From the Archives

As another school year comes to a close, we congratulate the Class of 2023 on their achievements and wish them well for the future, whatever it holds. 

In many ways, this time of year is one of reflection so this final instalment of “From the Archives” looks back on some of the changes to the final years of secondary school education, and the evolution of the system of examination.  

Many of us are familiar with, and are products of, the six years of high school education which culminates in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) examination. Some will also recall the School Certificate examination, which was held at the end of Year 10 until it was replaced in 2012 by the Record of School Achievement (RoSA). The School Certificate examination was first held in 1965, at the end of “Fourth Form”, the fourth year of the secondary education course. It had replaced the Intermediate Certificate, which was last held under the old system of secondary education in 1963.  

The Intermediate Certificate examination was first held in 1912, conducted by the Board of Examiners (members of whom were drawn from the University of Sydney and the Department of Education). When it was first introduced, the examination was taken at the end of the second year of secondary school. From 1919, it was taken after three years. 

The introduction of the HSC in 1967 also saw the introduction of the sixth year of secondary education, then known as “Sixth Form”. Prior to that, the Leaving Certificate was the pinnacle of secondary school, and the senior class was the “Upper First Class”. Conducted by the Board of Examiners, the Leaving Certificate examination was first introduced in 1913. 

Initially these examinations were set and marked externally. The examinations were initially overseen by the Board of Examiners, which was replaced by the Board of Secondary School Studies. This body comprised representatives from universities, the Department of Education and both government and non-government schools. Having gone through several more iterations, the Board has evolved into the New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA), which sets and monitors quality teaching, learning, assessment and school standards across NSW. 

Over the years, a school assessment component was introduced to both the School Certificate and the HSC. One thing that has remained constant is the looming presence of a final examination marking the formal end of secondary schooling. And as those of us who have “survived” the experience can attest, while important, it is not the “be all and end all”.