Robotics, neuroscience and nanotechnology are just a few of the subjects taken by students at Guildford Grammar School in Western Australia. From Year 7 onwards, the option to engage with a wide range of elective study courses and extracurricular activities presents pupils with enormous scope to explore diverse creative, academic and athletic pursuits. Taught alongside the national curriculum, these activities place a strong focus on the development of skills such as critical thinking, creativity, team work and collaboration.

“It’s not just about the subject content,” says Headmaster Stephen Webber. “We’re teaching the students skills that will help them succeed in upper secondary as well as post-school; in university and the work place.” A number of the electives are offered in multi-age classes, bringing students of years 7, 8 and 9 together to create the most flexible system possible.

Much emphasis is placed on nurturing the creative talents of pupils. This is part of a core philosophy, built around developing balanced students who are inspired to achieve personal excellence. “We encourage them to select and try different things,” says Webber. “It’s not unusual for a student to be playing in the rugby first 15 and singing in the school choir. That combination would be encouraged and celebrated.”


Broadening horizons

Extraordinary opportunities are available from an early age, whether it’s learning music from a renowned master, participating in international debate contests, discovering the value of community service on a trip to Cambodia or learning about the solar system by visiting NASA in the US. “Students here lead an incredibly busy life because the opportunities are so extensive,” says Webber, pointing to a long list of extracurricular activities interspersed with school trips and special occasions.


“One of the highlights of my time as headmaster to date was the centenary of the chapel in 2014, when we commissioned a highly regarded composer called Gerard Brophy to produce a piece.” Students have since had the chance to work with Brophy in his capacity as composer-in-residence at the school, with some accepted onto compositional courses at university as a result.

A strong focus on well-being is mirrored in the facilities, including the new Thwaites Centre, which features large, flexible learning spaces that encourage the kind of collaborative teamwork students will need in later life. In the prep school, cushioned reading pods have been created with transparent walls that look out over the grounds. “Our early learning teachers use the campus a lot and take the kids out by the river to engage with nature,” says Webber.


Opportunity knocks

There are more than 50 indigenous students at the school, which offers a scholarship programme incorporating aspects of Aboriginal culture. This includes the chance to learn traditional Aboriginal dances with a celebrated custodian of indigenous song and dance. “The students learn these pieces then share them with the broader community,” says Webber. “We have performed in the past with the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra.”

Webber is proud of the spirit of tolerance and friendship that underpins everyday student life. “There’s a great sense of belonging and this continues well after students leave us,” he says. “It’s not unusual for me to meet an old Guildfordian who is still in touch with 20 school friends.” From 2018, the school, which currently only accepts girls at the preparatory level, will become fully co-educational – a move that Webber believes will bring a fresh dynamic to the many programmes on offer and mark an exciting new era for the Guildford Grammar community.