Mercurius issue 5 – April 2020 - 5 Apr 2020
Senior Executive Report

Senior Executive Report

Notwithstanding the great interruption of studies due to the outbreak of pneumonic influenza I am still able to report excellent work this year, not only at examinations, but successes also achieved on the sporting field.


(Principal’s report, Speech day 1919 cited in the Magazine of the Girls’ High School, Fort Street, March 1920)


This year Speech Day fell on 31st March… Mr. Kilgour read the report for the year, which showed that despite influenza restrictions and consequent broken time, the work done had been most satisfactory and the results of the examinations very pleasing. In addition the School had sustained its reputation in sport.


(Report on Speech day 1920, The Fortian, May 1920)


It is fascinating to see that 100 years ago, Fortians were dealing with some of the same challenges we are facing today – disruption to learning and indeed to society in general, caused by an outbreak of a serious and deadly disease.

Of course, 100 years later much in education has changed including the introduction of technologies to deliver remote learning that would have been beyond the belief of Miss A. Partridge and Mr A. J. Kilgour (principals of the girls and boys schools respectively at the time).

However, the school is confident that the Fortian spirit remains the same, and that in time we will be able to echo Kilgour’s words that “despite influenza restrictions and consequent broken time, the work done has been most satisfactory.”

Fortian magazines dating back to 1899 have been digitised and are available on the school’s website, and give a fascinating insight into school life from past eras. They are well worth exploring for interested students and their parents.

We would like to express our deepest gratitude and appreciation for the support shown by the whole school community in adjusting to remote learning. The staff have put an enormous amount of time and effort into adapting their teaching resources and methods to an online format, and the students have responded in equal measure. Thanks are due to the office staff for their ongoing work, managing an administration load even more complex than usual. Thank you also to the many parents who have taken the time to send the school messages of thanks and support. They have been very encouraging at what has been a difficult time.

The school is aware that some students and families have not found the transition straightforward. Some of the common feedback we have received is that students seem to be getting more work online than they would normally be expected to complete in class, and that students are spending the majority of their days on screen. As a school we are working to adjust our expectations of what work is achievable in a single lesson, and to give students more tasks that can be done away from a screen.

We will also be publishing a revised remote learning timetable at the beginning of Term 2, which will include 45 minute lessons for all students, a five minute break between each lesson to allow students to take a break from their screens, and a dedicated 40 minute technology free time for all students after lunch. We welcome continued feedback as we refine our remote learning plan. Families who are experiencing difficulties, whether related to workload, technology or physical and mental wellbeing, should contact their child’s Year Adviser in the first instance to let the school know.

Parents are reminded that at this stage the school will be open in Term 2 for any students who require supervision or who are not able to work effectively at home. The very small number of students who have been attending school have been working out of the library, where there is plenty of space for students to maintain appropriate social distance.

We are also anticipating that our usual reporting cycle will go ahead for Term 2, and parents can expect to receive feedback on their child’s progress and performance in the usual way. These reports will be issued digitally through the Sentral Parent Portal. Any families who do not have access to the portal should contact the school for instructions.

We wish all students and their families a restful holidays despite the difficult circumstances, and look forward to welcoming you back (online at least) in Term 2.

School TV

School TV

SPECIAL REPORT: Dealing with Disappointment

The Coronavirus is impacting families around the world and changing how we do things on a daily basis. In many cases, it has resulted in the indefinite postponement of many special, and often long-awaited events, such as milestone birthdays, sporting competitions, school trips and family holidays.

Disappointment can be a tricky emotion to deal with at any age, but particularly for young people whose world has been turned upside down in a matter of weeks. Although disappointment is a normal part of growing up, adults need to remember that kids have a lot of choice regarding how they respond to it. Their response will determine the impact on their future happiness. Disappointment is considered a healthy and positive emotion that is essential to a child’s emotional, intellectual and social development.

It is important to help kids manage their disappointment in order to avoid stronger emotions such as anxiety and depression. Although your first reaction may be to fix the problem, it is better to encourage them to find the words to express how they feel.

In this Special Report, parents and caregivers will be provided with some tips on how to help a child process disappointment and look at the problem objectively. We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this Special Report, and as always, we welcome your feedback.

