McAuley News

Term 3, Issue 7 - 31 July 2020


Term 3 has started with energy and vigour, and it promises to be another term of growth in all areas for your daughters, the students of Catherine McAuley Westmead. You will see, as you read through this newsletter, the learning and productivity of students as they move forward in their studies.

I hope you enjoy reading about the International Space Settlement Design Competition, Year 8 guitar lessons, Year 10 political theatre, Year 12 Society and Culture who are learning about social privilege, and other exciting curriculum initiatives. 

Year 12 are Preparing for the HSC

Year 12 Trial Examinations take place in Week 5; they have been preparing diligently for these important assessments. The results of these exams will be an important opportunity for students to consider the further preparation that will be required as they approach their final HSC exams. Practical exams for Performing Arts subjects are occurring this week and next week. We wish all students the best for their exams, and we remind them that continued resilience and focus will see them through.

Many Year 12 students are nearing the completion of major works in a range of subjects, including Visual Arts, Textiles, Multimedia, Society and Culture and the extension subjects. Students’ works are exceptional, demonstrating their creativity and skill, as well as their persistence. It is a great joy to the entire school community to see their works emerging.

This year has been very difficult for all students, but particularly for Year 12 students who will need to make many concessions to their usual end of school rituals and rites of passage. As we work with the students on shaping a different, but special graduation program, we have continued to be impressed and humbled by their graciousness in the way they have accepted the decisions we are required to make. They truly are women of mercy, and they do great credit to their families. More detailed communication to Year 12 families about the graduation program will be sent next week.

Teacher Learning

Teachers have also had a learning focus within their specific teaching areas. Our intention is to improve the achievement of all of our students through our learning focus areas. Significant teacher learning is occurring through the following initiatives:

  • The New Curriculum for Religious Education, led by CEDP and focusing on Religious Education lessons and whole school formation and values development 

  • Rigorous Project Based Learning, led by Dr Michael McDowell (USA)

  • Languages Across the Disciplines, led by Misty Adoniou (Associate Professor, most recently from the Australian National University)

  • Inquiry into best practice in Mathematics, school-led

In addition to these faculty-specific focus areas, the whole teaching staff have been considering forms of assessment to improve student learning, as well as the theories and practices related to visible learning in the classroom. Contemporary theory in education invites us to reconsider traditional approaches to learning and teaching; this is more and more evident in contemporary learning practices, including pedagogy design and even the design of the learning spaces.

Term 3 Staff News

Please note the following staff news:

  • Mrs Cheryl Pietrantonio has, this week, given birth to a beautiful baby boy. She will be on leave until the end of the year. Dr Mandy Swann, new to Catherine McAuley,  is replacing Mrs Pietrantonio.

  • Ms Joanne Bleakley is on leave in Term 3. She is being replaced by Mrs Tracy Cowling.

  • Mrs Cowling will continue to teach her Year 12 class. Her other classes are being taught by Ms Janine Sabeh, a qualified maths teacher as well as a librarian, who will teach these classes alongside her usual library duties.

  • Ms Denise Thompson is on leave for Term 3. Her classes are being taught by Miss Emily Nenchev, a new teacher to our school this term and a former Catherine McAuley student herself.

A Different Year

You will be well aware that this year is a very different year for the Catherine McAuley community, as it is for everyone.

This term we will continue to readjust our major events to ensure we remain aligned to advice given by NSW Health. This means that the important annual events that are highlights of our calendar will not look the same as they have in the past. Whilst this is disappointing for all of us, please be assured that we continue to do our best to make each of them as special as we can.

We thank you for your support and trust in the decisions we make, and feel confident that we will continue to work together to provide the best possible school experience for your daughters.

P & F Meeting

The Term 3 P&F Meeting will be held next Tuesday, 4th August via Webex. All parents are invited to attend by clicking on the link below. The meeting will run from 6:30pm - 7:15pm with parents able to connect from 6:25pm.

Meeting link:

Meeting number: 166 249 7756

Password: FAtcDNRy253 

We look forward to seeing you in this online forum.

