Where warm vibe underscores authenticity

Open Days provide a great opportunity to see what really makes a school tick. Writes PeterHanlon from THE AGE


The impression Strathcona Girls Grammar makes on parents of prospective students in just the few hours of open morning, fills principal Marise McConaghy with pride. One word invariably crops up, highlighting that all at Strathcona are on a worthy path.
“The thing parents speak of is the warmth they feel here; the warmth of the students, and of the positive and productive relationships
they can see playing out,” McConaghy says. “They say, they just walk in and it feels right.”

Open mornings are held on regular school days rather than on weekends, offering a “live” window on life at the 96-year-old school. McConaghy outlines her vision – in essence, to be a learning community that develops intellectually curious, optimistic and life-ready people – before current students lead classroom and campus tours. The students are not briefed about what questions they might be asked, emboldening them to demonstrate the qualities their school cherishes.

“We let the younger girls do the tours, and they’re disarmingly honest,’’ continues McConaghy. ‘‘Parents see how the girls respond and are really impressed with how they can articulate ideas about the school, and how friendly and confident they are.

“Parents want their daughters to feel safe and cared for, to be loved. They go away knowing that not only do we produce strong academic results, and offer so many opportunities through sport, service and the arts, they can see that their girls will be really well looked after. And it just feels right, like home away from home. We get that comment constantly.”

Strathcona’s enrolment, from Early Learning to Year 12, sits at around 820. It is a not-too-big, not-too-small school underpinned by authenticity, where the depth of pastoral care is evident in the relationships between teachers and students.

Year 9 is a treasured time, when students move from Canterbury to the historic Tay Creggan campus on the banks of the Yarra River in Hawthorn, where the challengesfaced by 14-year-old girls are met by a staff  dedicated to their interpersonal development and to building a sense of independence that will prepare them for life beyond school. At the heart of the Year 9 curriculum is the Envision Program where, in addition to traditional subjects, students explore place and community through learning about Melbourne’s history, undertaking workplace
visits, developing entrepreneurial skills and exploring branding, marketing, administration, digital media, design and merchandise creation.

Their studies of strategic planning extend to gaining an understanding of how board meetings operate, and they collaborate in groups to devise a business model which is then put into practice. Four of the businesses created last year – decorating cookies, selling citrus soap, a vintage clothing business and another repurposing old denim into pouches and purses – are ongoing. “Then, in Term 4, they do microcredentials such as barista training, first aid training, things that get them more worldready,”

McConaghy says. “We want to set them up to envision what their working life might look like.” 

The Strathcona motto is ‘Bravely, Faithfully, Happily’, themes that recur through the entire student experience. “We try to develop balanced, grounded girls who are kind and connected,” McConaghy says. “We want them to be lifeready,to feel they have the capacity to shape 
the world in a positive way.”

Strathcona’s Open Morning is Friday 21 February. To reserve your place please click here. 

school captain heading

Tomorrow’s Leaders

Change is inevitable — but what kind of world do our next generation of young leaders want to live in, and how will they play a role in making it happen?
The Progress Leader interviews our School Captain Kara.

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Hearld Sun heading March 2020

Online tools to keep kids learning even in a statewide school shutdown

To manage student wellbeing, pastoral periods will run via Microsoft teams on Tuesday and Thursdays. The school said students are encouraged to adopt positive wellbeing strategies for the period of remote learning such as: be dressed in neat attire for all classes, set up their computer to do online class from a public space in the house, stay connected with friends online and through telephone at recess and lunchtimes, keep to a ‘school day’ routine while at home, maintain daily exercise, eat healthy meals and snack regularly. Teachers are also encouraged to maintain regular working hours, behaviour management and pastoral care as best as possible.

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The Australian - IWD

Lifelong learning key to the future

big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
He says recasting some of the technical disciplines, such as engineering, into a humanfocused
discipline could result in an increasing interest from women.
The Business Council of Australia has suggested an overhaul of the vocational and tertiary
education systems with a shared oversight body and better information about the range of
It has called for that same culture of lifelong learning, for initial qualifications for a strong
foundation, and then modules to upskill and retrain throughout careers.
And instead of separate funding for universities and vocational training, the BCA says an
individual education “account” would allow promote individual choices.
The corporate sector’s peak body has also called for a focus on STEM, as technology
continues to transform the economy. Across the education system, STEM skills and
knowledge are increasingly sought after – but not found.
While the Australian Government pours millions into STEM advancement and advocacy,
institutions continue to struggle to attract, retain and progress women.
Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews says parents and teachers
should encourage STEM participation.
“It’s easy as parents to brush off a dislike of maths or science with an, ‘It’s OK, I didn’t do
well and I turned out OK’,” she says. “We need to change that attitude and make STEM a
priority for our kids. We need them to keep engaging students in a way that ensures both
girls and boys are equally supported in the pursuit of STEM.”
Tech Girls Movement founder and STEM educator Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen says teachers
need to be enabled and supported to do that: “It’s challenging for teachers to have to do
the next big thing.”
Teachers need the tools, training and confidence to deliver STEM and other subjects in an
inspiring way. Beekhuyzen says there is a push to teach coding, but points to forecasts
indicate half the current coding jobs won’t exist in the future.
So what are young people to do? Beekhuyzen says it all comes back to resilience and
adaptability. Her own program inspired Kira Molloy, 20, to get into technology. She is now
on a New Colombo Plan Scholarship, studying at the top-ranking National University of
Singapore. “Before I got involved with the Tech Girls Program, I had never considered
studying computer science and was set on studying medicine,” she says. “From the
experiences I had through the Tech Girl program I was able to go to QUT and Google in
Sydney and see amazing technologies and amazing women leading the field. This ignited a
passion for me to pursue a career in technology.”
Lifelong learning key to the future – The Australian, 3/7/2020 10/3/20, 11(21 am
https://theaustralian.smedia.com.au/HTML5/PrintArticle.aspx?doc=NCAUS%2F2020%2F03%2F07&entity=ar16502&mode=text Page 5 of 5
At the coalface of girls’ education, Strathcona Girls Grammar Head of Digital Learning and
Innovation Michelle Dennis says the most important skills will be those that can’t be taught
from a book.
“A lot of future-proofing comes down to giving students the opportunity to encounter new
experiences,” she says.
And national award-winning science teacher Sarah Chapman, from Townsville State High
School, says future-proofing involves questioning and assessing information, from
humanities and religion, to arts and sciences.
“A lot of these things are uncomfortable for young people,” she says. “It needs to be more
of the norm.”

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