If you do have any concerns about the wellbeing of your child, please contact the school for further information or seek medical or professional help.

Here is the link to your special report

Online Study Skills Handbook

Online Study Skills Handbook

Each year the school invites Dr Prue Salter, Educational Consultant and Study Skills expert to run seminars for students and parents in Years 7, 10 and 11. While it is highly unlikely that these seminars will go ahead this year, the school also subscribes to Dr Salter’s Enhanced Learning Online Study Skills Handbook.

For students and parents who have never explored this valuable site before, now is an excellent time to do so. The site has recently added a Guide for Remote Home Learning that includes a wide range of tips and resources for the current remote learning situation, from setting up your space at home, to templates for daily checklists and strategies for maintaining focus at home.

In addition to the Guide for Remote Home Learning, there are many other interactive, self-paced modules on topics such as Dealing with Distractions, Overcoming Procrastination, Managing Stress, Using Technology, Research and Presentation Skills that students will find useful both in the current situation and when they return to classroom-based learning at school in the future.

The school encourages all students to make use of this excellent resource, from Year 7 students who may be adjusting to the workload of high school, to Year 12 students looking to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of their study for assessment tasks.

Login details for the online handbook have been emailed to parents and students separately. Please contact the school if you would like these details re-sent.

Joel Morrison
Deputy Principal


Upcycling Excursion

Upcycling Excursion

On Tuesday the 3rd of March 2020, Year 9 Design and Technology of 20 students were given an amazing opportunity to attend Reverse Garbage in Marrickville. At reverse garbage, we participated in a workshop and took a tour around the site.

The students of Year 9 Design and Technology were able to tour the reverse garbage warehouse and acquire materials to take part in the upcycle challenge. We met our mentor, who helped clarify the meaning of sustainability, upcycling and terms used relating to environmental consciousness. This excursion was to help guide us and stimulate ideas for our upcoming upcycling project (assessment), where we have to create a project, only made from upcycled materials.

We started our upcycling challenge in the main recycling warehouse where we were allowed to select 1 material each. All materials provided were donated or recycled/upcycled. We worked in groups to create different masterpieces, all made from our selection of materials. The outcome of the materials we provided were super innovative! The end creations included a jewellery holder, headbands, a few variations of bags, a tea strainer, a watering can with multiple nozzles and several other inventions.

On behalf of all of us, we really enjoyed the experience. It allowed us to grasp a better understanding of sustainability and the limitless choices of how to upcycle materials. Our instructor informed us of very surprising stats and informed us on how to be more environmentally aware. Overall it was a very eye-opening, informative and fun session!

Alyssa Khaw and Megan Tran (Year 9)


Languages from home

The Languages Faculty continues to foster interaction and understanding of societies in our ever connected world.  They are generating communication no matter where they and students are based.

Student work – English Enrichment Excellence

Student work – English Enrichment Excellence

The future of conservation

Is conservation necessary? For birds whose notable qualities are their unique colouration and complex songs, why is conservation anything more than our selfish need for control? Bird species that are only an appendage to the food chain should not be lamented if their disappearance has no practical consequences, right?

To put it simply, our understanding of the world around us is still callow. It will take years, decades, even centuries of developing technology and corrections before we are able to paint a clearer picture of our world, on a canvas that currently appears to be infinite. Extinction is the natural progression of nature. It can play out naturally through the weighing scale of an unbiased biosphere, or unfairly, by outside contrived influences. Suspiciously, we have seen a trend of species disappearances between the 20th to early 21st century, many linked to the carelessness and naïvete of humans. Even worse, this lack of awareness of the iron fist we unwittingly wield means we are leaving a world behind us worse off than before. As each generation peaks and falls, the effect we see on wildlife will trickle up, to our own level.

What does this have to do with birds?

What I personally find fascinating is our obsession with conservation, alongside our negligence of, or impotence to deal with, the root of the problem. I believe the sheer scale of increasing extinctions we see is a warning for us, not just an unfortunate occurrence. As we continue to meddle with natural ecosystems without further thought, the disappearance of wildlife will become a routine symptom of a much larger issue. No matter how useless a species may appear from a selfish point of view, the invisible work at play within ecosystems must be acknowledged and honoured if we wish for life to be sustained into the 22nd century.

