It was a great pleasure to welcome our returning VCE class from 2016 to Assembly on Monday to acknowledge their academic achievements, and specifically, the subject prizes for 2016 and to congratulate our Dux of School, Katherine Yuan.

Students in the graduating class of 2016 have been accepted into courses in 24 different fields at 11 different tertiary institutions, including over a third at the University of Melbourne, and just under a third at Monash University. Our Careers Practitioner, Mrs Pauline Van Der Poel, was also pleased to see so many girls looking further afield to study at the UNSW, ANU and Sydney University, in addition to offers to study abroad from world class universities such as Princeton and Boston Universities in the USA and St Andrew’s University, in the UK.

Of the cohort, 25% of our graduates are stepping into science related fields, 25% in management and commerce and just under 30% in the creative arts and design industry.

During my address at Assembly this week, I spoke of the notion of change. The month of February (in the life of a school) is a time of change, as the rhythm of the school year settles against the backdrop of change itself. Our Year 7 girls, transitioning into life as a secondary school student, our Year 12 girls, inducted last week to the role as student leaders, a changing of the guard (so to speak) and this week our Year 6 students were also inducted into their role as the Student Leaders of Barbreck. Our 2016 VCE cohort, changing from a school girl to that of a university student is one of the most significant changes and milestones young women will make; this will always remain a very focused and deliberate step into adult life.

Of course, the great paradox of change is that the organisations that best adapt to a changing world know what not to change. They have a fixed anchor of guiding principles around which they can ‘more easily’ change everything else. Knowing what not to change, is as important as change itself.

The central role of schools must be to nurture, challenge and develop young people in body, mind and spirit. I think Martin Luther King had it right when he identified that the development of intelligence and character was the real role of education.

The fixed anchor point are the strong values we embed within a St Catherine’s education, Empathy, Curiosity, Perseverance and Integrity and the clear knowledge that being a member of society carries with it responsibilities and duties, as well as privileges. These must be developed in parallel. It is this knowledge that will enable one to use skills and talents to the maximum benefit of the community of which we are part.

Our Year 7 students attended their Induction Service at the Toorak Uniting Service on Monday evening. The realisation that one is now in Senior School can sometimes be daunting for students but as educators we observe their confidence develop and the girls flourish as they transition through each year. Teachers are given one of the most life changing jobs in the world; that of shaping, moulding, and imparting knowledge to lives. It is a great and wonderful opportunity! I do hope as teachers, we make a positive and lasting impact in the lives of the St Catherine’s girls entrusted in our care.

I reminded the girls at our Church Service of the words of School Captain, Mackenzie Leyden from her opening speech at Assembly this year:

“2017 is a blank canvas. You are the ones who get to paint it, make it your own, make it special. Consider your impact on this year. Go beyond your comfort zone. Beyond your friendship group. Beyond what is easy and what is familiar. Take risks. Be yourself. But most of all, enjoy.”

So, for our VCE class of 2016, and all our students transitioning into a new year level, I wish all girls well with their forthcoming change and encourage students to remain true to the character of St Catherine’s women that have gone before us. Women, who are ethically minded and act purposefully, in their contribution to our world. St Catherine’s women intrinsically understand they have a role to play in bringing about positive change.

Please click here for the list of VCE Subject Prize recipients for 2016.

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal