Willoughby Girls High celebrates 90 years of community

Willoughby Girls High School has been at the vanguard of educating and creating opportunities for young women for three generations. Jim Griffiths reports.

People posing for a photograph. People posing for a photograph.
Image: Celebrating 90 years at Willoughby Girls High were NSW Department of Education Secretary Murat Dizdar, ‘Old Girl’ Carol Wylie, school captain Kimberley Samuel, vice-captain Lucy Finlayson and principal Adrienne Scalese.

Established in 1934 as Willoughby Central Domestic Science School, Willoughby Girls High School has been steadfast in its commitment to empowering young minds and nurturing future female leaders.

Marking the school’s 90th anniversary, Principal Adrienne Scalese told her students that the school community believes in the power of educating young women by equipping them with the tools to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes and shape a brighter future for themselves and generations to come.

“We encourage our students to know they can do anything they have an interest in, setting them up to be positive contributors to society once they finish school,” Ms Scalese said.

Willoughby Girls High School celebrated its 90th anniversary on 1 June with an assembly attended by more than 1,000 guests, historical displays, music and drama performances, and a barbecue.

Girls’ education at Willoughby initially reflected the times. After first form, students could choose between two strands – one which prepared girls for a business career with courses in shorthand, business principles and book-keeping, or as a homemaker with courses such as nutrition and home science.

Former student Carol Wylie, who started at the school in 1960, remembers learning to type on manual typewriters with the keys covered, while music played on a gramophone.

“Summer uniform was a blue one-piece dress with a detachable white, starched collar. In winter we wore a pleated serge dress, long sleeve shirts, black stockings, blazers, ties, gloves, and a hat. Today's uniform is much more practical,” Carol said.

As education – and the uniform – evolved, so did the school’s name, changing to Willoughby Home Science School (1944), Willoughby Secondary Home Science School (1946) and Willoughby Home Science School (1948,) until finally becoming Willoughby Girls High School in 1957.

However, one factor has persisted for 90 years, according to Ms Scalese. “Outstanding education, where students focus on high expectations. That may be very different for each student, but they all understand that they can be anything they want to be.”

Today’s students agree, noting the school’s values of courage, truth and loyalty create a sense of belonging.

School captain Kimberley Samuel said the student body made the school special, with a wide range of diverse individuals with different interests and passions who interact and unite as one.

“Our school enables students to grow and find their passions because it offers such a wide range of things to do and opportunities that go far beyond academics,” she said.

Kimberley offered sage advice to students now and in the future: “Make sure to always cherish the memories that you make, and also step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself because you will be supported all the way.”

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