If we want to see less damage and suffering imposed on the wildlife around us, we must understand the crux of the issue, rather than following it with a temporary band aid.

Isabella Evangelista (Year 11)

Student work – English Extension 1 imaginative writing

Student work – English Extension 1 imaginative writing

English Extension 1 imaginative writing, based on stimulus by Clarice Lispector – by Luca Charlier

At the Dusk of Life

“When art, become independent, depicts its world in dazzling colors, a moment of life has grown old and it cannot be rejuvenated with dazzling colors. It can only be evoked as a memory. The greatness of art begins to appear only at the dusk of life.”

— Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, Section 188


Macabea lent against cold brick, Doc Martens crunching glass into asphalt. To her left, two drunks were spat out the swinging doors of the Judgement Bar like broken teeth. They stumbled through the dirty yellow light that crept out of the pub windows and lurched around bipping cars across Oxford Street. Their steel caps briefly twinkled before they were swallowed by the swollen darkness of Forbes Street.

Her phone beeped in her pocket, causing her to cut short the first ‘Woo Hoo!’ of Song 2 rocking through her Discman. A text. It was Mads. Technically his full name was Madidas and he quite rightfully hated it. She wasn’t allowed to call him anything but Mads.

                        YO YO YO!

Macabea rolled her eyes. Here we go again. She shot back.

What has made you so hyper ?

Too many ideas. I think you need to be moving now

                        Do we need to meet up?

She shrugged, and started walking vaguely in the direction of the Cross station.

Yeah sure but try out my meter!

                        Yeah nah I’m a free spirit

So you’re BAC over the limit?

                        Don’t worry, I’ve kissed my books

But ignored the bible by your looks

                        What now, you dropping a sermon?

Imagine if I had the wisdom…

                        LOL can’t even stick to your own rhythm

Well my lyricism’s no given

                        You clearly need a new system…

Now listen we’re getting distracted

                        Careful, your beat’s gone flaccid

Hey I’ve still got my pants on

                        Not while I’m holding your belt as ransom

More like you’re belting out lines at random

                        “The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them”

Phew you sure quote with wit man

BTW you have to turn right here.

                        What can I say? I write your body electric

More like a bloody eclectic

                        We’re the zenith of dialectic

 Huh its not often I hear that

                        So on that note are you here yet?

I’m adhering to your direction

just need protection on these Darlinghurst Nights

                         Good like I told you hurry, I’m in the station

You speak like I’m in control

                        Well I like to think we control you together


Macabea tucked the phone away and looked up. The new LEDs of the Coke sign gave the wet streets a faint red glow, accentuated by the taillights of grumbling cars. Their passing headlights shifted the soft shadows of poles, people and council bins across brick walls and into darkened windows.

The fire station was shut up at this time of night. A fancy-looking guy in a suit fiddled with the needle dispenser. He tucked a handful of small crinkling plastic bags into his pockets while he nervously looked over his shoulders. Macabea cracked a small smile. ‘Least they kept the centres around for people who need them. Druggies were a lot rarer now after all that shit got pushed into Alexandria. Another text.

It was Surry Hills.

Right. Of course. She went across the road, part of a small and sorry herd sneaking down the street, squishy trespassers in a rolling scene of asphalt and metal. Most of the neon signs were dead, except for a ubiquitous double golden arch further down. Darlinghurst Road was quiet. She could faintly hear El Alamein Fountain. Her phone beeped again.

You can’t hear the fountain from there.

Right. Of course Mads was correct. As usual. Macabea turned into Kings Cross station and headed down to the platform.

There was more light and sound down here than anywhere else in the area. The diffused glow of smart phones lit up downturned faces as bodies shuffled up and down escalators or fell into cold metal benches. An eight foot flatscreen bust of Andrew Bolt yelled out of a hole in the grimy black wall. Macabea didn’t get a chance to hear his rambling before a pair of train headlights washed out the screen and a screeching yellow train lurched to a stop between them. One nostril was still visible through the train windows.

She whipped out her phone and shot Mads a text.

                         Is this the train I get on?


                       There’s someone shouting.

                       About to get violent by the looks.

Of course there is.

That’s what makes this interesting.

                         I don’t want to.

Hop to it.

You can’t say no.



