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Cairns State High School > Calendar and news > Principal's blog

 The Executive Principal's blog

October 28
Bullying: No WAY!

As Executive Principal, there is nothing actually more important to me than ensuring that we provide a safe and caring environment for our students and each other. Mental Health is an absolute pre-condition for success in life – and school results benefit from a strong sense of belonging,

Our website has a lot of excellent resources available for those interested in learning more about bullying.

In September the Minister of Education released the report from the Cyberbullying Taskforce and the government adopted all recommendations from the report.

The taskforce report:

Madonna King, the chair of the taskforce writes in the foreword about the views of parents with regard to smart phones in schools. Some want them banned and some see them as their lifeline to the child. She writes:

“A parent’s role here is front and centre. The advent of smart devices, and their take-up, has provided our young with enormous opportunities. By themselves they are not dangerous. But used wrongly, they can become weapons, and the Taskforce heard heartbreaking stories from young people, parents, carers and others across the State.”

The Premier’s response includes actions to support the community and actions by the Education Department:

“Initiatives are already underway in schools to reduce cyberbullying and respond constructively to incidents. However, the Queensland Government recognises there is much more to do.

The Cybersafety and Reputation Management Team in the Department of Education provides online safety education programs for parents, and students and staff of state schools. The team works in partnership with relevant entities to remove offensive online content and address other issues. Its work was highlighted by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which recommended that other states and territories adopt a similar model.”

Which recommendations stand out in terms of schools and parents?

#10: The Queensland Government considers parents and carers are pivotal to reducing and constructively responding to cyberbullying, whether independently or in partnership with schools. Some parents and carers are actively engaged in their children’s online activity, while others want more resources and support.

#11 The Queensland Government accepts that a whole school approach to bullying and cyberbullying is most effective, and that schools must endeavour to genuinely engage parents and others in the school community in their approach to bullying and cyberbullying. A whole school approach to bullying and cyberbullying is encouraged in state schools.

Bullying behaviour is primarily a relationship issue, and the Queensland Government supports programs that promote social and emotional competencies among students.

#12 The Queensland Government accepts that evidence-based information about the available anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying programs and resources would assist schools in their efforts to reduce cyberbullying.

#13 The Queensland Government agrees that schools should, after consultation with the school community, continue to determine their policy about student access to mobile phones and other devices at school. The Queensland Government will provide example protocols for school communities on student access to mobile phones and other personal devices in early 2019.

The Queensland Government recognises mobile phones and other portable devices will be increasingly used outside schools, and considers that education in the safe and respectful use of devices may contribute to reducing cyberbullying.

#14 The Queensland Government notes that the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s national guidelines for the accreditation of initial teacher education programs includes provision for strategies that support students’ wellbeing and safety.

#15 The Queensland Government will provide clear guidance for state schools on the scope of their responsibilities in relation to cyberbullying, including when the principal is and is not responsible.

#16 The Queensland Government will review and revise its exemplar school policies and procedures relevant to reducing and responding appropriately to bullying and cyberbullying, and ensure those documents include a complaints management process and the features of school policy and procedure (as proposed in Taskforce Recommendation 17).

The Queensland Government will provide these updated protocols in early 2019.

#17 The Queensland Government expects, as part of a whole school approach, all schools will have clear, transparent and accessible policies and procedures to address bullying and cyberbullying, and notes that many schools have high quality procedures in place.

#18 The Queensland Government will commission an independent review of the effectiveness of current processes to address reported incidents of cyberbullying in state and non-government schools.


#28 The Queensland Government will provide clear advice about reporting harm or a risk of harm of a child in connection with cyberbullying after consulting with organisations that represent schools, principals, teachers and other professionals who are required to report under the Child Protection Act 1999.

The government response:

What our policy says:

Our school annually reviews the Responsible Behaviour and Wellbeing Plan. In 2016 we included a specific Anti0Bullying policy for the first time and this provides clear information for the whole community to examine when it comes to bullying and how it is best managed. The policy is based on the work of world-renowned adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg who has been working with our Education Department for at least 10 years in developing policy and responses to bullying.

Our policy gives detail of the responses to bullying – both pro-active and reactive.

School Responses

·       Provide a range of curriculum materials across the HRE program to promote respect, resilience and an anti-bullying culture.

·       Review anti-bullying policy and procedures in response to need and feedback.

·       Provide support to members of the school community who have been bullied.

·       Work collaboratively with parents to respond to specific incidents of serious bullying.

