Students told brain surgeries no grounds for special HSC consideration

A high school student who sustained life-threatening head injuries after falling off a cliff on the state’s far north coast has been refused special consideration to sit his High School Certificate this year by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA).

But his school mates aren’t taking NESA’s decision lying down.

Connor Meldrum shattered one side of his skull, driving bone fragments into the left side of his brain, when he plunged 15 metres from a cliff while climbing around the Cape Byron headland in March 2019.

Connor’s mother, Kim Goodrick, said her son initially had to take six months off school to undergo surgery to have a custom 3D-printed piece of artificial skull implanted.

She said Connor had an “amazing” recovery, returning to school full-time and completing Year 10, Year 11 and the first term of Year 12 before his health took a drastic turn after a holiday with school friends earlier this year.

A rocky cliff with a lighthouse in the background and paramedic to the left of shot, with orange, hi-vis rescue apparatus
Connor Meldrum shattered one side of his skull when he plunged 15 metres from a cliff while climbing at Cape Byron’s headland in 2019.(

Supplied: Northern NSW Helicopter Rescue Service


« We came home and there was just this little bit of swelling on the side of his head where the plates had been fixed to his skull, » she said.

« We went up the Gold Coast University Hospital and … over the next week, it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. We realised that there was something a lot more serious going on.

A woman with collar-length blonde hair and wearing red glasses
Connor’s mum, Kim Goodrick, is calling for her son to have special consideration to complete his HSC this year.(

ABC News


Ms Goodrick said that, within three weeks of the surgery, Connor was back to school, trying his best to get his HSC.

“Unfortunately, he has really bad headaches – he’s actually only got half his skull right now, so he has to wear a little beret with a skull plate, » she said.

“And he had [intravenous] antibiotics for the first four months after the [latest] operation, which is like a bag he has to carry around with him all the time.

In a statement, a spokesperson for NESA said they would not comment on the circumstances of individual students:

NESA is committed to supporting students with disability to participate in education and the HSC exams.

NESA disability provisions are available to provide students with a disability with fair and equitable access to the HSC exams.

All students need to meet the requirements for the award of the HSC, including completing 10 units of HSC courses.

Schools registered by NESA for the HSC must provide reasonable adjustments to enable the participation of students with disability in learning and assessment.

Friends launch petition 

After the education authority’s decision, Connor’s school friends — who study alongside him at Trinity Catholic College in Lismore — launched an online petition, showing their support for him to be given special consideration to complete his HSC in 2021.

Friend Lily Shumack said Connor deserved to graduate with his peers.

« He works way harder than all of us, even before his accident, he was really high-achieving, » Miss Shumack said.

« His recovery has been amazing and he has been coping really well with having the added complications. It’s just really amazing and inspiring to everyone. »

The petition gained more than 2,000 signatures within the first 24 hours.

Ms Shumack said no-one at their school had a problem with Connor getting a leg up.

« NESA says it’s unfair to other people who have to do all the work, but it’s also unfair that he has to have brain injury, and go and have surgeries during his HSC. »  

Boy in a striped black and white shirt and baseball cap, playing a piano
Connor spent months in hospital after his fall, but astounded his family and his medical team with his drive to recover, even regaining his ability to play the piano.(

ABC North Coast: Hannah Ross


Connor said his friends had been amazing since his accident.

« They just help me all the time, trying to get me to do my best, and they have all supported me so well and I’m really grateful for that, » he said.

Staying back would have ‘dire effect’ on his mental health

Ms Goodrick said the family had asked NESA to allow reasonable adjustments, so that Connor could finish his HSC this year by extrapolating the results from his Year 11 and first term Year 12 results, as well as three of the five remaining HSC subjects.

She said they were given and blanket « no » and told it would be « unfair on the other students » and that the only option was for Connor to go back to school and sit the HSC over two to five years.

« It would mean he would have to go back to school on his own, » Ms Goodrick said.

« He’s already suffered so much, I really don’t understand why NESA doesn’t have a process for students in this situation. »