 At the Dusk of Life appropriates Lispector’s self-aware textual construction as a metafictive world which gradually deconstructs its own literary illusion and meaning as a postmodern and hyperreal text.

Lispector’s narrator converses directly with the reader as a reflection on the process of writing and representing the world. Conversational language and rhetorical questions such as “don’t you agree” give the text’s narrator low modality, facilitating a self-aware deconstruction of the text and undermining its epistemological authority.

My piece reimagines this conversation as an exchange of text messages in heightened language between a character and her author, abandoning Lispector’s low modality for an epigrammatic conversation which is too certain of itself. The deconstruction of my text occurs exactly because the characters don’t question their world, “of course Mads was correct,” despite Macabea’s inconsistent experiences of the fountain.

The heightened language and academic allusions to Shakespeare, Whitman and Slessor within these text messages create a stream of “succulent terms” and “meaty nouns” jarringly juxtaposed with Macabea’s “dirty” world. This intelligent game of verbal virtuosity parallels Lispector’s imperative to “speak simply” because it becomes the abstracted “gold” that “depicts its world in dazzling colours”.

Madidas’ name further extends Lispector’s allusion to King Midas. This combination of Ancient Greek myth and commercial sport brand symbolises the constructed nature of Mads and Macabea, who lack intrinsic character outside their brand associations. ADIDAS is a particularly postmodern symbol due to its ever evolving meaning. From the backronym ‘All Day I Dream about Sport’ to Korn’s ‘All Day I Dream about Sex’, its meanings probe the cultural constructions of symbolism itself. This reflects that fact that Macabea and Mads live both literally and metaphorically in the “new LEDs of the Coke sign.” This broadens Lispector’s concern with the “secret meaning” that “emanates” from words into a reflection on symbolism, representation and meaning within a Postmodern hyperreality defined by little else.


Luca Charlier (Year 12)



Student work – Year 9 French poem

Year 9 French wrote poems inspired by Jacques Brel’s song “Le plat pays”. 

We were given a task to write a four line poem in French about the country “that is mine”. I wrote a rather cynical poem on the descent of our nation and in a truly French way made the poem a sort of protest. The poem discusses the naivety of Australian politics to deal with the climate catastrophe and the inability of people to see that they are effectively killing their children.

Le pays qui est le mien

Avec notre ami, Monsieur Charbon,
Avec de vagues rochers que les marées
Dépassent à cause du changement climatique,
Avec les politiciens stupides qui tuent leurs enfants,
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre*,
Au plat pays qui est le mien.

Hugo Ceran-Jerusalemy

*Against you (tyrants and traitors) we are all soldiers – this line comes from the fourth stanza of the French national anthem:

Tremblez, tyrans et vous, perfides,
L’opprobre de tous les partis !
Tremblez ! Vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leur prix. (Bis)
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre.
S’ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
La terre en produit de nouveaux
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre.

Student work – Saturday Morning

The Saturday sun streams through the blinds as I lounge at my desk. I sit in such a way on the desk chair that my thighs are over resting on one arm rest whilst my lower back is over the other. I am browsing various videos of people whose pride lies in their ability to keep their school lives organised and take delicate, pretty notes about the various functions of the functions of cells, how they take in nutrients and how they get rid of waste. However the videos I am watching aren’t about the cells, rather about the contents of their school bag; the sleek black metal water bottle, the gleaming white phone, the costly wireless earphones, and the scratchless silver laptop that is as thin as a sheet of paper and perfectly fits the aesthetic of all the other belongings.

“Oi Dan!” my Dad shouts from the end of the hallway, his torso and head peeking out from the doorway leading to the kitchen.


“You doing work?”

I pause momentarily. “No”

“Get onto it, you’re at the new school now where all the kids spend as much time sleeping as they do at a tutoring centre.”

“Yep,” I answer automatically.

His body disappears from the doorway back into the kitchen.

I lug out my dictionary-thick folder from my backpack, which is resting against the wall, and thump it onto my desk, a somewhat satisfying, weighty clunk sound resonating out of the desk. I flick through the separators of my folder, stopping at the section for maths worksheets and pulling them out, quick as an experienced librarian. I lay out my small pencil case, my calculator, and my worksheet and get to work.

I fiddle with the clicker of my pen as I read the first question.

