It is the job of all schools to prepare students for life after education. At Presbyterian Ladies’ College (PLC Sydney), their entrée into the world begins well before graduation. “They are already in the real world,” says Dr Paul Burgis, Principal, “which is important to recognise. They can change the world now.”
At PLC Sydney, which offers an independent education for girls from pre-kindergarden to Year 12, staff emphasise the students’ agency to make an impact from an early age. Partly, this is encouraged through the school’s “Service Learning Program”.
From the age of 13, students get the opportunity to exercise civic responsibility and engage with the community by undertaking volunteer work at various local institutions according to their school year. These range from students undertaking service and raising money for two kindergartens in Timor-Leste in Year 10, to the the Ba Vi Centre, Vietnam (pictured, opposite) for children with profound disability, in Year 11. In their final year there’s a chance to work with the International Justice Mission.
Opportunities for international travel occur across the curriculum at PLC Sydney, where academic excellence is complemented by the many cultural, creative and athletic activities on offer. Overseas trips for music, drama, sports, languages and literature inspire students to pursue their passions and develop their talents. Recent trips include a drama tour to New York, a European science tour, an English literature tour and a language tour in China. This year will see students head off to Japan for a music tour; and preparations are underway for a pipes and drum tour to Scotland in 2019.
In Year 10 students are offered another taste of independence through the “International Exchange Progam”. This scheme affords willing students a choice of 15 schools in countries around the world. PLC Sydney also excels in public speaking and debating competitions. In 2018, four students represented Australia in the Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships (WIDPSC) in Cape Town, South Africa and one of those students won the overall competition.
The college’s student athletes regularly come home with medals, including the winner’s trophy for the IGSSA Firsts Hockey Championship for five of the past six years. One alumnus, Kaitlin Nobbs, is now in the Australian Hockeyroos.
All these experiences are character-building and make for the kind of confidence and open-mindedness the college sets out to instil its students. New parents enrolling their daughters at the college are often inspired to do so by meeting impressive graduates of PLC Sydney.
While the school is not academically selective, students regularly gain outstanding results: in 2017 these averaged 86 per cent across all examinations. For two years running, PLC Sydney candidates have received two Top of the World Awards for Cambridge Global Perspectives and Cambridge Physical Sciences.
Christian values underpin day-to-day life at PLC Sydney. Each year, an annual address on the interaction of faith and another subject area, such as science, history or gender, is held.
“Whether or not students develop their own faith, religious questions are a vital part of being human,” says Dr Burgis. “We want to be an authentic Christian college with epistemic humility. This means that we know deeply that we have so much to learn. Our students need to be imbued with a sense of the wonder of the universe, of themselves and others as created beings, and of the scope to contribute positively and graciously to others.”