Harrison Bentley freely admits that nerves were high on the eve of the release of the 2020 HSC results, but hard work, dedication and setting goals paid off when the results were released the following morning. 

Achieving an ATAR of 99.90, Harrison is overjoyed at being named the 2020 Dux of the College. It is a well-deserved honour that carries tremendous prestige at Joeys. 

“To be honest, it is pretty surprising!” he says. “I really don’t have the words to describe how I feel, it just seems so surreal, but I’m so happy.”

Hailing from Lane Cove, and a day boy since Year 7, Harrison’s first thoughts turned to his parents, who have given him wonderful support during his six years at College. “They’ve been really helpful throughout the whole year and I couldn’t have done it without them. Mum cried because she was so happy. I gave Dad a shock this morning when I woke him up first thing at 5.40am. I am sure he was a little confused, as it was so early, but he is ecstatic.” 

Like many of his classmates, Harrison spent the morning sharing his news with family and friends, who were just as excited about their collective results as their own personal achievements: “I was talking to some of my friends and our parents earlier this morning, and we were talking about how great it feels to be able to share our accomplishments. It’s good to have achieved my goals, but it is amazing to hear how well the rest of the year did.”  

Above from left: Aidan Kearns, Darcy Creagh and 2020 College Dux Harrison Bentley.

Across the board, the class of 2020 achieved incredible results, with eight students receiving an ATAR over 99.00. Aidan Kearns and Darcy Creagh both earned the second and third highest ATARs for the College in 2020, with 99.70 and 99.55 respectively. 

Gladesville boarder Darcy Creagh echoes Harrison’s sentiments. “My mark represents six years of hard work. But when I think of our Year group as a whole, especially this year, given the number of obstacles and setbacks, to have so many boys achieve such great results is pretty special. Full credit has to go to the whole Year for not only getting through this year, but achieving our goals as a group.”

Setting goals was key to their success, Director of Teaching and Learning Mr Bookallil says. “At the beginning of 2020, Year 12 set themselves the collective goal of 20 percent of all Higher School Certificate examinations resulting in Band 6s (90 or above). In order to strive for academic excellence in the modern HSC the skills of critical thinking, agility and clear communication are essential. Importantly, similar dispositions are sought by the world beyond the College walls. With deep attention to the learning process, and collaboration between peers and teachers, an outstanding 21 per cent of results were acknowledged on the Distinguished Achievers’ List, meaning the achievement of the lofty ‘20 in 2020’ goal.”

Above: The 2020 First Debating team, with College Dux Harrison Bentley centre.

To reach this target as a Year group, many of the boys set their own personal challenges. Harrison’s mum, Dr Rachel Bentley, witnessed this goal setting in action. “When Harry sat down to start his study for the HSC he got a Post-it note and wrote down all of the marks that he wanted to achieve, and he stuck it on his desk in front of him. And they were very, very, very ambitious,” she laughs. “This morning, I went over to his desk and pulled off the Post-it note, and I looked at him, and I asked, ‘How did you go?’ And his answer was, ‘Yep, I did it’. I think it’s wonderful that he had set himself a goal, he visualised what he wanted to achieve, and he was very determined to achieve it.” 

As Headmaster, Mr Ross Tarlinton OAM, said recently, each graduating class is unique and diverse, with no two alike. In the Class of 2020, every student is an individual learner. One of the significant achievements of the boys this year, is not only how well they adapted to the changing learning environment, but the way in which they have flourished as students and focused on the learning style that best suits them. 

Aidan Kearns made full use of the evening group study, and says the benefits that come from collaborating with his peers and teachers are immense. “I gained a lot from working with other people. It allowed me to commit to my studies, and often I was with someone who was pushing me and encouraging me to keep going, even if it was as simple as an extra half an hour of study. As a group we weren’t necessarily working on the same subject, but just having other people there to motivate and assist was very useful.”

“My mark represents six years of hard work. But when I think of our Year group as a whole, especially this year, given the number of obstacles and setbacks, to have so many boys achieve such great results is pretty special”.


A self-confessed independent learner, Harrison relished challenges that came with off-site learning during Term 2. “I liked that I could plan out my school day, and set my own routine and structure. I remember one night, in particular, I had a lot of work to get through, so I stayed up late typing up essays, and I got a week’s worth of essays done. It was nice being in a position that I could challenge myself, and work to my fullest.”

One very important lesson that Harrison has learned throughout his time at Joeys is the important role teachers have played in his academic success. Their dedication and support is appreciated by all students. 

“The role my teachers have played can’t be understated whatsoever, particularly my English Extension 2 teacher, Ms Ryan, who worked tirelessly to support me. She was always working through my draft essays, which in the end consisted of over 30,000 words. I vividly remember sending Mr Lane, my Modern History teacher, six essays on the Friday and Saturday night before the HSC exams began, and he had them back to me by the Monday – and two of those essays were questions in the exam.”

Clockwise from top left: Darcy Creagh as part of the 2020 First XV, Harrison Bentley and Aidan Kearns at the 2020 Graduation ceremony, Harrison Bentley at the presentation of the SJC First Debating team, and the 2020 graduating class is farewelled.

It is this willingness to take on board the advice of teachers that his mother sees as one of the most significant developments in Harrison’s time at Joeys. “I think this year we’ve seen him grow and take on the feedback and advice from teachers, as well as working in a collegiate manner with his friends, which is a really wonderful skill,” she says. “Whether he was preparing for his HSC or preparing for the many other things in his life, he has learned to listen and take on what other people have to say.”

It is heartening that now Year 12 is finished, and the final marks have been received, students are able to appreciate the positive results of years of collaboration between themselves and their teachers. It is a sign of their maturity as young men. “I know it’s pretty clichéd, but without them, none of this would have been possible,” Darcy says. “When we talk about our HSC results, whether it be the pre-HSC study or the final examinations, you definitely have to acknowledge the work of our teachers and the whole support network made available to us at Joeys. I am so grateful for it.”