HUNTER students have persevered with their HSC exams despite the turmoil of a nearby industrial fire.
Emma Phillips and Nick Turkington of Kurri Kurri High School sat their Ancient History exam at the town's TAFE on Tuesday.
"It was a stressful atmosphere in the community but being away from the school and the fire we felt supported and well looked after," Emma said.
Fumes from the fire at Weston Aluminum caused Kurri Kurri High to close Monday.
According to deputy principal Jane Somerville, holding the exams at Kurri Kurri TAFE, as the school has done for the past three years, meant this week's papers ran relatively uninterrupted.
"The children were here in the morning, they went straight into their exams and we were able to shut the doors so the whole outside world was behind them," she said
"Despite all the terrible things that have been happening around them I think the kids have shown a lot of resilience."
Emma Phillips said as well as being safely away from the blaze, the school's policy to hold HSC exams at the TAFE made it easier to concentrate.
"It's really good to be supported by both the TAFE and the school. Being out in a quiet environment away from the rest of the students allowed us to reach our full potential," she said.
For Emma, the exam itself "wasn't too bad by any means". Nick added he enjoyed the sections on Pompeii and Sparta.
"It's easier to answer questions on something you're interested in obviously," he said.
As part of the school's "accelerated program", Ancient History is the only exam Nick will sit this year.
"Doing it this way allows me to get one exam out of the way so I only have to do four or five next year."
Emma was also part of the program, having sat her Biology paper in 2020 she only has four exams this year.
"It not only provides the year elevens with a greater insight into what to expect for the HSC but also allows them to connect more with the senior teachers," Emma said.
Emma said the past two years of schooling have "resulted in a lot of burnout and a lot of drain". Despite the difficulty, she said peers at her school have supported each other throughout the year. "During lockdown my year would arrange group FaceTime calls or group Zooms so that way we could check in with each other."
Nick said COVID allowed students to focus on their mental health.
"I think it will continue because people have got a taste of what it feels like to care about themselves," he said.