I rest my feet on the floor rather than on the wheels of the chair, and I freeze. My dad bought a plastic chair mat recently to prevent the wooden floor from being scratched by the wheels of my desk chair. I lift my feet, feeling the slight stickiness of the mat lightly resist my attempts.

I can no longer focus on my maths homework, or any work for that matter. This slightly sticky mat will distract me to no end.

This will not do.


I emerge from my room, a discoloured green bucket, sloshing with water, in one hand and a dripping grey mop in the other. I figure that if I wanted to mop this mat in my room then I may as well mop the whole house, and that’s exactly what I do. I work through each room, each corner, each treated wooden plank and do away with any bit of dirt or dust. I move from the hallway and into the kitchen, my Dad observing me over his extremely dark coffee in a stone-coloured mug as I mop.

“That’s not how you mop,” he says.

I stop. I pick up my bucket and my mop.

“Ok.” I respond, as I take the bucket and mop back to the cleaning closet.


English Enrichment

Evan Yi (Year 11) 

The National Computer Science School (NCSS)

The National Computer Science School (NCSS)

The National Computer Science School is a ten day summer school for students going into Years 11 and 12. The NCSS brings together talented young people from around Australia for an intensive course of computer programming and website development at university. NCSS 2021 will run from Saturday 2nd January to Monday 11th January 2021 at Sydney University.

Anson Lee was lucky enough to be accepted to the 2020 summer school which ran during the last school holidays. Anson had never explored computer science or coding in depth and wanted to try a new skill. Anson reported back to Fort Street with first hand accounts of the incredible value he found in attending this camp. He pointed out that it wasn’t just learning new technology skills which he found valuable, it was the experience of networking and meeting like-minded entrepreneurs that are now part of his social network.

For more information about applying for the 2021 Summer School please visit their website:​

Adam Semaan
Head Teacher – Technology

Online library services to support remote learning

Online library services to support remote learning


Use the Moodle link on the front page of the Fort Street website, log in with your Department of Education user name and password, and select the library icon. There are a number of scanned essays for Stage 6 English, plus links to other learning resources, including the Fort Street library catalogue, the Premier’s Reading Challenge, and the State Library of NSW. No enrolment key is required.

Premier’s Reading Challenge

The Premier’s Reading Challenge for 2020 opened in the first week of March and closes in the last week of August. Students in Years 7-9 should start entering books they have read since last September, into their student reading records. A Gold certificate is awarded for completing 4 Challenges, a Platinum certificate for completing 7 Challenges, and a medal for Year 9 students who have completed every Challenge since Year 3. If any of your previous Challenges are missing from your Challenge record, just send me a list with the name of the school and the year of completion.

Wheelers Books ePlatform

The school library has a subscription to Wheelers Books ePlatform. Students use their Department of Education user name and password to log in and download books for a two week loan period. There are options for a variety of different devices and apps to access the library. Many of the titles are grouped into Premier’s Reading Challenge reading lists.


Most local council libraries have large collections of e-books and audio books available for loan, using the BorrowBox app. Students use their local library membership card to access e-books and audio books through the app. Ring your local library for advice and support, and to arrange a new membership if necessary.

State Library

For senior students conducting detailed research or critical reading, apply to the State Library of NSW for a reader’s card. It will be posted to your home address. Use the ID number to log in to library’s e-resources collection, which includes thousands of digital research services. Students in Years 9 and 10 might also find this useful. You can contact the library staff at Fort Street for assistance.

Students can contact the library staff at Fort Street to ask for books to be collected from the front office, or visit the library to borrow in person. While the school is still open, the library is still open.

Rowena Penniment
Teacher Librarian

P&C News

P&C News

Uniform Shop
The Uniform Shop is no longer taking orders by phone or email, but the P&C is currently investigating what would be involved in making the school uniform also available for purchase online. This is a facility that has been requested by a number of parents and the P&C is keen to meet as many of the needs of the community as possible.
With this in mind, we would appreciate if you could partake in the following short survey so we can gauge interest in this.

