From the Rector

C Leighton OfficeDSC0176

This year St Andrew’s College is celebrating 25 years of co-education. When Dr John Rentoul (Rector 1982–1994) convinced the Board in the late 1980s that girls would be a welcome addition to the senior years of high school, I wonder if he realised what a significant impact this would have on the College and the lives of thousands of young men and women.

Now as St Andrew’s College is set to celebrate our Centenary, we are a thriving co-educational community, where boys and girls side by side explore, learn, create and grow together. From Pre-school to Year 13 they enjoy the ideal preparation for life beyond compulsory education.

Together they have played sport, created music and staged ambitious productions. They have made films, explored the great outdoors and taken on physical challenges. They have planned dances and social events, debated, developed business ventures, conducted science experiments and solved complex mathematical problems. Together they have travelled to faraway places, worked in disadvantaged communities and worked as teams understanding their own individual strengths and abilities. Side by side boys and girls have learnt, lived, laughed together, shared good times and bad … and thus been best prepared for life beyond school.

Nothing says this more simply and convincingly than the recent marketing campaign, 'Life is Co-ed', and no one understands the power and importance of this observation more than the first girls who came to St Andrew’s College at the inception of the ‘Senior College’ in 1992. It was actually in 1991 that the first girl, Elizabeth Dumergue, enrolled in the Senior College. Elizabeth now works as a banker in London and her story, along with those of some of the other early senior girls who came to St Andrew’s, are captured in the later pages of this edition of Regulus.

There is a significant body of research that supports the belief that learning together in a co-ed classroom has many benefits for both genders. Young people need to master social skills that will help them solve conflict, problem-solve and work well in groups.

Co-ed schools provide them with the practise they need to master these social skills, which better prepare them for success in university and the workforce. Sending a child to a school with boys and girls will encourage their self-esteem, social skills and better prepare them for a diverse world where both genders play important roles. Co-ed environments teach students to have respect for their opposite sex peers, expose them to different viewpoints and help to break down gender stereotypes.

The ancient Greek philosopher, Plato said that co-education creates a feeling of comradeship. He advocated teaching of both male and female sexes in the same institution without showing any discrimination in imparting education. Similarly many academics continue to insist there are no advantages for single sex schools on educational grounds.

The debate continues to rage as to whether students will do better in a single sex or co-ed school and from what I can gather, there is no conclusive evidence either way.

In my 35 years of teaching, I have experienced exactly half of these in a co-ed environment and the other half in either a single sex boys’ or girls’ school. It would be true to say that I have known remarkable young people in all these schools, who have gone on to be wonderful contributors to society.

I am not sure that any have been necessarily advantaged or disadvantaged by the type of school they went to. However what I do know is that there is something very special about the culture that exists at St Andrew’s College. Visitors to StAC often comment upon the ‘feel’ of the school, the friendliness, the ‘vibe’, the cheerful hello and the twinkle in the eye, the nod of acknowledgement, the spring in the step….

There is a feeling of inclusiveness, an absence of ‘exclusive’ groups and a belief that diversity is good. There is no doubt that 25 years of girls being at StAC has created this culture and it is one that is embraced by all who celebrate being at StAC today.

StAC is co-ed and proud of it… after all, isn’t that what life is all about?

Christine Leighton