For many years, Endeavour Sports High School struggled with a reputation for having greater sporting than academic success.
Anecdotal evidence, which was confirmed when NAPLAN results started to be published, made many parents steer clear of the Caringbah school.
However, the situation changed dramatically after a new policy, designed to balance academic and sporting achievement, was introduced nearly two years ago.
Word spread quickly, resulting in an 18 per cent jump in enrolments and the size of the year 7 class to double from 87 in 2014 to 177 in 2017.
A quarter of the record number of students who applied for places in year 7 in 2018 have been knocked back because the school will now only accept “serious learners who have shown a commitment to study”.
James Kozlowski, who took over as principal in 2015 and introduced the High Expectations Policy about two years ago, discussed the turnaround with Education Minister Rob Stokes, who visited the school during Education Week.
“We explained how the Targeted Sports Program works and how we balance academic success and sporting success,” Mr Kozlowski told the Leader.
“Our High Expectations Policy ensures students are performing academically in order to participate fully in the Targeted Sports Program.”
Mr Kozlowski said students needed to meet three criteria in order to experience the full benefits of the Targeted Sports Program.
“They have to record above 90 per cent attendance, exhibit good behaviour consistently and complete all their academic tasks,” he said.
“If they don't meet these three criteria they are stood down from the program for five weeks until the next review.
“The effect has been that we have seen students lift their performance in the classroom and fewer students are not completing set tasks.
“What we have really noticed is the parents understand there are very clear priorities and that students will be supported with their studies as well as their sport.
“Parents are very supportive because they realise, for most students, the prospects of a career in sport are fairly slim so it’s most important they perform well academically.”
Mr Kozlowski said the surge in enrolments, which was mainly in the younger years, included students who had rejected academic selective school offers and students from Catholic and private schools.
“What I saw when I began at the school in 2015 was very much a sleeping giant,” he said.
“I believe we had a good school that needed to set ambitious targets and to ensure we had a culture of high expectations.
“Ninety per cent of what we do happens in the classroom.
“If you take the Targeted Sports Program out, we are just a normal school.
“The priority for us is that every one of our students reaches their academic potential regardless of whether they are a talented athlete.
“I am not reluctant to say I would like all my students to aspire to get into university because we know there is a strong correlation between the level of education and success factors later in life.
“We know from the research that talented athletes tend to be above average intelligence and can have both academic and sporting success.”