Mary Refalo


Staff Professional Learning

Welcome back to Term 3. I hope everyone enjoyed a well deserved rest and has come back refreshed ready for a new term.

The staff at Catherine McAuley began the term engaging in professional learning on clarity. The day consisted of various workshops during which staff reflected on their current practice and looked at strategies to improve student learning through the use of clear learning intentions and success criteria.  Just like our students, we all spent the day going in and out of the Catherine McAuley Learning Pit.

Catherine McAuley Learning Pit

Earlier in the year, I wrote about the Learning Pit. We have been very fortunate to have one of our Year 10 students, Lara, create a graphic of the Catherine McAuley Learning Pit. Thank you to Lara and Mrs Lane for working on this graphic.

Tell Them From Me

A reminder that in the coming weeks, we will be inviting students, teachers and parents to use an online survey, Tell Them From Me (TTFM) Partners in Learning , to provide feedback on their experience of our school. The surveys are an important part of our whole school evaluation and planning process.

As we value the role of parents and carers within our school community, we greatly appreciate your feedback. The information you provide will be used to maintain our commitment to working together in partnership to further improve student learning and wellbeing at Catherine McAuley Westmead. 

The survey is anonymous and will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. A link will be sent to you closer to the date. 

Ms Silvana Rossetti
Assistant Principal (Learning and Teaching)

FROM THE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL (Pastoral Care/Administration)

International Day of Friendship

Celebrated across the globe on 30th July 2020, the day aims to appreciate and promote friendships from all backgrounds and bridge the gaps between factors such as race, language and culture 

International Day of Friendship promotes the idea that fostering friendships between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace and build bridges between and within communities.  

Friendship requires empathy, compassion and concern for all people. By valuing and celebrating friendship, we foster these characteristics and adopt a more selfless and grateful outlook on life. 

I recommend reading A reflection for International Day of Friendship and the Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola  by Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ, 30 July 2020 published in Catholic Outlook who highlights the importance of friendship within communities during these challenging times.

Multi-tasking? Myth or reality? It all depends on who you talk to…

(from: Dr Prue Salter - The Study Skills Specialist)

Ask any student and they will tell you they can multitask with ease. Do homework, watch TV, listen to music and check their phone all at the same time, no problem. Ask the academic researchers though and a different story emerges. 

Dr Larry Rosen, Professor of Psychology at California State University, explains that what is actually occurring in this ‘multi-tasking’ is ‘task switching’. Instead of doing two things at once, students are actually switching their focus from one task to another and back again, in a parallel fashion, at high speed, resulting in them staying on task for an average of only 65% of the time period and for a maximum of only 3-5 minutes at a time. Constant task-switching results in it taking much longer to complete the individual tasks not just due to the interruptions, but also because there are delays as the brain switches between tasks and refocuses.  This brief bottleneck in the prefrontal cortex delays the start of the next task and the more intense the distraction, the longer it will take the brain to react.

I recommend you read Dr Prue Salter’s full article on this topic Multi-tasking? Myth or reality? It all depends on who you talk to…

Visit the Dealing with Distractions unit at to learn more about managing your distractions.

Our school’s subscription details are:      Username: mcauley        Password: 189results

Ms Debbie Grigson
Assistant Principal (Pastoral Care/Administration)


This term Year 10 students have begun trialling the Learning Cycle titled Sexuality, Love and Human Flourishing for the Draft New Religious Education Curriculum. The Year 10 Religion teachers, Miss Kate Hogan, Ms Leonie King, Mrs Elizabeth Lowrencev, Ms Adele McGlone, Dr Mandy Swann and Ms Kaitlyn Abbott-Atchison have been guided by Mr Daniel Nguyen and Ms Aneta Brennan in preparation for this important learning. In Term 3, Mr Bruce Carr, Teacher Educator from the Mission Team at the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) will continue his ongoing support with staff and co-teach classes.

We look forward to seeing the learning from these Year 10 students. Last weekend, it was with interest that I listened to a speaker on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio talk about the concept of Human Flourishing. The speaker was presenting a secular viewpoint. With Jesus as their model and the teachings of the Catholic Church, I believe that our Year 10 students who are exploring Human Flourishing will achieve greater insights and a deep understanding of this concept. It will empower them to be Young Women of Mercy who make a positive difference to our world. 