Teacher Responses

Teachers will make professional judgements and respond to bullying behaviours in line with this procedure.

Step 1: The Bullying Test The teacher asks does the incident involve:

·       teasing or aggressive words or actions;

·       which are unprovoked;

·       are intended to hurt, harm or frighten;

·       and are repeated acts.

Step 2: The Level Test - What level of seriousness is the bullying incident? (high/low)

Step 3: The Response

·       Manage the incident by engaging in Reflective Thinking.

·       Referral to Year Level Coordinator.

·       Referral to Deputy Principal.

Student Responses

If you are the Target of Bullying you need to:

·       tell the bully to stop;

·       record evidence of bullying;

·       report the issue to a teacher;

·       complete the bully incident report and give it to the teacher

If you know someone who is the Target of bullying YOU need to:

·       care enough to do something by becoming an active bystander;

·       support the target of bullying;

·       complete the bully incident report.

Parent Responses

If your child is the Target of bullying you need to:

·       stay calm;

·       support the school policy on bullying; and

·       work with the school to support your child.

If your child bullies another student you need to:

·       tell them it is wrong and to stop;

·       make it clear you will not tolerate this behaviour;

·       increase supervision of your child’s activities;

·       co-operate with the school in modifying your child’s behaviour;

·       model appropriate behaviour at home; and

·       know that the profile of bullies includes higher incidence of criminal convictions.

If your child sees another child bullied by another student you need to tell them:

·       it is wrong and not to support the bully;

·       to support a person who is bullied;

·       to become an active bystander; and

·       to report it.

 Bullying no way.png

October 20
2018 Awards System

Cairns State High School recognises student achievement as frequently as possible.

Achievement and Diligence

Achievement and Diligence awards are presented twice per year from 2018. These awards are based on student achievement using report cards and are calculated using a Grade Point Average (GPA).

GPA is calculated by substituting a 5 for an A, 4 for a B, 3 for a C, 2 for a D and 1 for an E, then adding them all together and dividing by the number of subjects.

Diligence Award is awarded for excellent engagement: Behaviour and Effort GPA 4.5+

gold standard.png
Achievement Award has three categories: 

  • Honours (GPA 5.0),
  • Excellence (GPA 4.5-4.99) and 
  • Merit (4.0-4.49)


The badges may be worn as part of the school uniform on the tie, shirt or collar.

The major awards presentation is the Annual Presentation Night which is held in October at the Cairns Convention Centre.

For Presentation Night awards, the Semester One report card is the starting point. During Term Three, teachers provide feedback and if improvement has occurred, a student may become eligible for a higher award. In Week 6 the list of award recipients is published for staff comment and teachers can recommend changes until Week 8 when the list is published to students. Students can then make queries about their awards.

The Semester Two report card is solely used for the second awarding of certficates which may occur at the end of the year for Year 7, 8 amd 9 students or at the start of the year for Year 10, 11 and 12 students.

Improvement Award

There are many students who improve from one semester to the next and the top 20 are recognised by their Head of School (Deputy Principal) if they were not eligible for one of the awards above.

At Presentation Night there are awards that students can apply for and a number teachers, Year Coordinators and Deputy Principals can also nominate students for.

Annual Awards Night List

Below is the list of awards presented in the course of the Presentation Evening:

Academic Encouragement award (JCU Year 10)

Achievement Award (7-11)

Arts Achievement Award 

Arts Excellence Award for Representation at State or National Level

Ben Grossetti Award for Year 12 Top of English  

Bernie MacKenzie Cultural Award

Bob Manning Leadership Award

Bond University Scholarship

Centre of Excellence Award (Basketball) 

Centre of Excellence Award (Choral) 

Centre of Excellence Award (Drama)

Centre of Excellence Award (Engineering/Aerospace) 

Centre of Excellence Award (Football)

Centre of Excellence Award (Hockey) 

Centre of Excellence Award (Music) 

Centre of Excellence Award (Visual Art)

Charles Woodward Sport Scholarship 

Clontarf Academy Award 

Council of International Schools International Student Award 

CQUniversity Year 12 Top of Aerospace Studies Award 

Cullen Family Creativity Award 

Daniel Donaghy Memorial Scholarship (Basketball) 

Dante Alighieri Cairns Prize (Italian Year 8 and 10) 

David Hudson Student Leadership Award for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander initiatives 

Diamond Spirit Excellence Award 

Diligence Award (7-11)

