In 2022, three of WA’s highest performing girls’ schools, St Hilda’s, PLC and MLC will each have Head Girls who were schooled to year 6 at Subiaco Primary. It’s a remarkable feat, even more so considering that Varna Shetty (St Hilda’s), Edwina Mactier (PLC) and Annie Gilchrist (MLC) were competing against more than 50% of students who put their hands up for leadership positions.

Annie Gilchrist (left), Varna Shetty (middle), Edwina Mactier (right)

Yet, in some ways, it is perhaps not so surprising. “Subi Primary”, as it is known, has always been a standout. Being an Independent Public School (IPS), Subi Primary has benefited from greater community engagement, an independent board and the ability to select teachers suited to a culturally diverse, inner-city school with 51 different languages spoken at home. According to the girls, cultural diversity is one of the uniquely enriching aspects of the school.   

In 2010, the newly formed and highly-engaged School Board played an active role in selecting an equally passionate Principal, Carolyn Press. Carolyn was Principal until May of this year and is a firm believer in empowering students and affording them the opportunity to make decisions and to help shape the school. “I really valued student agency via student voice in forums, perception surveys, input into strategic planning, peer mediation, student leadership programs and the decision making of our Student Representative Council and Social Justice Group.”

While proud of her achievements, Carolyn is the first to point out that a school can only do so much: “I’m thrilled to hear that Edwina, Varna & Annie have been selected as head girl at their respective schools. They have each come from families who instilled in their children the importance of having a strong work ethic and values of honesty, sincerity, being helpful and kind.”

Carolyn Press

When speaking to Carolyn, much of the conversation centred around values. The girls agree that the values-driven nature of the school and desire to do well and give back was nurtured in their primary years in a way which not only fostered a greater sense of community, but encouraged all students to try new things and give fully of themselves, regardless of the task.

Values of inclusivity, respect, fairness and honesty are central to the school’s ethos.  As Annie from MLC says, “The school promotes positivity and honesty and encourages all students to attempt to uphold these values in everyday behaviour. I feel as though these have really influenced my approach to life and activities I partake in.  I also think value was placed on being fair to everyone, and this is something I definitely feel has shaped the person I am today. In an ever-changing landscape, I feel the basis of fairness and equality is vital and deserved by everyone and I try to uphold this in all that I do.”

Varna from St Hilda’s notes the Subi Primary motto of ‘our best’ and the extent to which the motto was emphasised and, importantly, lived every day with students encouraged to give everything their all: “From my participation in sports carnivals to my academic drive, looking back now, I realise that doing my best was always the default.”  Varna was keen to point out that doing your best doesn’t necessarily mean succeeding but it does mean stretching yourself, giving things a go and believing in your ability.  “ I think you really need to have confidence in yourself to understand and believe that not only do you deserve this role but also that you are capable of succeeding in the responsibilities it entails.”

Edwina from PLC agrees; “ Subi Primary fosters a very inclusive and supportive environment which helps instill in the students the ideas of not being afraid to make mistakes, to be resilient and no matter the situation, to always try your best.” Edwina’s advice for anyone interested in trying out for something new is to “really get involved and participate in all areas. The best things you can do is have fun, be yourself and surround yourself with people that accept you for exactly who you are.”

While nothing can take away from the remarkable achievements and impressive leadership qualities of each of the girls, it’s a wonderful example of the power of passionate, values-driven education as a bedrock for developing the kind of leaders we need for the future.

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