Students in Stage Six, Religion courses are completing their final units of work. Students in the Studies of Religion classes will complete their final assessment tasks with their Trial Higher School Certificate (HSC) and Preliminary Yearly Exams. Our younger students in Years 7, 8 and 9 are all working towards completing their various assessment tasks. It has been wonderful to visit some of these classes and discuss what they have learnt.

Recently, we have celebrated the Feast Days of Saints Mary Magdalene and Martha. Unlike many women in the Bible, their names have been recorded. Both women were faithful followers of Jesus and were considered to be some of his closest friends. They trusted Jesus and demonstrated courage when many deserted Jesus. Like Mary Magdalene and Martha, we pray at this time that we remain close to Jesus and continue to share Jesus’ love with others through our words and actions.

Ms Genevieve Banks
Religious Education Coordinator


Knitted Scarves and Beanies for St Vincent de Paul Homelessness Awareness Week

Well done to everyone who knitted a scarf for the St Vincent de Paul Homelessness Awareness Week! Previously reported to be in August it was actually the second last week of June. The school has collected many scarves lovingly made by students, parents, grandparents and staff. All the scarves will be donated to St Vincent de Paul to be distributed to homeless and less fortunate in the area. Thank you to everyone who was involved!!


McAuley Students Represent Australia in the International Space Settlement Design Competition

A team of 11 McAuley students has represented Australia in the International Space Settlement Design Competition which took place over four days this past weekend. Originally planned to take place in Florida, USA the competition was moved to an online format due to Covid. It is an industry simulation game with teams given the task of designing a habitat for researchers on Mars.

Australia had two teams compete and our students, who had previously won the Australian semifinals, were placed on the ‘Grumbo Aerospace’ team with team members from USA South West, USA Mid West, India and Uruguay. The students all worked together via Zoom to design their Mars habitat. In total there were four teams competing made up of 200 students from all around the world. Everyone was working to Florida time which meant for our students the competition started at 3am on Friday and finished at 6am on Tuesday!! 

Taking part in this competition is a wonderful learning experience for the students as not only are they able to use their critical thinking skills but they are also able to engage with other students from around the world who share their passion for STEM and aeroscience. Martha K., Year 12, said all the McAuley students worked very hard under an immense amount of pressure. “We had to face obstacles of time management, communication and the different time zones. Whether our students had a role of leadership within the company or not everyone put in an incredible amount of effort”.

The competition ended with each team giving a final presentation to showcase their proposed design. Team Grumbo Aerospace were not the final winners but the McAuley students who took part say that they really enjoyed the teamwork aspect of the competition and that it challenged them to think outside of the box.

View this story on our school website along with feedback from some of the students involved.

Year 12 Extension Maths Students Redesign the Pepsi Bottle

In Year 12 Extension Mathematics we were given the task to redesign the 600ml Pepsi bottle for our third assessment task, using our knowledge of Calculus.

There were two components to this task - conducting some market research on the volume and amount of plastic needed for this product and to actually redesign the bottle itself with the aim to utilise less plastic compared to the original bottle but still maintain the 600ml volume. The photos attached show the various designs that our class came up with.

It was an intriguing and distinctive assessment that really forced us to think outside of the box. 

The Year 12 & Year 11 Accelerated Mathematics Extension 1 Class

Baby Egg Experiment - Year 12 Students Look At Privilege

As an introduction to their new topic of Social Inclusion and Exclusion, Year 12 Society & Culture students participated in ‘The Baby Egg Experiment’ in order to raise awareness around privilege. 

 The students were assigned into social classes and allocated a different amount of money according to their status. They were then required to purchase socially valued resources for their ‘baby’ such as healthcare, education, clothing, housing - which were represented by a variety of items such as nappies, bubble wrap, padded mail bags and paper towels. They wrapped their eggs up with the materials they could afford, and dropped them! 

