help you see the act of learning, not as ONLY being about ‘acing exams’ or ‘getting into uni’, rather more as a way to help you find a bit of joy in what has been a shitty ol’ year. And to teach you some life lessons about finishing strong – because, more than anything you deserve results commensurate with your considerable ability.  

About Clever Cookie Academy - photo of Peita Mages teaching a classroom of high school students.
Taken pre-Covid…obviously!

Because, in the end…you know what Year 12? Your happiness isn’t solely connected to getting a good HSC mark.

Happiness isn’t getting a 90’s ATAR.

Happiness isn’t getting into university.

Happiness isn’t getting the right job.

Happiness isn’t being rich.

Sometimes happiness is keeping things in perspective and knowing you made the best of a bad situation. And knowing you’re made of tough stuff!

Class of 2021: You are more than a rough last year at school/exam season.

Everything you ARE is enough. Read that again and repeat when in doubt.

Warmest Cookie Wishes,



For full disclosure, I am no longer a classroom based teacher. I resigned 6 months after having been awarded a ‘Minister’s Award for Excellence in Teaching’ (there’s a book in that, LOL). I teach weekly sessions to students based mostly in the Central West of New South Wales through my private business, Clever Cookie Academy, and as such my students sit at the semi-privileged end of things. And, yes, they’re spent too.