Bright Future for SA Students


Shaping the future

We speak with the newly-minted St Andrew’s School Principal Luke Ritchie on nurturing the next generation, inquiry-based learning and how the school is breaking grounds in primary education.

I understand you’ve spent two decades working in independent schools, predominately in SA. What skills and experience will you be bringing to St Andrew’s?

I’m very proud to be South Australian through and through. I’ve got strong networks through the business community, education, government and the space sector, and I’m eager to bring those connections, along with my South Australian heritage, to my role as principal. St Andrew’s is 100 per cent invested in early years and primary education. For me, we’re building a high-performing team to deliver the best primary school learning. We’ve just recruited a new deputy principal who’s an expert in data analysis, and we’ll use that to inform us on how children learn and to map out the personalised learning each child needs.

St Andrew’s is one of the only South Australian schools to deliver ELC –Y6 International Baccalaureate (IB) – how does this education model benefit primary-aged students?

Children are innately creative and inquisitive – and the IB uses a proven structure that enhances the curiosity children have. Instead of doing our subjects in silos, the IB allows us to explore foundational subjects in creative ways around a central idea. Around that idea, we embed numeracy, literacy, science, the creative arts and music in holistic ways. The great strength of the IB is breaking down barriers and developing an alignment between subjects and playing into children’s curious nature.

The IB program focuses on global issues – how important is it to educate primary-aged schools about sustainability and issues about climate change?

It’s critically important. So, to be working with an IB program that allows children to learn deeply about the world and how to protect it, is our core business. It’s important they learn foundational skills in numeracy and literacy, but it’s equally important that they understand the world around them.

On a more local level, more than 20 SA high schools have just introduced a ban on mobile phone use during school. Is this something that you also recognise is an issue for primary students?

Technology is a wonderful tool, and I think that often gets lost in the debate around mobile phones. Any technology can be detrimental if it’s used the wrong way. At St Andrew’s, we select the best technology for our students and only when there’s a genuine purpose for it – technology shouldn’t always be the default. As a standalone primary school, we can protect childhood innocence and promote activities we know children love, like playing, exploring and being active outside. It’s part of our duty as adults to ensure that children have every opportunity to be physical and creative and have fun without technology. It’s broader than just the mobile phone debate.

How do you hope to lead St Andrew’s students to ensure they’re future-ready and independent yet curious and collaborative?

The great thing about inquiry-based learning is that children genuinely have a voice in their learning journey. At St Andrew’s, we expect children to contribute to the learning community. It’s about identifying that children are capable now, not just when they’re adults. In turn, we ensure there are spaces where children can be curious in meaningful ways, and that they’re engaging with teachers and outside experts to develop the skills they need as learners. Our students have every opportunity to feed into discussions, debate and connect with experts in meaningful ways.

St Andrew’s School
22 Smith Street, Walkerville
08 8168 5555

Women of Vision

Walford has been a school for girls for 130 years. This year, they celebrate the special milestone, and the extraordinary Walford graduates who have excelled in non-traditional areas of education.

School is back, so we take a look at some of the South Australian schools setting students up for a bright future.

Walford girls have always been encouraged to achieve their best; inspired by the trailblazers who have come before them, they’re not afraid of breaking new ground.

As the esteemed school celebrates its 130th year, the encouragement of women in traditionally male-dominated fields is still as relevant now as it was when the school was founded in 1893 – in fact, over 70 percent of Walford’s Year 12 graduates last year chose a university pathway in STEM-related fields.

But this progressiveness started many years earlier. Educator and suffragette, Miss Lydia Adamson founded Walford Girls School in 1893. South Australia was the first state in the country and only the fourth in the world to grant women the right to vote and Miss Adamson was vocal to the cause, spearheading a school that enabled and fiercely encouraged advanced education for women.