Both the higher class and middle class egg survived the drop, while the lower class egg smashed. 

Ms Emma Carah
HSIE Teacher

Year 12 Music Concerts

Year 12 Music students have been performing pieces from their HSC exam repertoire at regular lunchtime concerts over the last couple of months. Students and staff have been able to eat their lunch whilst listening to these talented students! 

Highlights from 30 June & 24 July concert (3.25 minute clip)

Highlights from 12 June, 19 June & 26 June 2020 (3.30 minute clip)

Year 11 Biology Students Conduct Field Study Of Wetlands Behind The School

Year 11 Biology students recently spent a day as an ecologist conducting a field study of Milson’s Creek and the wetlands that flow behind the school. The students were involved in observing, measuring and investigating the abiotic and biotic factors of this area. 


Year 10 Visual Arts Stop Motion Animated Films

In Term 3 Year 10 Visual Arts students created a 1-minute stop-motion animation film inspired by the practice of artist William Kentridge. Students developed their concept based on the theme of 'memory'. View a one minute snippet of these films.

Stop motion is an animated filmmaking technique whereby individually photographed still frames are manipulated in small increments so that they appear to have motion when they are played back. 

Year 9 Geography Students Design Sustainable Farms

Year 9 Geography students in 9GEO1 and 9GEO7 with Ms Carah and Ms Nicholson have been learning about ‘sustainable biomes’ and were given the task to develop a sustainable farm on the rural urban fringe in Sydney’s west. Jasmine Ong, Year 9 has written about this task.  Read More...

CSDA Debating Competition Commences

The CSDA debating season commenced last week and, in line with how such events must be held at the moment, it took place via Zoom. The preliminary rounds will continue until Week 4.

Each Friday afternoon our student debaters gather for their Zoom debates which commence around 4pm and conclude by 6pm.

Congratulations to all the teams who participated in the first debate last Friday with the topic ‘That Working From Home Is Here To Stay’. McAuley debated against Emmaus Catholic College and we had four of our five teams win their debate. The students found Zoom to be a very successful way to conduct debating and are looking forward to their next debate on Friday, 31st July against Wollemi College.

Catherine McAuley Debating Team for Round 1 

Year 7 - Amalija M., Grace R. & Jasmine S.

Year 8 -  Chelsea G., Grace R. & Ava S.

Year 9 - Daanya A., Mary F. & Aiza R. 

Year 10 - (Opposition forfeited - won by default)

Year 11 - Jemma A., Akansha N. & Davida S.

Debating Seminar Run By Ex Student Class of 2016

Our school debaters had the opportunity this week to engage with ex-student Annya Reshty, Class of 2016, who conducted a seminar on debating strategies, techniques and tips to help prepare our current debating students for the upcoming rounds of the CSDA Debating Competition. 

Annya was part of the 2015 Year 11 Debating Team who won the State Championship for that year. She has much experience to pass onto our current students.

MCCS and PDSSSC Competitions Cancelled for Term 3

A message from Ms Brooke Robson, Sports Coordinator

After considerable thought and discussion, the MCCS Basketball and Soccer competition which was scheduled for Term 3 has been CANCELLED. Whilst this is disappointing, it is our priority to keep both staff and students safe during this pandemic. We are still hopeful that the Term 4 sports can be played but only time will tell.

In addition, this week PDSSSC also announced that all PDSSSC events will be cancelled for Term 3.




Year 7 Visual Arts Collaborative Artwork

Year 7 Visual Arts students in 7VA1 of Ms Fernandes worked on a collaborative piece together based upon Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’. Ms Fernandes said that the students were so excited to see it go up and reveal the completed artwork...which looked great!! Well done 7VA1 for your great teamwork! 

Year 7 Science Students Using Their Knowledge of Separating Techniques

Year 7 Science students have been putting their knowledge of separating techniques to the test as they were challenged to separate a mixture of sand, salt and iron filings. Photos are from Ms Raja’s class. The students also investigated the technique of chromatography using M&Ms.

Year 8 Aztec Showcase

Year 8 History students have been studying the Aztecs and students of Ms Reed were asked to showcase Aztec religious practices, beliefs and rituals through a god or goddess of their choice.

