A history of coming together

Coming together to share, learn, socialise, worship, mentor and celebrate has been a part of PMSA schools’ history and culture in many different forms over the last 101 years.

The establishment of the PMSA in 1918 itself is a great example of ‘coming together’: the two churches’ early co-operation to jointly purchase Brisbane Boys’ College and Somerville House is an historic example of collaboration and ecumenicism.

The early years

The PMSA’s opening of Clayfield College in 1931 was another early example of PMSA school collaboration. To establish the school, Somerville House co-Principals Miss Harker and Miss Jarrett agreed to worked together with Clayfield’s then Mistress-In-Charge Miss Nancy Ashburn, a past student of Somerville House. In the early years, Clayfield students would often visit Somerville House to watch plays, and play sports such as netball and tennis.

Another high-profile early example of these two schools working together was the establishment of what is now the Andrews Cup. In 1938, two teachers at Somerville House, Isabel and Jessie Andrews who were also sisters, wanted to encourage sport and competition at the junior school level. They donated a trophy to establish a sporting competition between sister schools Somerville House and Clayfield College. This friendly sister school competition has today developed into the strongest primary sporting competition in south east Queensland – the Queensland Girls Primary Independent Schools’ Andrews Cup Association.

It was during World War II when Clayfield College and Somerville House students came together again. When US soldiers occupied Somerville House’s boarding house and classrooms in 1942, junior Somerville students continued their schooling across the river at Clayfield College while the senior students relocated to Auchenflower and attended some science classes at BBC.

It was the strapping BBC boys who helped the Somerville girls move.

Shared student activities

Over time, the coming together of PMSA schools has evolved and changed. After the War, there are many records of boarders’ gatherings, including a Somerville and Clayfield boat trip to Lone Pine, interschool boarders’ plays and several Gilbert and Sullivan musicals with students from Somerville and BBC performing.

With the appointment of full-time Chaplains across all the PMSA schools by the 1970s, PMSA schools began to come together even more.

In the 1970s, PMSA schools combined for annual PMSA Church services held at either the Ann St Presbyterian Church or the Albert Street Methodist (later Uniting) Church. This event evolved in the 1980s into church services held on school grounds, and in the 1990s into combined boarders’ days where boarding students of the three Brisbane schools would meet for Sunday church, lunch and social activities in their respective year levels.

During the 1970s, Year 12 school socials between the sibling schools began with much excitement and anticipation. An innovation in educational practice, Clayfield and Somerville also collaborated to share the expense and expertise of an educational psychologist to work with students at both schools.   

These and many more combined school activities continue today including Year 11 student leadership camps, School Captains’ lunches, Boarding Captains’ lunches, ISCF conferences and camps, debating competitions, choir and orchestral workshops, primary and secondary sporting days, Year 12 career days, and Interact and Amnesty International activities.

Past Principal of Clayfield College from 1991 to 2006 Carolyn Hauff remembers that working together either formally or informally was common among PMSA schools during her time.

“Seeking excellence has always underpinned PMSA schools. Seeking excellence is being willing to share, support and assist others because the act of sharing enhances and ultimately strengthens the learning experience for students,” Carolyn Hauff said.

PMSA schools have also shared resources and talent in other artistic arenas. Artists-in-residence such as playwrights, pottery artists, painters and musicians or guest speakers would be contracted by one school to hold student or parent workshops and the invitation is often extended to interested students or parents from other PMSA schools.

Sunshine Coast Grammar School Principal Maria Woods said these sharing experiences are wonderfully enriching for both students, teachers and indeed parents.

“One recent example was when award-winning vocal artist and composer Lisa Young was artist-in residence for a week at Somerville House in July 2018. To share her expertise and knowledge, Somerville House invited PMSA sibling schools to rehearse and perform together at St Andrew’s Uniting Church,” said Maria Woods.

Teachers and executive staff collaborating

Principals too over time have come together collegially. From the early days of Clayfield College as a junior school for Somerville House, until now, Principals have worked together.

Maria Woods said it’s not only Principals who collaborate. Chaplains, business managers, heads of departments and other staff all have informal networks to share information, discuss curriculum, share learnings and assist each other. PMSA Professional Development Days have been held for many years with all staff coming together to share and collaborate.

“These networks are very valuable. Grammar has worked with BBC to share the work developed in the Learning Management System ‘School Box’ and we have benefited greatly from BBC’s knowledge in developing our ‘Boys in Education’ program,” said Maria.

Both Maria Woods and Carolyn Hauff remember the formal process of the PMSA LEAD and HAT teacher process as a wonderful professional learning and sharing experience for everyone involved.

“The inclusion of a staff member from another PMSA school in each assessment panel for

LEAD applicants promoted the sharing of ideas, processes and information between schools.

“It was an important stimulus and challenged your thinking and practices,” said Carolyn.

Many staff too have spent considerable time working at more than one PMSA school. Previous Headmaster of BBC Graeme McDonald and previous Principal of Somerville House Flo Kearney were both deputy principals at Clayfield College during the 1990s and 2000s. Past Principal of Somerville House Murray Evans also became Principal of Sunshine Coast Grammar School when the PMSA purchased the school in 2004.

“The collegiality among the PMSA heads was very strong and if you needed help, it was there for you,” said past Principal Carolyn Hauff.

More recently, the governance reform has encouraged more collaboration and working together at a board and executive level. Today, Principals come together with the PMSA CEO as the ‘Working Together Group’ and School Council Chairs also come together to share ideas.

Thanks to archivists Connie Baird from Somerville House and Helen Jackson from Brisbane Boys’ College for assisting with this story.

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