Bell rings on decades of teach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

The West Australian - - NEWS - Bethany Hi­att Ed­u­ca­tion Ed­i­tor

Four of Perth’s pri­vate schools will lose decades of lead­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence as their prin­ci­pals leave in a ma­jor chang­ing of the guard.

The heads of Perth Col­lege, St Hilda’s Angli­can School for Girls, Wes­ley Col­lege and St Mary’s Angli­can Girls’ School are mov­ing on at the end of this year.

They have over­seen big changes to ed­u­ca­tion in WA, in­clud­ing cur­ricu­lum re­forms, an in­creased fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy and the grow­ing in­flu­ence of so­cial me­dia.

Af­ter 16 years at the helm of Perth Col­lege, Jenny Ethell is mov­ing to Ox­ley Col­lege in NSW.

Ms Ethell said tech­nol­ogy had made lessons more dy­namic and en­gag­ing, but it had a darker side.

“There are good and bad sides to tech­nol­ogy,” she said. “I think the area where par­ents are re­ally strug­gling is around so­cial me­dia and screen time.”

Two years ago, Ms Ethell banned mo­bile phones from the school­yard be­cause of her con­cerns that stu­dents were not learn­ing how to con­verse faceto-face or read body lan­guage.

She said con­cerns about ris­ing anx­i­ety in young peo­ple and the need for more women in lead­er­ship drove her to es­tab­lish the school’s In­sid­eOut pro­gram, which she sees as one of her great­est achieve­ments.

Ms Ethell said she would like to see univer­si­ties find an­other way to select their stu­dents, in­stead of re­ly­ing on ATAR scores.

“I think we over-as­sess in WA,” she said.

“And I re­ally think the univer­si­ties need to work out what they’re look­ing for, for stu­dents to be suc­cess­ful at univer­sity.”

Kim Kiepe is leav­ing St Hilda’s af­ter four years to lead Bris­bane girls’ school Somerville House.

Ms Kiepe said one of the main changes she had seen in par­ents dur­ing her 36 years as an ed­u­ca­tor was their in­creased re­luc­tance to let chil­dren ex­pe­ri­ence fail­ure.

“They’re not let­ting them face ad­ver­sity or have a strug­gle,” she said. “We spend money to send our stu­dents on camps and ex­pe­ri­ences so they can face those phys­i­cal chal­lenges, but in day to day life there’s re­ally a trend, I think, of re­mov­ing ob­sta­cles from their path and the chil­dren aren’t get­ting to ex­pe­ri­ence those strug­gles.”

Af­ter 15 years as Wes­ley Col­lege head­mas­ter, David Gee is plan­ning to set up a busi­ness men­tor­ing lead­ers.

Mr Gee said the tri­an­gu­lar re­la­tion­ship be­tween par­ent, child and school had be­come more com­plex in re­cent years.

“There’s been a sub­tle shift from that no­tion of part­ner­ship to a bit more of a client-based re­la­tion­ship,” he said.

Long-serv­ing St Mary’s head Lynne Thomson is re­tir­ing af­ter 21 years at the helm.

Pic­ture: Danella Be­vis

Kim Kiepe, of St Hilda’s, David Gee, of Wes­ley Col­lege, and Jenny Ethell, of Perth Col­lege.

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