Beyond School: Pymble Ladies’ College setting girls up for career success

Agenda setter … Pymble Ladies’ College principal Dr Kate Hadwen.

It’s well known that women climb the corporate ladder much more slowly than men and rarely reach the same heights. Motherhood is often blamed for impeding women’s career progression but it seems that the difficulty lies elsewhere.

A 2017 McKinsey report found that women are underrepresented in the corporate world from the outset with fewer female entry-level hires and greater barriers to promotion than men.

“The biggest gender gap is at the first step up to manager: entry-level women are 18 per cent less likely to be promoted than their male peers,” the Women in the Workplace 2017 report says.

“This gender disparity has a dramatic effect on the pipeline as a whole. If entry-level women were promoted at the same rate as their male peers, the number of women at the senior vice president and C-suite levels would more than double.”

Redressing this imbalance is one of the main aims of newly appointed Pymble Ladies’ College principal Dr Kate Hadwen. 

“I’d like to think we can start to better understand that and start to really work on it for our girls so that when they do get into their mid-20s and they’re at their first point of promotion, actually we can start to shift that needle a bit,” Dr Hadwen says.

“I’m really passionate about girls’ education. For me, helping young women, particularly in the workforce will probably be the tenor of my life’s work now.”

Dr Hadwen comes to Pymble Ladies’ College after four years as principal at PLC Perth. She’s worked in a variety of teaching roles at both the primary and secondary levels and taught in every state bar South Australia. 

She sits on several national boards, remains an adjunct research fellow at both the University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University and was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research in 2011.

Improving young women’s career prospects is an eminently realisable ambition, Dr Hadwen says, and as principal of Pymble Ladies’ College she is well placed to see it through.

Research shows that single sex schooling is immensely beneficial for girls, especially in terms of academic results and engagement with STEM subjects, she says.

But it also impacts character development, Dr Hadwen says, citing a recent Australian study by Dr Terry Fitzsimmons that analysed “self-efficacy” — a psychometric term denoting self-confidence and resilience — in boys and girls attending single-sex schools.

“All the studies previous to that had said when girls finish school, their self-efficacy is lower than boys on average. His work found that actually, no, at single sex girls’ schools and single sex boys’ schools, when they finish Year 12, it’s the same.” 

She says that these results are probably because girls’ schools tend to explicitly teach leadership skills and provide an environment that is all “about developing strong women, developing women who have resilience, women who are future leaders, who understand what that looks like — to feel comfortable to be a young woman and to step forward confidently.”

Actively supporting girls’ wellbeing is an integral part of that, Dr Hadwen says. At PLC Perth she developed a world-leading health and wellbeing curriculum and dedicated wellbeing centre because “evidence shows that where schools have implemented a wellbeing program, there’s an 11 per cent increase in academic outcome,” Dr Hadwen says.

Girls are experiencing anxiety at “record highs” and technology, particularly social media, is exacerbating the trend while contributing to an epidemic of sleep deprivation amongst adolescents, she says. Parents often struggle to rein in their teenagers’ mobile phone dependency and need help, which is what led her to introduce a “no technology after bedtime” policy at PLC Perth.

The “wildly successful” initiative saw a whole of school pledge to turn off phones and other devices at bedtime. As a result, Dr Hadwen says that the girls got more sleep and no longer felt compelled to maintain a 24/7 social media presence. 

“When I announced it to the girls and the community, I was inundated; my in-box overflowed with messages from parents saying thank you,” she says.

Interestingly, reducing technology use also serves to increase self-efficacy in children. As Dr Fitzsimmons concluded in his report: “Overall, computer gaming and social media usage were identified as the greatest detractors from the development of self-confidence.”

There are many strands to supporting girls to succeed not just academically but for their whole life. As principal at Pymble Ladies’ College, Dr Hadwen says she is looking forward to “pushing that agenda” even further.

With approximately 2250 students, Pymble Ladies’ College is the largest girls’ school in Australia and, at 103, one of the oldest. It is also, thanks to its “long-standing history of excellence” very influential, Dr Hadwen says.

“What we do at Pymble sets the pathway for what other girls’ schools do. I think that’s a really unique position to be in as a leader of a girls’ school — to have that exciting opportunity but also that responsibility about where education for girls might go in the future,” she says. 