The success of the school was swift, and as early as 1906 two of her students, May Williams and Mary Langman, were the first Walford girls to graduate from Adelaide University, both with Honours Degrees in Classics. At around the same time, another young woman was making her mark in education. Miss Ellen Benham was the eighth woman to graduate from the University of Adelaide in 1892 with a Science Degree, and the first female academic to lecture students in Botany at the University. In December 1912, Ellen Benham bought Walford School, introducing Science to the curriculum, along with Mathematics, Physiology and Botany. Jean Murray was just one of many outstanding students; she won a scholarship to the University of Adelaide in 1918, gaining her Bachelor of Science in 1921 and later a Master of Science. Walford girls, even then, were at the forefront of education, studying non-traditional subjects and pursuing careers of their choice.

Walford was privately owned by its first three headmistresses. The third of these was Miss Mabel Jewell Baker, who also purchased ‘Woodlyn’, the heritage home on the current Walford site. ‘Woodlyn’ has provided accommodation to boarding students since 1920.

Since its early days, Walford has benefited from the exemplary visions of extraordinary women who have been devoted to Walford and girls’ education. And in 2023, the 130th year of Walford, the tradition continues as the school welcomes the ninth Principal, esteemed educator, Dr Deborah Netolicky.

New Era

This year, as Walford celebrates its 130th year, it also welcomes its ninth skilled and highly experienced educational leader, principal Dr Deborah Netolicky.

New to the school and to the state, Dr Netolicky brings extensive experience in teaching and school leadership from a number of schools in Perth, Melbourne and London. She was also recently named by The Educator Australia as one of Australia’s most influential and innovative educators.

Walford Anglican School for Girls
316 Unley Road, Hyde Park
08 8272 6555

Breaking Boundaries

Research suggests that girls’ confidence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) starts to waver as they move through the schooling system. St. Dominic’s Priory College Director of Technology Enrichment, Joanne Villis, tells us how St. Dom’s plans to change that.

In 2022, the Australian Government found that only 36 percent of STEM university course enrolments were female, and an even lower percentage of women work in male-dominated science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields*. Finding ways to change these statistics is paramount to shifting gendered stereotypes and achieving parity in STEM industries. St Dominic’s Priory College is developing the next generation of girls who are passionate about these subject areas thanks to an immersive and industry-focused STEM curriculum.

“St Dominic’s is unique in that we cater for and build upon our girls’ STEM interests from Reception through to Year 12,” says Director of Technology Enrichment, Joanne Villis. Joanne draws on emerging and innovative technologies and combines them with industry best practices to enhance students’ education. “My role will involve creating spaces for innovation,” she says. “Spaces where personalised learning is enhanced, collaboration is heightened, student engagement is elevated and creativity flourishes.”

Exploring the collaborative, creative and immersive aspects of science, technology and engineering subjects and applying them to everyday problems is one of the strengths of St Dominic’s leading curriculum. In Years 5 and 6, students participate in a week-long STEM program where girls identify real-world issues of interest and then design and develop solutions as a team.

Comparatively, Stage 2 Design, Technology and Engineering students are ideating and developing prototypes and potential solutions to address societal issues. One student is using 3D modelling software to design sustainable solutions to address the housing crisis in the Phillipines. Another student is using the design thinking process to create a graphical user interface to support individuals living with Alzheimer’s.

Critical thinking and analytical skills are also interdisciplinary and applicable to other education domains like art, fashion and design. “For example, we have another student working on a 3D printing project.

She was concerned about fast fashion, so she’s exploring designing and 3D printing her own garments,” Joanne says. By equipping students with skills needed to achieve in STEM industries (like 3D imaging, augmented reality and coding) St Dominic’s hopes to inspire girls to confidently tackle male-dominated fields, contributing to future innovations.

More than 60 percent of St Dominic’s 2022 graduates chose science, computer science and engineering pathways at the university of their choice.

Further, St Dominic’s participates in numerous events organised by institutions like the University of Adelaide to encourage secondary students to pursue their STEM interests when enrolling in tertiary education. Each year, girls attend the immersive and interactive Ingenuity showcase at the University of Adelaide, where there is a Women in STEM lounge dedicated to talking to young girls about STEM degrees.