Edna Taylor Award 

Environmental Award

Executive Principal's Special Award 

Intermediate Sportsperson of the Year 

J.A. Barnes Memorial Prize Year 11 Dux 

Jim Brooks Human Rights Award 

Junior Sportsperson of the Year 

Leadership in Sport

Long Tan Award (Year 10 and 12) 

Lyndell Sellars Award for Literature appreciation 

Meredith Louise Ward Memorial Award 

Norm Crosswell Award for leadership of Student Voice 

Percy Walter Moorhouse Centenary Award 

Peter Stanton Award for Year 12 Top of History  

Pierre de Coubertin (Sport) 

QATSIF Young Indigenous Leader Award 

Reconciliation Award

Robert Favell Award for Music Excellence 

School Based Apprentice of the Year

School Based Trainee of the Year 

Senior Sportsperson of the Year 

Service Award 

Sporting Full Blue 

Sporting Half Blue

Staff Service Award 

Student's Student Award (Year 12)

Trevor Gordon Year 12 All Rounder 

Vincit Award for Resilience (7-11)   

Vincit Award for Respect (7-11)

Vincit Award for Responsibility (7-11) 

Vocational Student of the Year 

Work Experience Student of the Year 

Year 10 All Rounder 

Year 10 Dux 

Year 11 All Rounder 

Year 12 Dux Alex Whittick Memorial Prize 

Year 12 International Baccalaureate Dux Angela Toppin Prize

Year 12 Long Tan Award 

Year 12 Top of Subject Award 

October 04
What we say matters...

​Sadly, even in the second decade of the twenty-first century homophobic language remains as prevalent as ever. Ninety nine per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people report hearing the derogatory use of phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ in school.

The use of homophobic language has a negative impact on gay young people, making them feel less happy at school and less likely to reach their full potential. In the worst cases, homophobic language impacts on young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

There are two simple rules that we use to address homophobic language and other prejudiced-based language:

1.       Words that individuals use or would use to describe themselves (e.g. gay, lesbian, bisexual, girl, black) are acceptable.

2.       Words or phrases that wrongly imply an individual’s membership of a group and/or refer to that particular group in a derogatory way are wrong (e.g. faggot, that’s so gay, you’re so gay).

In the last week of Term 3, I sat down with some very sensible young men who from our school and we had a terrific conversation about the language we use and the influences which exist in society. I know young people – sometimes even old people – use language towards a friend which they think it a ‘joke’ or ‘funny’. In videos, movies we watch, you tube channels we watch and songs we listen to sometimes use racial language or sexist language or homophobic language. Women need to be treated respectfully by men. Men need to be treated respectfully by women. Mates need to be treating mates respectfully. People you don’t even like, deserve to be treated respectfully.

Over the years I have learned a lot as a teacher. Most important of all the lessons I have learned, I think, is that you cannot assume anything about who is in front of you. They might appear to be happy, might look ‘normal’ or might just be quiet. But what is happening on the inside might be another story. They might have had a rough time at home, not have eaten, be struggling with stress, loss or grief or hiding a secret. You, someone they have contact with, could be the only support they have during the day. This is true whether you are a teacher or whether you are a fellow student. You might have the only person who talks to that person and just be accepting them, and appreciating them for who they are, you provide hope. It is important that all of us in the community or in the school, care enough to ask about each other and build a relationship by getting to know each other.

Mental Health is key to succeeding in school and life. Being a friend, helping your friend get help and asking questions can make all the difference. In this first week back our focus is on Mental Health. What better time to start thinking about the language we use, how we can be a friend and how we can make a positive impact on others’ lives. We can make a difference.

Let it be positive.

October 01
Mental Health has got to be a Number 1 issue

​Week One at school in Term 4 is Mental Health Week.

The stats are frightening. I think we need to do whatever it takes to ensure that young people feel that they belong, are accepted and will be supported no matter what. We call this unconditional positive regard. During Mental Health Week we deliberately make sure that we acknowledge those groups most at risk of suffering Mental Health issues.

I ask all members of our community to get behind this most important initiative, show care and love for one another.

Here are some statistics from Beyond Blue: 

  • Around one in 35 young Australians aged 4-17 experience a depressive disorder = 112,000 young people.
  • One in seven young Australians experience a mental health condition = estimated 560,000 Australian children and adolescents.
  • One in fourteen young Australians (6.9%) aged 4-17 experienced an anxiety disorder in 2015 = 278,000 young people.
  • The number of deaths by suicide in young Australians is the highest it has been in 10 years - more than car accidents.
  • Evidence suggests three in four adult mental health conditions emerge by age 24 and half by age 14
  • People experiencing mental health conditions generally report more experiences of being treated positively than of being avoided or discriminated against, particularly from friends, loved ones and family members.
  • Racism has can have really negative effects on young people’s health, education and social life and these effects can be carried for many years into adulthood.
  • Around one in three young Australian adults aged 18-24 years report experiencing racial discrimination because of their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion.
  • Around one in four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 15–24 years report experiencing discrimination because they were of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. Discrimination directly affects mental health.


