Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox College - eNewsletter

Volume 26 Edition 6 - September 2021

Welcome to Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox College eNewsletter

From the Head of College

HSC 2021

In hindsight, if we thought what we all went through in  2020 was unpleasant and difficult, then by comparison 2021 has most certainly trumped it.  Nonetheless, we have to shake off our understandable and often justifiable feelings (and sometimes despair) as positively as we can and look around us to see how we have been so richly blessed and be able to refocus our lives, our priorities, take pleasure in the small and insignificant pleasures we once took for granted. 

Continue to stay safe good people, continue to do what is required in as much as you are able and please don't judge others harshly as no one really knows the other's true story; reach out to someone if you are feeling down and don't wait until you have reached breaking point.  The best within people has certainly become very evident during these trying times and it's comforting to know that a kind word, a smile, a joke together, a helpful act can have such amazing effects on, and with our spirit.   

Our students, whilst sometimes unhappy and often bored or dissatisfied with the remote learning mode and staying within their 5km permitted area with limited to no social interactions, have truly shone throughout this time - seriously!  If anything, our observations and many of our student's results have shown that they have indeed and unexpectedly gone against their previous normal and have 'shifted' within their results placements.   Our staff have also shone and have maintained their level of creativity and internal strength through extensive personal and professional time and effort spent focusing on their responsibilities and tasks even more.  Our IT has been an enormous blessing during the 2021 academic year serving everyone's needs effectively and efficiently.  The additional hardware and software and licenses purchased and introduced in 2020 for a possible 2021+ 'repeat' scenario has well paid off.  For this, I thank our IT Manager for his analytical and problem solving skills; and to all parents for their prompt payments of the Levy Fees, from which most of these subscription-type services have been paid with early on this year.

Like all other Yr 12 cohorts, the Class of 2021 will indeed have much to reflect on as they complete their formal studies towards sitting their final HSC exams commencing November.  First and foremost they are TO BE CONGRATULATED for their own sheer strength of character, resilience and determination.

As has been made very evident throughout recent weeks on news and media announcements, school events normally held to celebrate this chapter of Yr 12 scholastic journey are on hold or cancelled, according to the health advice and current restrictions in place.  There is no point in us planning anything and advertising it now.  To avoid disappointments, the school will inform Yr 12 students and parents directly, what and how events will take place and in which mode the latest Health NSW Advice and Public Health Orders permit. 

Whatever we are able to do we will do, even though it may be well after normally scheduled events as we are determined that our HSC 2021 students are not forgotten, and enjoy the feelings that should be felt after completing 13 years of schooling and in a memorable manner. 

Mr Joseph will be outlining in detail directly to students and parents the remainder of the year timetable for Year 12 including returning to school, subjects on campus, preparations for the HSC, practice papers sessions, STUVAC dates, and HSC requirements and procedures commencing 9 November

Kindergarten & Year 7 2022 - 2027 Enrolments

As has been the case since the end of February 2021, parents are reminded that there are NO vacancies for both 2022 Kindergarten or Year 7 along with many other year levels.  Please note that both 2023 Kindergarten and Yr 7 are currently at 70% enrolled.  Applications and Registrations are currently being taken for KINDERGARTEN & YEAR 7 - 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026 and 2027.

For 2022, all Primary and most Secondary years are currently closed (limited positions will become vacant in Years 9, 10 and 11).  Positions therefore will only occur once current students from respective years withdraw to create a vacancy.  The Waiting List for all year groups is substantial so please know, or advise others asking you, that if they wish to enroll their child, they can certainly apply but to be prepared to wait an indefinite period and to ensure they continue to be comfortable with the school they are currently attending or secure an alternative as a temporary measure.  'Temporary' could range from a few months to a few years as vacancies will occur only if current students withdraw.  With restrictions over the past two+ months, our Building site has effectively meant a further 6-8 month delay.  We were initially advised that handover would be in the second half of this year so that from Feb 2022 it would actually be operable - this is now no longer possible as regulations do not permit a full compliment of trades on site at the same time and at best, the PCAPL is only permitted 50% capacity of trades.  The most recent update is that there is such a shortage of approved individuals within trades at the moment that they are pushing only 25% workforce daily until more individuals reach required minimum requirements to be able to attend.

