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 face-to-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.
“I think it’s directly related to the fact that as the number gets higher, parents are actually saying is it worth it, especially when not all that stuff is measurable.”
Long-serving St Mary’s head Lynne Thomson is retiring after 21 years at the helm.
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