Students were asked to select written and archaeological sources or artefacts and recreate their own interpretation of these to present to the class. The students presented their findings on the roles of their god/goddess, their origin stories, rituals (including sacrifice) and other fascinating information that revealed what life was like in the wondrous Aztec society.

Year 8 Music Students Learning Guitar

Year 8 Music students with Ms Picone are currently learning the guitar! Watch the students in action - Year 8 Music with Ms Picone

Year 10 Drama Students Devising Their Own Political Theatre Performances

Year 10 Drama students are currently devising their own Political Theatre performances. The students have selected a social or political issue relevant in Australian society, conducted research on the issue and are now devising performances using techniques developed by the political theatre practitioner, Bertolt Brecht.

Follow the school Instagram Page and Facebook Page for more ‘Around the Classrooms’. Search for Catherine McAuley Westmead.


Monday, 3rd AugustParent / Student / Teacher Meetings, 3:30pm - 6:30pm (online or phone)
Tuesday, 4th AugustP & F Meeting, 6:25pm for a 6:30pm start (online)
Thursday, 6th AugustYear 12 Chemistry Incursion
Friday, 7th August

Year 10 RYDA Program
Environment Group - Clean Up Australia Project

Wednesday, 12th AugustHSC Music Performance, 6pm
Monday, 17th August - Monday, 31st AugustHSC Trial Examinations


New School Website Launched!

The school has launched a new school website which can be found at Check it out! Parents may be particularly interested in the live school calendar listing upcoming school events which can be viewed on the home page. The home page also contains links for the school newsletter, latest news items and the Skoolbag app.

If you have any thoughts or questions about the new school website please don’t hesitate to email Mrs Jacqui Hamilton, School Development Officer at

New Content Added to School Skoolbag App

The Catherine McAuley Skoolbag app has had lots of new content added to it and is the go to for not only all school notices but now also school forms, permission notes, school policies, transport announcements, uniform information, newsletters, assessment handbooks, staff contacts and transport announcements. It also contains the link for school interviews when needed.

All parents are strongly encouraged to download the Skoolbag app. If you are already an existing user of Skoolbag you can find the new content by clicking out of Skoolbag and then when clicking back in click on the Catherine McAuley school logo. Under ‘General’ you should now see lots of coloured tiles with the headings for each new content item

The University of Sydney - Year 12 Parent Information Session

The University of Sydney will be hosting an online parent information session on Tuesday, 4th August, from 6pm - 7pm. Please visit the University of Sydney's undergraduate events page for more information:

eSafety Webinars for Parents/Carers

At Catholic Education Diocese Parramatta (CEDP) we see parents and carers as partners in your child's learning journey. In partnership with the eSafety Commissioner, CEDP would like to invite you to join one of the following free webinars for parents and carers:

  1. Helping Kids Thrive online (5-12 yrs) - Thursday, 20th August 2020, 12pm -1pm
  2. Tech, Teens and Time online (secondary schools) - Monday, 7th September 2020, 7pm - 8pm

These live webinars explore the latest research and they are a great way to learn how you can help your child develop the skills to be safer online. All sessions are delivered by the eSafety Commission’s expert educators.

About the webinars

  1. Helping kids thrive online: is a one hour live webinar suitable for parents and carers of young people aged  5-12 years old.
  2. Tech, Teens and Time online: is a one hour live webinar suitable for parents and carers of young people aged 12-18 years old.

Both sessions will cover topics including:

  • ideas to start the chat about harmful content, contact with strangers and online bullying/harassment

  • strategies for addressing common digital parenting challenges

  • skills that young people need to protect themselves online

  • how to get help if things go wrong.

What you need to do:

Please register for the course on the secondary site via the following link: 

If you have any further enquiries please email

Catherine McAuley Parent Business Directory

A reminder that the school has a Catherine McAuley Parent Business Directory. This directory is a collection of parent owned businesses and is something you might want to consulate when you are next looking for a particular item or service.

If you would like to be included in the directory please fill out this form.