Friday, 12 April 2024
    Sydney principal takes over elite UK school

    Sydney principal takes over elite UK school

    Elizabeth Stone was four years into her career as a university law lecturer when she realised she wanted to be a high school maths teacher, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

    The dramatic decision to abandon her work in commercial contract law – while sudden – wasn’t entirely unpredictable. “Friends that were close to me weren’t that surprised. On some level, I’d thought about becoming a school teacher for years,” she says. “My law colleagues, though, thought it was really bizarre.”

    Stone, a UNSW arts/law graduate and former Rhodes scholar, was almost 30 with two children under three when she walked away from her full-time university job. Eager to work in the public school system, she started making enquiries with the NSW Department of Education in search of a maths teaching position. “I was turned away. They said, we don’t want to hear from you – don’t even talk to us – until you’ve got your teacher education qualification. I kept trying, but with a mortgage, two kids … It was unworkable.”

    She approached private school principals instead and was eventually hired by long-serving former Barker College head Rod Kefford. While juggling a teaching schedule taking year 7, 9 and 10 maths at the north shore school, she completed a diploma of education at Charles Sturt University. “It was a very steep learning curve. But he took a risk with me, and I’m forever grateful for that.”

    In the almost 20 years since making that leap, Stone has held a succession of teaching then deputy and principal positions – most recently at all-girls private school Queenwood in Mosman where she was head for eight years.

    This month, she makes another major move, taking up a new role as principal at Winchester College, one of the oldest private all-boys boarding schools in England. She will be the first woman to lead the college in its 640-year history.

    Stone’s appointment comes at a pivotal turning point for Winchester: after six centuries as a bastion of boys’ education, it is breaking with tradition and shifting to co-education. The school, founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham to train and educate replacement priests in the wake of the Black Death, decided to admit its first cohort of girls as day pupils in the sixth form at the end of last year. Girls will be allowed to enrol as boarders from 2024.

    “This is a school where you go into the chapel, and you know that boys have been kicking the back of the pews for more than 600 years,” Stone says. “We need to be really aware that girls have to be welcomed as full citizens. It’s got to be their place, as much as it is the boys’.”


    ‘Girls have to be welcomed as full citizens’: Sydney principal takes over elite UK all-boys school (Sydney Morning Herald)


    Former Queenwood school principal Elizabeth Stone had toyed with the idea of teaching for years. CREDIT:JAMES BRICKWOOD