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. 

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