Disturbingly LGBTI+ youths experience disproportionally higher rates of mental health and suicidality than their non LGBTI+ peers. 

Sexuality and gender identity is generally considered a minor stress but discrimination and exclusion is a well-recognised key determinant of health for LGBTI+ or questioning youths. 

To help us address this, we have a guest speaker, Nevo Zisim visiting the school to talk with students, staff and the community.  Nevo is a young non-binary Australian writer and activist.  The sessions scheduled for students are on Monday 8 October in Period 2 (Years 7 -9) and Period 3: Years 10 – 12.

September 29
Late start Wednesdays: FAQ

Q: What is RAW and what will the impact be?

RAW is a one lesson subject in Year 7, 8 and 9. It is a time when we learn about character strengths, mindfulness, school policy and health issues. Should the innovation go ahead, then the form teacher will deliver the current program at that time, and during morning form class time.

Q: It will give us a bit more time to sleep in, and maybe catch up on homework/revise for a test

The change to Wednesday mornings will mean we start only 30 minutes later, but certainly more time will be available for individual and group study. There will be spaces set up at school for you to study.

Q: Will Wednesday morning CoE Engineering & Aerospace and CoE Hockey still continue?

We have to look at the scheduling of COEs because this change will be accompanied by staff emerging changing to Tuesday anyway. Heads of Department will be discussing this early in Term 4. We aim to reduce clashes. All the current COEs will still run in 2019.

Q: If Bus company cannot change will my children be able to access Areas before school?

Yes. The current areas available to students before school will also be available on Wednesdays until 9:30am.

Q: The idea of teachers working together on planning, moderation and how best to deliver curriculum at the school, is a great step to building up a better school, but why does it have to be during the students time? That is a couple of hours of their learning taken from them each week.  Couldn't the teachers do this on a Saturday morning for a couple of hours?

There are other ways of achieving this but Saturday mornings are not permissible under the teachers’ award.  Using after school for planning is how we have used time in the past, and we have achieved great steps forward. With the new QCE programs in senior, our work on developing and sharing expertise in teaching, wellbeing and internationalism, arranging the time in this way will accelerate our progress.

Q: Who will be supervising students on Wednesday late start when students arrive before 9am?

The same arrangements as are currently in place before school will be in place. Teacher aides could be allocated to duty and assisting in study spaces. They currently do playground duty at breaks.

Q: Has serious consideration been given to teachers starting their weekly planning meeting at 7.45am so that it doesn't impact on first period classes?

Yes. We are talking about one morning (Wednesdays) a week. Making the day longer makes for less effective outcomes. If we start this early, my concern is the length of day for teachers who teach each lesson on Wednesday. If we do our planning after school (continuing the current practice), planning is not optimal. The proposal gives us a compromise position which does not take away from curriculum subjects except Maths/Science extension.

Q: MSE during this period.

Maths/Science extension is an additional subject which can run at the same times – just for 30 minutes less per week. We are yet to discuss how we can increase time for this important opportunity which is outside the mandated curriculum.

Q: As a parent, what is missing for me in this email is any explanation of what this means for our young people prior to 9.25am on Wednesdays i.e. are they expected to stay home later? are they allowed to be on school grounds like every other day?  Can they use school equipment? Library? Can they engage in sports on the sports field if they wish?

If a student can come in later that is great. If they cannot, then we will have the current areas available for them to gather with additional spaces, like the ‘Top floor’ which will be set up as additional study space.

Q: How will the purported improvements be measured?

We have several measures we look at when it comes to improvement. The Department of Education and the Council of International Schools both have an evaluation process conducted to measure progress against set criteria. We also examine A-C achievement levels for faculties and every class each Semester and we have set targets that we would like to meet. NAPLAN is also a measure and we look at the National Minimum Standards, percentage of students in the Upper Two Bands as well as Mean Scale Score against the national mean.

Taking good levels of performance to even greater levels takes a greater effort and innovations such as this helps HODs lead more effectively and teachers teach more effectively. Cairns State High performs at a consistently good level, and we can do better. I am committed to finding innovative ways to make learning and achievement better at every opportunity.