All SMC Year 6 students are automatically enrolled in Year 7 2022 at the school.  However, if you are not considering continuing at SMC for Year 7, PLEASE advise the school at your earliest convenience in writing as available vacancies are limited for external applicants.

Enrolment & Withdrawal Procedures

Regrettably the procedure for families withdrawing from the College has not been followed and in some cases many are surprised they are still required to pay school fees even though their child will no longer attend next term. It is a requirement of a family's contract with the College that they enter into at Application/Enrolment, that one term's notice of withdrawal is to be given in writing to the Head of College if a student/s are to be withdrawn from the School, otherwise one full term’s fees are payable in lieu of such notice.   Unfortunately this has become an issue with a few families withdrawing from the school this term and then surprised they are still required to pay school fees for term 4 etc dependent on their exit time.

I offer the following explanation and notification to all current and future families reading this Newsletter which may assist in your planning.  The following is by no means unique to St Mark's Coptic Orthodox College and is standard practice in ALL Independent schools (not Catholic Systemic or Department schools that I'm aware of) around Australia.

Included in the withdrawal notification from parents to the Head, it is a NESA requirement that the new school to be attended is advised as this information is included on the Attendance Register which is linked to NESA and Government requirements (for funding purposes). Without receiving this written notice at least one full term PRIOR to the intended exit, families will be charged the term following their departure for each child as each Independent school relies on their current enrolment data at any point in time which affects their future funding and budgeting.   As an example, to withdraw without penalty from commencement of Term 1 2022, parents must notify me by 4 pm THIS FRIDAY (17 Sep).  To notify me from after this date will incur one term fee in lieu of notice.

So, to be informed within the term of exit (or the holiday period before the exit term) will mean that the student-position being actively listed will no longer receive the designated departmental funding as it will be transferred to the new school, hence why the following term is unfortunately billed to families notifying the College within the term of exit as these funds formed part of the current budgeting of the College.

The College does not force anyone who applies for enrolment to accept these requirements, nor does the College force anyone to remain in the College if circumstances require them to seek an alternate school.  Of course you are permitted to leave when you wish or need, without judgement.   All that is requested is that parents honour and follow the terms and conditions of the enrolment contract so that financial disputes and additional strains on families are avoided.  Your assistance is requested in this matter so that if you are intending to withdraw your child/children at the end of this year, you MUST forward your written notification of intention to the College by the end of Term 3 (i.e. 4 pm Friday 17 Sep) at the latest.   If in doubt with timing of notice to withdraw due to relocation/waiting list notification etc., then still please advise us that the intent exists and there is a strong possibility of withdrawing. 

Levy Fee Credits/Refunds

Credits/refunds will be distributed to all qualifying families as of 1 November 2021.  The latest requirements regarding possible rescheduling certain activities is just not possible with either the times not available suitable to our calendar, or venues unsure if they're going to be permitted to open so no bookings for the remainder of Term 4 given the return roadmap of students from Oct-Nov.   

The roadmap allows us to know what can or can't occur and if it is possible, and of course which families will be affected and by what cost.  Therefore a detailed and repeated analysis is being undertaken  towards each family's Levy Fee account (as each differs according to Year group/child/ren costings) to accurately state what amounts or portions of these amounts and in which areas credits/refunds will be given towards 2022 family accounts.   

The College issues family Invoices which include:

1.   Tuition Fees (these amounts are unaffected in this instance as instruction has continued throughout the year) and

2.     Levy Fees which is calculated according to year level as each levels requires variations of these.  The camp element is but one part of this amount which can also include some sports/transportation and sport associations subscription fees have been taken and paid for the year prior to restrictions, annual IT subscriptions paid for licenses and software used across the school particularly for remote learning, swimming amongst other items.  

3.  Subject Levies (unaffected in this instance as practicals/consumables will be delivered by end of academic year)

At no point is the College going to charge for something that it has not delivered but the total credit towards 2022 will be determined correctly by the end of October when all $$facts have become known and advised. 