However, ultimately for Joanne, it’s about creating visibility for females working in STEM roles, studying under-represented STEM degrees, or teaching in the classroom. “Girls can’t aspire to be something they can’t see,” she says. “Take our leadership team – six of the seven members are women who lead with the goal to inspire each one of our girls to make their mark in any industry or occupation. It’s crucial for closing the gender gap.”


St Dominic’s Priory College
139 Molesworth Street, North Adelaide
08 8331 5100


The Government reports that one in seven children aged four to 17 has experienced a mental health disorder. The positive program at Pembroke School focuses on developing students’ self-worth so they are equipped to flourish. Pembroke’s Dean of Student Wellbeing, Rebecca Forrest, discusses the school’s wellbeing initiatives and how parents can tackle big topics at home.

You’re the Dean of Student Wellbeing – tell us more about your role.

The Dean of Student Wellbeing is an important role at Pembroke focusing on safety, respect and care for all. My position includes leading the School’s team of counsellors, psychologists and registered nurses, and ensuring we are meeting students’ wellbeing needs. I oversee Pembroke’s Social, Emotional and Personal Development (SEPD) program along with our Pembroke and Parents Partnership series of keynote speakers.

Why is it important for students to make time for their wellbeing?

Statistics show that mental health is becoming a bigger issue in society, and students present with mental health issues younger and younger. We need to be proactive about this. At Pembroke, we focus on positive strategies for young people and talk about the importance of exercise, nutrition and social interactions while also explicitly teaching wellbeing tools. Students are individuals and everyone needs to take a different approach to their wellbeing; we provide opportunities for students to discuss what brings them joy and plan how they will incorporate this into their everyday lives, along with advocating for strong help-seeking skills when life presents challenges.

Stress is commonly experienced by school students – what wellbeing tools can be used to mitigate this?

We explain to students that some stress is helpful and we all require it to perform at our best, but when this is out of balance, students can feel overwhelmed. We discuss the importance of sleep and organisational skills, along with outlining the link between perfectionism and procrastination. We ask students to monitor their self-talk and use strategies to silence their inner critic. We also explicitly teach self-compassion, gratitude, mindfulness and empathy.

The SEPD Program caters for students from ELC to Year 12, but features a specific curriculum for Years 10 to 12 – what kinds of topics are covered in these classes?

We have a bespoke Respectful Relationships curriculum for students in Years 10 to 12. Recent media coverage around consent, gender identity, violence against women and appropriate models of manhood has reinforced the importance of this program. Our other three main SEPD topics are Mental Health and Wellbeing, Safe Partying, and Social Responsibility and Justice. Our Year 11 students have a student-led unit where they decide on a wellbeing topic, investigate it further in a group, and present their findings. We have also initiated a Student Charter on Respectful Relationships constructed by our students, which sits alongside our School Aims.

Seminars are also held for Pembroke parents each year…

As a school, we are passionate about being in true partnership with parents. I am flooded with questions from parents on a wide variety of subject matter, so we decided to run regular parent evenings with keynote speakers from Adelaide and interstate on topics like digital wellbeing, respectful relationships and raising teens. We also opened it up to the wider community – the response to which has been very positive with parents from over 40 different schools attending these popular events.

What is your advice to parents wanting to unpack those big topics with their children?

Talk around the dinner table, in the car or on a walk – try to make the conversations feel relaxed. Tell your young person you love them no matter what, that they can talk to you about anything; you may be disappointed or shocked, but you’re still going to love them, that you’re a team, and there’s nothing they can’t tell you. I think parents need to explicitly say this and not just hope it’s already understood.


Wednesday 17 May, 2023

Hosted by Paul Dillon
Topic: Drugs, Alcohol and Safe Partying

Wednesday 9 August, 2023

Hosted by Dr Justin Coulson
Topic: Happy Families

For more information on these free events for parents, visit the School’s Facebook page closer to the time.

Pembroke School
342 The Parade, Kensington Park
08 8366 6200
CRICOS Provider Number 00367B