References

Women in the Workplace 2017 — Alexis Krivkovich, Kelsey Robinson, Irina Starikova, Rachel Valentino, and Lareina Yee, McKinsey and LeanIn.Org, October 2017
https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/gender-equality/women-in-the-workplace-2017

Hands up for Gender Equality: A Major Study into Confidence and Career Intentions of Adolescent Boys and Girls — Dr Terry Fitzsimmons, Miriam Yates and Victor Callan, AIBE Centre for Gender Equality in the Workplace, University of Queensland, 2018
https://bel.uq.edu.au/files/28153/Hands_up_for_Gender_Equality.pdf

Collecting Technology at Bedtime — Dr Kate Hadwen, LinkedIn.Com, October 31, 2017
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/collecting-technology-bedtime-dr-kate-hadwen/

Beyond School: Pymble Ladies’ College setting girls up for career success
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High performance education: Central Coast Sports College brings out the best in bodies and minds with unique program

Healthy bodies, healthy minds … Central Coast Sports College takes a holistic approach to education.

A little independent school near Gosford is making big waves with an active education model that sees students playing sport for two hours every day.

Founded by principal Paul Chapman in 2013, Central Coast Sports College (CCSC) in Kariong is a “proudly progressive” co-ed, K-12 school that emphasises physical activity and goal setting to help students achieve their dreams — on and off the field.

Mr Chapman says that many of the school’s former students are currently playing sport at “a high representative level”. He offers the example of recent graduate Trent Buhagiar who now plays A-league football with Sydney FC while another, Cooper Griffiths, is one of the top 100 tennis players in the country.

 

True grit … Central Coast Sports College principal seeks to build resilience in students.

Not all students at CCSC can or even want to become professional athletes but the school’s holistic approach to developing the body as well as the mind fosters deeper academic engagement and promotes better health and wellbeing, Mr Chapman says.

“Our goal is to inspire students to be the best they can be”, he says.

“One of the things we’re very proud of is the vast majority of our students end up in the workforce or higher education because they set a goal and they achieve it. Some of our students didn’t get the ATAR they wanted but got into their preferred course through alternative pathways,” Mr Chapman says.

Academic or athletic, success comes down to resilience, he says.

“I believe talent is a myth. In her book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, [famed psychologist] Angela Duckworth says talent is just the speed at which we learn something.

“We know that every student learns at different rates and speeds. We’re trying to really hard to introduce mastery teaching, which means students don’t move on until they’ve mastered a topic. Some kids take two weeks to learn something, others take four weeks. We’re very much against rushing kids along just because they’re a certain age.

“We don’t promote competition in the classroom and we don’t believe in ranking students or external awards. We believe in developing grit in the students.

“They don’t need to be a star but they need to be keen to learn and play. If they give it a shot and work hard, they’ll be successful here. It doesn’t matter about their ability, we have a wide range of developmental levels and we manage it really well.

“A lot of kids come here at a very low level and I’ve seen them develop into high performers,” Mr Chapman says.

On target … CCSC teaches students to set goals and achieve them.

The active days at CCSC are good news for parents too. With sport integrated into the school day, there’s no need to ferry kids all over the city for games and training sessions.

This aspect of the school has proved so attractive that “a few families have moved interstate so they can send their kids here,” Mr Chapman says.

Easing the time pressure on young families is one of the school’s guiding principles and with three boys at the school he’s a beneficiary too.

“It’s very much about bringing balance back to family lives. As a parent, I haven’t had to do any extracurricular activities,” Mr Chapman says.

The school’s no homework policy is based on similar reasoning.

“I don’t think we have a right to inject ourselves into family time. We have plenty of students who get their work done in the classroom and want to go home and play. There’s no rush to grow up here; if a child wants to climb a tree, let them.”

Letting kids be kids … CCSC students are encouraged to play in their free time.

Some parents may wonder how CCSC students get through all their school work with so much sport and no homework. Mr Chapman attributes the school’s efficiency to streamlined days and a teacher/mentor model that uses technology to achieve time savings.

“Our days are a half hour longer than the average and we tend not to fluff around. We don’t have assemblies or chapel.

“We leverage technology. All the students’ work is online. Right now, we have a student in Spain training with a football talent agency who is keeping up with his school work online.”

Even more important is the investment teachers make in building long-term relationships with students, he says.

Explaining that students retain the same home room teacher from Kindergarten to Year 2, from Years 3-8 and from Years 9-12, Mr Chapman says: “The home room teacher is a mentor. They really get to know the children, spending time with them every day. They help to facilitate work experiences and formulate life goals.

“If the students are engaged in the classroom there’s no reason that they shouldn’t get through the curriculum during class time. When you move from control to engagement, you have more time to concentrate on teaching.”

“The biggest thing about us is we are really authentic, we do our best and it comes from the heart.”

For more information about Central Coast Sports College and to book a school tour see: www.ccsc.nsw.edu.au

High performance education: Central Coast Sports College brings out the best in bodies and minds with unique program
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St Lucy’s: A special school for special students now expanding into the secondary years

Growing … St Lucy’s School is moving towards K-12.