Planned P&C Events and Meetings
As the year progresses we will provide updates on previously planned events and meetings. There is currently no mechanism within the P&C Federation that permits the P&C to hold meetings electronically (eg. Zoom, Hangouts, Slack, etc..) The P&C Federation are currently seeking approval from the Minister for Education to modify this rule. See the details in these P&C Federation bulletins: 

Staying Up to Date
If you would like to be informed about P&C activities or would like to know how you can get involved, please subscribe to our mailing list at or join our Facebook group at As always our email address is

Take care

Fort Street High School P&C

Instrumental Music Program

Instrumental Music Program

Bigger Better Brains​
Dr Anita Collins has this week launched the “Get your Bigger Better Brain at home” series, designed for you share directly with parents. They have produced these activities in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to at-home learning for an extended period of time. Every day for the next two weeks they are releasing daily activities to emphasis the importance of continuing to engage with music at home. Engaging with this resource will help parents prepare for the challenge of guiding their children through home learning with our new daily activities. This is all research-based neuroscience and psychology. It is wonderful stuff and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Strike A Chord goes digital in 2020 with an exciting online edition of the competition.

Musica Viva Australia and their dedicated Strike A Chord team have been looking into new and exciting ways to carry on with the 2020 competition.

More information can be found on the Musica Viva website here

IMP Online
The IMP has moved to 100% online activities. Each week I will be sending an email out linking you to the activities for that week. We also have an online attendance form to track how well you are all engaging in the activities set. These activities are looking at repertoire (looking forward to returning to regular rehearsals), but also ‘soft skills’ such as sight-reading, general musicianship, wider listening, score reading etc.
Your conductors and IMP staff have been working extremely hard to curate these activities. Your engagement with them, along with maintaining daily practice sessions, will ensure you emerge from this a stronger musician than you went in. Please check your emails each Wednesday for your IMP weekly activities and if you are not receiving emails, please contact Mr Manchester ASAP.

The IMP is looking into the feasibility of having a massed virtual ensemble recording. A kind of Camp Item in Quarantine, if you will. If we get this off the ground with our limited resources, we may need to outsource some of the editing work to you, our talented students. Watch this space in the coming weeks…

Schools Spec Cancelled
Unfortunately the 2020 Schools Spectacular has been cancelled. You can read the statement from the Arts Unit here:

IMP Community Spirit Helping Professional Musicians
I am sure everyone is aware that this has been a particularly trying time for freelance musicians here in Australia and around the world. The term ‘canary in the mine’ at the start of this crisis was an apt description. Most musicians have seen 100% of their performing income vanish for the next 6 months. For many musicians, the teaching income they rely on has also been taken away, in a series of baffling decisions by various institutions. In true Fortian style, the IMP is working hard to take care of our wonderful staff, who work so passionately to the musical education of our kids. I have been overwhelmed by the messages of support from the IMP community. When the IMP Camp was cancelled I asked if any parents who were in a financial position to do so, donate some or all of their camp refund to help pay the camp staff at least some of the fees they would have earned on camp. The response went far beyond my expectations, and in the end we were able to pay a significant percentage of the fees to the tutors. I received many email from the tutors thanking the IMP community for being a shining light in the industry. On behalf of all IMP staff, heartfelt thanks for your support, and for the reminder that we are all in this together. I have never been more proud to be part of this wonderful organisation!

Matt Manchester

Young Creatives Award 2020

Young Creatives Award 2020

Are you bored? Need to do something other than stare at a screen? Need a project to work on in the holidays?

Well get creative!

The Inner West Council are running a competition for all creative souls out there. Use whatever materials you can find to create a work of art while being stuck at home, or write a narrative based on your experiences of social distancing!

There are great prizes to be won and the competition gives you the chance to have your work seen by a wide audience.

For more information go to:​

Get involved!

Ms. Mattick.

Inner West eLibrary

Inner West eLibrary

The Inner West elibrary provides a selection of children and adult books, movies, magazines and opportunities for on-line learning.  For more information on the Inner West elibrary visit:

HSC Expo & University Info

HSC Expo & University Info

HSC & Beyond

REGISTER NOW for InspirED’s  virtual careers expo for students and parents.  Registration is free to all Year 10-12 students and their parents/carers.

UNSW Information Nights

UNSW will be livestreaming many of its Year 10 subject selection nights, scholarship information nights and course specific information nights.  More information can be found at the UNSW Events page here

Sydney University – coming soon

UTS – coming soon