Unlike in 2020, the College WILL NOT be refunding relevant amounts prior to the close of the year i.e. not before 1 November.  Itemised lists for refund/credit will not be forwarded, we just don't have the time and personnel to do this for individual distribution.

In 2020, due to the College refunding as early as Aug/September the College had to refund as yet unexpected costs that crept up during terms 3 & 4 which we were obligated to pay for various events/activities decided last minute and we do not wish to be held in this position a second time.

Please do not compare SMCOC to what you hear from other schools procedures.  Each operate according to what suits their System (Dpt or Catholic or Independent).  The College will do what it does for all its  families as each is varied from the other dependent on Year requirements and affected activity and number of children accordingly.  The College is audited not only internally, but also responsible towards State and National Authorities with separate audits and we are accountable for all monies received that processes and procedures are followed towards all requirements accordingly. 

Through the hard work and commitment of parents and staff, we continue building a system that is truly unique.  Comparing our fees with other Catholic and Independent schools with extensive IT resources and personnel and budgets, and seeing what our staff and students are doing and achieving with our limited resources is just phenomenal.   

We ask all parents to please continue to support our wonderful College and Staff and their effort in ensuring our students continue to receive top level instruction, teacher-student time, quality activities and within a rigorous program that tries to balance between academic, personal and emotional states during this trying time everyone is experiencing.

Office Hours During Spring Break

9 am - 3 pm.  Limited staff will be on campus so please refrain from attending in person unless prior arrangements have been made.

Uniform Shop may be contacted for ordering items by telephone:  0476 411 241  or email:

From our College Chaplain Very Rev Fr George Nakhil

The Coptic Calendar, El Nayrouz and the Cross

The ancient Egyptian calendar was possibly the first and most precise solar calendar ever used in the world which began in the year 4020 B.C.

In his writings on Egypt, the famous Greek historian Herodotus says that the Egyptians were led to this calendar by means of the stars. They organized their calendar with precision, dividing it into 12 months with 30 days allotted to each, adjusted by appending 5 days called the ‘small month’. However, as the Julian calendar became the predominant calendar in the Roman Empire, the official usage of the Ancient Egyptian calendar had gradually declined and was limited to agriculture purposes.

When the Roman ruler Diocletian (284 A.D. – 305 A.D.) reigned and horrified the entire Christian world, no single Christian community could escape the sword but the entire empire’s soil was stained by the blood of the martyrs. Diocletian even went so far as to shed the blood of the Coptic Patriarch St. Peter I, who became known as the ‘Seal of the Martyrs’ since he was the last to lose his life during that sinister reign.

As a result, the Coptic Church decided to revive its ancient calendar and considered the year 284 A.D., the year of the tyrant’s ascension to sovereignty as the beginning of the martyrs’ calendar. By mid of the fourth century, the Feast of the Martyrs: El Nayrouz, was joyously celebrated across the land of Egypt from the first day of the Coptic calendar 1st Thout (11 September) till the Glorious Feast of the Life-Giving Cross 17 – 19 Thout (27 – 29 September).

The church considers the relics of the martyrs to be treasures dearer than perishable gold, and more precious than any adornments, any beauty, or any splendor. The word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’.

It was first applied to our fathers the apostles, then to the holy martyrs who testified their faith not only through their courageous words but by the shedding of their own blood.

However, every Christian must realize that we are all witnesses unto Christ (Acts 1:8). Thus, our calendar, from it’s beginning to the end, is based on testimony to Christ. Our entire history is a story of love towards Christ ‘who loved us first and gave Himself for us.’ Galatians 2:20.

Each year the inspiring stories of the martyrs become a living chapter crowded with leaders of the faith, whose very lives have become beacons of spiritual motivation to steadfastly and joyously bear our cross and follow Christ. ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long!’ Romans 8:36   

Wishing you all a blessed New Coptic Year and a joyous Feast of the Cross

From Deputy Head of College: Mrs Deborah Grohala

Lockdown - Opportunity or Burden?

