As Ruyton Girls’ School in Victoria prepares to wrap its 140th anniversary celebrations, Principal Linda Douglas looks back at the School’s foundations and where it is today.
The Ruyton we know today, situated at 12 Selbourne Road in Kew, with over 900 students from Early Learning to Year 12, is a community that is deeply connected and proud of what we stand for. As an independent, forward thinking girls’ School, we are committed to preparing girls for a lifetime of learning, leadership and engagement in our global community.
We are a community that believes in girls. This is who we are.
In 1878 the newly widowed Mrs Charlotte Anderson began a School in the back room of her rented home at 63 High Street, Kew. By 1880 Mrs Anderson reported that she had 21 students, enough to warrant advertisements in The Argus. As 1881 drew to a close Mrs Anderson made the decision to move her school from her rented premises to Edgecomb in Studley Park Road. With the new property came the need for a new name. Mrs Anderson honoured her great grandfather, the vicar of Ruyton XI Towns in Shropshire, England and named it Ruyton Girls’ School.
This woman of great courage, grit and determination remained Principal until 1888. Her vision laid Ruyton’s reputation for sound scholarship, opportunity and challenge for girls; maintained fiercely by those who followed in her footsteps. This belief is still at the heart of all we do today as we foster the individuality of each girl in a caring and safe environment; nurturing her intellectual, physical, social and emotional qualities essential to flourish.
Today, from the Principal’s Study in Henty House, overlooking the Moreton Bay Fig, the daily routines of Ruyton are easily observed: the youngest of our girls whispering to the fairies in the tree, our athletes running in the morning, our Early Learning students peering through the windows on their way to library, or our Senior girls sitting under the windows of Henty, full of social chatter as they eat lunch.
It is the rhythm of Ruyton, a rhythm that always seems to be buzzing with the excitement of the moment and the mystery of what lies ahead. This same study was used by Miss Hilda Daniell OBE, Miss Catherine Wood, Miss Margaret McRae, Mrs Prue Gillies AM, and Mrs Carolyn Anderson. The desk used by the Principal today is the very same desk used by Miss Daniell, a proud old scholar who led the School, and indeed saved the School, as Principal from 1913 to 1952. We are a community proud of our history and use the wisdom it provides to inform our future.
It is fair to say that Miss Daniell lived and breathed Ruyton. She strongly believed Ruyton had always been a home school, with a friendly association and co-operation between the teacher and the student, resulting in a much happier and more wholesome atmosphere. She felt this homely atmosphere had been greatly enhanced by the fact that Ruyton had actually been a home for many years when Mr Henry Henty and his family lived there. The beautiful garden meant a lot to the girls, just as it does today, and Miss Daniell believed it contributed greatly to their development.
In Miss Daniell’s Annual Report from the School’s Golden Jubilee year in 1928, she outlined how Ruyton has always provided a good, broad and cultural education and in its first 50 years had been privileged to witness a silent revolution in educational ideas and methods.
She wrote, “It is amazing to me that, in spite of all the work done by psychologists and educationists in recent years, there should still be people who affirm that it does not matter what a girl learns, as she will probably marry, and it will be all wasted. When you think of the tremendous power for good or ill that a mother has over the developing minds of her children, surely it is of supreme moment that she should bring a cultivated intellect and trained judgement to her task. It is the recognition of this fact that caused enormous development in girls’ education which has taken place in the last 20 years. In the early years of our history Australia demanded of her women immense moral and physical courage, and an endurance that was almost superhuman. She demanded it, and she got it, often from highly educated and sensitive women. Those crude pioneering days are over for the most part, and the children and grandchildren of these women are now a power in the land, and are already obtaining abroad a reputation for progressiveness. We must see that the education we give our girls shall not fall short of what is required to fit them for their life’s work.”
A great deal has changed since Miss Daniell wrote these words 90 years ago. Yet her words still strike an important chord; education is for life and it matters a great deal what our girls learn. We now live in a world where content is ubiquitous; free and growing exponentially.
Our physical landscape, teaching methodology, understanding of the social, emotional development of girls, adolescents and young women have all evolved. What we know is simply not enough in today’s world, nor has it been for some time. Literacy, numeracy and knowledge of the disciplines will always be an essential component of being an educated person but learning how to ask deep questions, how to interrogate information, and how to apply thinking in different contexts is education future proofing; and it is a necessity not an option.
It is increasingly important to take our knowledge and apply it in new and unfamiliar situations, to actively seek issues and problems and solve them critically and creatively. We need to be able to innovate and to have the ability to determine what to do when we actually don’t know what to do. To be bold and thoughtful by asking deep questions, interrogating information and applying our thinking in different contexts. These are the new measures of true learning.
The shared vision in the recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Report on Education 2030 is that our young people “will need to be responsible and empowered, placing collaboration above division, and sustainability above short-term gain. In the face of an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, education can make the difference as to whether people embrace the challenges they are confronted with or whether they are defeated by them.”
It is hard to believe that our current Prep girls will be finishing Year 12 in 2030; but we are very aware of our responsibility to educate these young women for their future. We know that students learn best and engage fully when the work is meaningful and there exists real purpose and challenge. We strive to provide opportunities for student voice and agency, whilst equipping our young women with future focussed skills, attitudes and dispositions.
We inspire girls to be bold. We educate girls to live lives of impact and purpose. We are a community that believes in girls. This is who we are.