Cessnock Electorate Schools

While others are elsewhere singing the praises of Prince Charles it is a privilege for me to speak about the wonderful opportunities I had last week to attend events at schools in my electorate of Cessnock. I spent Wednesday and Thursday visiting schools and I encourage members to visit schools in their electorates and see the good work happening in our schools. It is a great way to recharge our batteries. I started my visit at Cessnock High School’s year 10 authentic assessments for which students put together a résumé with a compilation of their completed work for the year. Students included samples of their work and self-assessment of that work. They presented the work they were most proud of and some of the challenges they had faced. They were asked to talk about their goals and career choices. I found the future career part of the exchange most fascinating and exciting.

Often it appears that the ceiling is set very low for students in the electorate of Cessnock and so they do not aspire to reach high enough goals. But some of the young people I met at these authentic assessments had some very exciting career plans. Some wanted to be bricklayers or work in retail but some wanted to do software game design. One young woman wanted to be a television news host or “anchor woman”, as she put it. Another young woman wanted to work in sports science and assisting international sports teams, potentially working at the Australian Institute of Sport. One student wanted to be a world-class chef and identified a number of restaurants where he wants to work. These are the dreams of the young people at Cessnock High School.

On Wednesday I attended the West Wallsend High School years 9 and 10 gifted and talented enrichment showcase event. Gifted and talented students have been working throughout the year on projects in their areas of interest, and what diverse areas of interest they are. One young fellow was intrigued by architecture and so had researched two world-renowned buildings and written and published a book on one of them. Two young lads had written separate short fiction and at the event read parts of their stories to give us a taste of their work. I can tell you the quality of their work was incredibly high. A young fellow in year 10 had made a cabinet using old-fashioned tongue and groove joinery methods so there was not a nail in sight. His work was said to be of a year 12 presentation standard so he has an exciting future ahead of him. One young girl in year 10 had her art work showcased at the University of Newcastle and she has been guaranteed a place at the university when she finishes year 12. There were dancing and choreography and urban planning projects. One young fellow had built a robotic arm and a year 9 girl performed a piano piece she had composed.

On Thursday morning I attended Cessnock Public School’s celebration of the Aboriginal program that has run throughout the year thanks to Gonski funding. The school had the funding to allocate a teacher to pull together the Aboriginal program as the school has a large Aboriginal population. It was indeed a celebration and I take my hat off to the teacher who has been working on this program, Mr Phil Cooke, and all the hardworking staff. Phil has been teaching for about 20 years and the celebration of this program excited him, as it has given him a new lease on life. One thing students have learned about is traditional Aboriginal methods of healthy cooking and eating thanks to the Deadly Cooking van funded by Community Building Partnerships. It is great to see the money being used for the benefit of students. I say well done to the schools in the Cessnock electorate.