There is no doubt that the lockdown period has been, and continues to be challenging for all of us. While each of us has reacted to it differently, for some people and families it has led to positive changes. A recent Australian study found that 70% of people had reported experiencing one positive effect of the pandemic as a result of having a slower pace of life. Spending more time with family, greater flexibility in working arrangements and appreciating the benefits of having a less busy life were all attributed to the absence of routines and the demands of a busy life style.  People reported   that without the demands of daily commutes or social commitments they had more time to step back and reflect on their lives, their futures and what is important to them in a way that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to do.

While this is a challenging experience, it can also be positive for families if you can:

·         make the most of family time and turn everyday moments into quality time.

·         use routines or create special situations to support family health and wellbeing

·         stay connected with others in creative ways

·         manage family conflict in positive ways.

Clearly in the Senior College the greatest impact being felt by the lockdown is by Year 12, and their parents, particularly now that the date for HSC exam commencement has been moved to Week 6 of Term 4.

While the pedagogical challenges pertaining to the online teaching and learning environment have not been without technical hiccups from time to time the completion of the Year 12 HSC Assessment Program last week were all completed online without mishap. I would particularly like to thank Mr Peter Joseph and the Heads of Faculty whose meticulous planning and attention to detail facilitated and embraced this new education frontier. As a result, students earnestly applied themselves to these tasks despite the initial uncertainty about the format. We believe that giving students the opportunity to work on these open book tasks under exam conditions was and continues to be the best way for students to prepare for final exams.

I am always amazed of what each year level brings to their final year but never prouder of what the current cohort is achieving in such unusual circumstances. The HSC year is always challenging but ultimately rewarding. While often a time of high stress, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed for HSC students it provides the opportunity to demonstrate growth, in all areas of life. I want to remind all Year 12 that you have a very strong support network of teachers and staff cheering you on as you make your way through this milestone. And while the final weeks look quite different to other years please know that we could not be prouder of Year 12 2021 and the character strengths you have shown. We look forward to recognizing and celebrating your achievements when the time is right. 

I offer the following quotes from Professor Mark Scott AO, quoted in the SMH and lifted by the University’s Facebook page, that were written to the Year 12 students of 2021:

“Class of 2021, you’ve already shown us that you’re resilient, optimistic and capable by taking these last two years in your stride. My advice is to block all the noise and just focus on what you have control over. As you approach the finish line, please stay calm, keep going, complete your HSC and know that we are all cheering you on. We can’t predict what will happen with this pandemic but what is certain is that there will be university places across the country for those who want them.”

I would like to wish all students and families a restful spring break.

From Head of Teaching and Learning Mr Peter Joseph

2021 HSC Examinations

As students and parents are aware, the HSC written exams have been delayed to commence 9 November. 

More information about the College's COVID-safe plan will be communicated in the coming weeks to factor in updated health advice to schools. 

Below is the summary of the College's exam timetable for your reference.

Study Skills 

FOCUS: Students and Sleep 

Why is sleep so important?  Quality sleep improves your mental, emotional, and physical performance. It also improves your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, and improves your brain function. Sleep is when your brain files or removes all the clutter that accumulates in a day of learning and thinking so you are refreshed and ready with energy for the next day. Getting good sleep is important for both your mind and body.  

How much sleep do I need?

Different people need a different amount of sleep in order to function optimally during the day.  Whilst most adults need about 8 hours sleep a night, many teenagers need more like 9-10 hours sleep per night.  Working out how much sleep you need will take a little time and perseverance.  Record how you feel during the day based on how much sleep you had a night and a pattern will start to appear.