Q: Will this effect IB or is this just for ATAR?

Students doing a QCE senior will not have any change to their program. They do not come to school in P1 or P4 on Wednesdays. Occasionally they do workshops to improve study skills or learn about health and personal safety issues. These arrangements will continue. Currently Year 12 also do QCS test preparation sessions. Because the QCST is not part of the ATAR program, these will no longer occur whatever the arrangement with the late start Wednesdays.

April 24
Sexting and its serious consequences

Research shows that young people experience ‘disinhibition’ when using social media and this has seen the rise of cyber-bullying and digital footprints that portray individuals less than desirably. Young people do/say things online that they would not probably do in real time and then there is also the effect of desensitizing. Sexually explicit material has become more accessible and the objectification of men and women is rife online. Images and opinions can be shared rapidly with multitudes of people - many unknown to the originator. It is a very real concern and we all need to be vigilant.

Sexting is not a new topic but a very serious one for schools, friendship groups and families….And it is an issue in our school too.

What is it?

Sexting is a crime under Australian Federal pornography laws when it involves people under 18, and it’s a crime for anyone who harasses people of any age. It’s not clear how much sexting is being carried out in Australia by young people but it’s believed to be increasing.  In the first five months of 2013, police in Queensland charged 240 children, aged between 10 and 17, for producing and distributing child pornography.

What can happen?

The psychological harm can be damaging and severe for the victim of sexting, especially where images have been transmitted without consent.
Consequences for the young person can include things such as reduced self-esteem and self-image, isolating behaviours, truancy or avoidance of school, eating disorders and serious self-harm. No known suicides have occurred in Australia as a result of sexting. However there have been known cases overseas, where children have taken their own lives as a consequence of being bullied and shamed when sexting related material has been placed in the public domain.

What do families of school children need to do?

·         Talk seriously with boys and girls about the issue. It is happening. This is an issue for all children. Don’t assume otherwise if though we want to believe our kids cannot be involved.
·         Model respect for women and men. Reject objectification of women and men.
·         Be aware of your child’s online behaviours. Be a ‘friend’ on Facebook.
·         Limit the access to the internet to daylight hours.
·         Supervise internet use.  Never let your young child use the internet unsupervised in their bedroom.
·         Make sure the data plan for your child has a filter and block sharing websites.
·         Ban your child from Instagram, snapchat and other social media sites which can have online predators and unfiltered content.
·         Report concerns about behaviour to the police, block and report users to the owner of the social media platform, report it to school with screen captures.
·         Ask your telco for a print out of sites visited and data use.
Social media is not the place to choose to place your trust. It is can be as equally good as it can be evil.

What happens to people involved in sexting at our school?

The school’s network blocks social networking sites and applies strong filters designed to protect students from cyber-bullying. When students log on, there is a new shortcut which students can use to report cyber-bullying.
It doesn’t matter if your child was the first, the last, or one of many, who posted, sent, liked, made comments or hassled someone online or to their face or near them because they saw or thought they saw a picture of them that was inappropriate, they are involved. With access to mobile phones with data and even free wifi, this becomes an issue for all of us. Sometimes I wish mobile phones had never been invented and I have seriously considered banning them altogether at school.
If it is happening to your child, if your child sees it or hears about it, it must be reported.
Cyber bullying is detailed in our ‘Responsible Behaviour and Wellbeing plan’ as a method of bullying using technology, such as email, mobile phones, chat rooms and social networking sites to bully verbally, socially or psychologically.
Threats, rumours, blogs, nasty comments and even ‘liking’ the comments of others is cyber-bullying.
Students are asked to consider the following questions:
  • Are you currently receiving text messages, emails, msn messages, or reading blogs about you that were menacing, harassing or caused offence to you?
  • Do you have a print out of the messages?
  • Has this happened more than once?
  • Do you know EXACTLY who this person is, and know where they go to school?
  • Would you like these messages to stop?
If the answer is yes to each of these questions then students are asked to see their Year Level Deputy Principal.

What does the school do?

1.       We refer all instances of sexting or rumours or online sexual harassment to the police.
2.       We inform parents. Students then must show parents what they have been involved in.
3.       We gather evidence. Screen shots, IP addresses, names and other relevant information is obtained through our system.
4.       We use reflective practices and record all information on the student’s personal record One School.
5.       Consequences detailed in the school’s behaviour plan including suspensions and exclusion may be applied.