Wahroonga’s much-loved Catholic primary school for students with intellectual disabilities is offering Year 7 places next year and adding subsequent year levels to become a K-12 school by 2024.

“Rising demand for special education and the popularity of St Lucy’s School are the driving forces behind the school’s expansion,” says Principal, Mr David Raphael.

“Population growth in northern Sydney has led to an increasing demand which needs to be catered to, for students and families,” Mr Raphael says. “We have students from Parramatta to the Central Coast.”

Responding to demand … St Lucy’s principal David Raphael with students.

St Lucy’s School currently has 105 students at its main campus in Wahroonga and offers satellite programs for another 30 children at schools in Narrabeen and Narraweena, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.    

An ambitious building program commencing next year will see the construction of 16 new classrooms to modernise the school’s learning environments and cater for an eventual 100 secondary students by 2024.

“We’re designing a whole new complex to create a purpose-built facility for students with special education needs and we’ll re-purpose the old classrooms for the library and other uses. We’re building a car park for staff with a kiss and drop area to take traffic off the road and increase safety,” Mr Raphael says.

New era … drawings for St Lucy’s planned complex.

St Lucy’s School adheres to principles of the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education that emphasises experiential learning and the symbolic “languages” of the creative arts.

“All students who come into the school have a diagnosed intellectual disability and quite often they have other disabilities as well.”

“We accept each child as they are and work with their interests on an individual basis to help them access the curriculum. By communicating through artistic expression, their interests in the Arts helps to lead them on their learning journey,” Mr Raphael says.

Art of communication … at St Lucy’s, students learn to express themselves through the Creative Arts.

This approach is especially well-suited to students with intellectual disabilities, he says.

“We have a student who was non-verbal and loved the Art Studio and painting; he liked a very dark palette — almost black. On this particular day, his teacher asked him what colour he would like to paint with and he replied, ‘Blue please.’ It was the first words he’d ever spoken and through this language of art making, he has gradually acquired more traditional language skills,” Mr Raphael explains.

With about 60 per cent of St Lucy’s students on the Autism Spectrum — the development of communication skills is at the heart of the school’s mission to foster independence and self-determination.

The school uses an integrated approach incorporating technological aids such as Proloquo2Go, a symbol-based communication app that helps students express themselves with voice-output communication, and Key Word Sign. The school’s staff are proficient signers and the school offers workshops for parents and siblings to learn the basics of sign language to facilitate intra-family communication. Teachers are supported by two teacher’s aides per class and the school’s occupational therapist, speech pathologists and psychologist.

Tech talk … the Prolo2Go app helps St Lucy’s students to acquire communication skills.

Preparing students for adult life will be a central aim for secondary students, Mr Raphael says.

“We’re introducing a Life Skills curriculum developed by the NSW Education Standards Authority. This means that Maths, English and the rest of the NSW curriculum subjects can be designed for the individual student,” he says, describing it as a “competency-based approach to education” that will result in a Record of School Achievement or Higher School Certificate credential.

“In years 9 onward, we’ll be introducing a VET program. Our situation gives us access to a whole range of industrial and retail sites to give our students work experience in the community,” Mr Raphael says.

The school’s commitment to practical education is seen in its Mathematics with Meaning program that teaches children real-life applications of numeracy such as how to use money and identify bus numbers.

“The functional elements of life need to be deliberately taught so that students can be as independent as possible in their adult lives and as effective as possible in the community and be advocates for themselves in the adult world,” Mr Raphael says.

But St Lucy’s is more than just a school, it nurtures the whole family, Mr Raphael says.   

“We try to offer as much love and support as we can not only to students but to parents and siblings as well. Siblings can often feel a bit left out. It’s very important to support the family as much as we can. We do this through our pastoral care, through our psychologist, through our community nights, and by providing a place for parents just to come here and talk to each other about their children and their challenges.”

“We’re passionate about what we do,” Mr Raphael says, and consequently the school’s influence is felt well beyond its immediate community.

“We have a number of very supportive schools nearby: Prouille, Abbotsleigh, Knox, Santa Sabina, Shore. They engage with our students as play buddies, participants in our Creative Arts programs, student volunteers at our holiday program and camp, and other student immersion experiences. It’s very powerful for the visiting students and they often go back and help raise funds for us. We advocate for children with disabilities generally to be included and accepted; simple things like lift access at a train station can make a huge impact.”

For more information on St Lucy’s and its move to K-12 please see their website: stlucys.nsw.edu.au

 

St Lucy’s: A special school for special students now expanding into the secondary years
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