Top Tips for getting to sleep / sleep routine / falling asleep 

  • Have a regular bed time and wake up time.  A regular bed time helps to set your body clock so your body knows it’s time to sleep.  Waking up at (or near) the same time each day also helps your body to establish a sleep pattern.  Get plenty of sunlight during the day too.
  • Establish a bed time ritual.  Doing a series of actions before bed also helps your body to prepare for sleep.  Ideas include, a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to quiet music or doing some gentle stretches.
  • Avoid technology in the hour before bed, including TV, computers and phones.
  • Exercise during the day so that your body is ready for rest at night.
  • Don’t eat big meals at night.  Eat as early as possible and try to avoid rich, heavy food close to bed time.
  • Limit your caffeine during the day and don’t drink any caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
  • Don’t have too much liquid in the evening.
  • Worrying about problems at school or with friends often stops you from getting to sleep.  Talk to a trusted person about things that are worrying you to find ways to solve your problems.  You could also try some relaxation exercises such as meditation or positive visualisation.
  • Have your room as dark as possible when trying to get to sleep.  Use a sleep mask if you need to avoid light e.g. from electronic devices, street lights etc.

Staying Asleep

  • Make sure the temperature of your room is comfortable.  Too cold and you may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.  Too warm and the heat will also wake you.

  • Having a quiet environment will help you stay asleep.  If loud noises often wake you, having some consistent “white noise” can be helpful.  Earplugs may also work for some people.

  • A comfortable bed which is large enough for you to spread out and is supportive will help you to sleep well, as will a comfortable pillow which provides the right amount of support for your neck.

  • Good ventilation in your room helps to get rid of toxins and keep the air you are breathing fresh.  A potted plant in your room may help.

  • Make sure you go to the toilet just before you get into bed. 

Good quality sleep

  • Smelling lavender while you sleep might improve the quality of your sleep.  Try a few drops of lavender oil in your washing or on your pillow, or using lavender scented soap.

  • Have a good sleep environment.  Clear your room of clutter.  Dust regularly.  Have calming colours in your room.

  • Try rearranging your room according to Feng Shui principles, whereby you can see the door from your bed, but your bed is not directly facing the door.  This may mean putting your bed on an angle. 

Feeling refreshed after sleep

  • First thing in the morning, drink a glass of water to help you wake up and rehydrate.

  • Do some gentle stretches or more vigorous exercise first thing in the morning as part of your morning ritual.  This will also help to set your body clock.

  • Practice deep breathing while you are still in bed to make sure your body is able to take in lots of oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.

Where to go for help or more information

If you try out the tips here and are still having trouble with falling asleep or staying asleep, try talking to your doctor to see if there is a medical or other reason. 

You can learn more about how to optimise your performance as a student at

Username: stmarks

Password: 52success

HSC Timetable

From our Head of Primary Mrs Silvia Nada

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

And through the rivers,

they shall not overflow you.

When you walk through the fire,

you shall not be burned,

Nor shall the flame scorch you. Isaiah 43:2

It is hard to believe that this term is coming to an end and as much as it has been challenging for us all, we have managed to get through it together.

Thank you for all the support you have shown and for all your kind messages to the teachers showing them your appreciation for their hard work with your children. I will be communicating again to you closer to the expected date for the staggered return and what that looks like for St Mark's Coptic Orthodox College. 

Parent Teacher Interviews   As we could not undertake the usual parent teacher interviews, instead you would have received a phone call from your child's teacher  to discuss their progress and how to further assist you. There will be no Progress reports issued for Term 3 and we have taken into consideration the challenges this term has presented. However, the teachers are very proud of how hard the students have been working and the dedication they have shown. 

2022 Kindergarten Orientation

Kindergarten Orientation is currently taking place via Zoom and we are very excited to meet all our Kindergarten students for 2022. Great effort by Mrs Saeed and Miss Touma as they conduct their one-on-one interviews in order to gather the relevant information needed to cater for the children once they start. May God bless all their efforts. 

ICAS Competition      Please be advised that there are recent changes to the ICAS test dates. Below is the link to the sitting window dates:

Technology Updates - Mr Remon Metira

Years 11 AND 12 Online Assessments

Virtual 2022 Kindergarten Orientation

Stay informed with the SkoolBag App

Upcoming Dates

Advent Term 4 - 2021

Oct - Dec

Thursday's early-bird Liturgies and Friday's P1 & 2 Year Liturgies will not be conducted during periods of active Restrictions.

Once the Restrictions are eased, these two weekly services will resume and all will be advised.

All student activities will be on hold during the period of restrictions.  

Jazzy Juniors Updates

Share the Pride