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Case Study: Armidale Educational Excellence

Many metro people believe that you must live in a metropolitan area to be able to achieve educational excellence for your children. The reality is very different.

At the Country Week 2005 seminar series, representatives from three Armidale schools - The Armidale School, the New England Girls School and PLC Armidale - combined to present a picture of educational excellence so strong that it was perhaps a little unfair to Sydney.

Yes, Australia's metro cities have superb educational facilities. The problem, however, is that these are spread across a geographical area marked by extensive travelling time. Even in Sydney's eastern suburbs - a relatively compact area that prides itself on its life style, schools and facilities - parents spend many hours each week just getting their kids from one school activity to another.

Contrast this to Armidale where a huge range of facilities are available within a five minute drive. Further, school fees for both day pupils and boarders are below metro prices. To understand Armidale's educational base, we need to look at the city's history.

Historical Overview

Established in 1839, Armidale began its life as the administrative capital of a pastoral district stretching from the Upper Hunter up into what would become Queensland. While its period as capital of this vast territory was brief, the city quickly developed into an important administrative, religious and legal centre.

An important feature of the time was the strong belief that colder climates were good for physical and moral development. The increasingly wealthy squatting class therefore looked for ways that would give their children a good education in physically healthy surrounds.

In Victoria the Western District squatters looked to Melbourne, while many in Sourthern and Western NSW looked to Sydney. However, those in Northern NSW looked to Armidale where the cool climate provided a good base for childhood development. The outcome was a burst of school development including St Ursala's College (1882), the New England Ladies College (1887), The Armidale School (1894), the New England Girls' School (1895) and De La Salle College (1906).Central building, University of New England

Combined with the development of the state school system, this educational industry provided the foundation for the formation of Australia's first country tertiary insitutions, the Armidale Teachers College in 1928 and then the New England University College (now the University of New England) in 1938.

In turn, these tertiary institutions encouraged further development in the supporting school system to meet teacher training needs. Today Armidale offers a complete education heirarchy from pre-school to tertiary with multiple choices at each level.

Our Featured Schools

All three presenting schools date back to the nineteenth century. Each has its own strong tradition, offering students and parents a multiplicity of choices.

Established in 1894, The Armidale School (TAS) - - is an Anglican, GPS (Greater Public School), day and boarding school for boys with a tradition of academic, sporting and individual achievement.

The Armidale School logoSet on 25 acres close to the heart of Armidale, the School is blessed with excellent facilities. With just 200 boarders and 220 day boys in Middle and Senior Schools and 150 boys and girls in the Junior School, TAS is large enough to offer a wide curriculum, yet small enough to be a close community with a family focus.

The co-educational Junior School caters for students from Transition to Year 5 and the award winning Middle School provides a unique pathway for boys in Year 6 to Year 8. Year 9 to Year 12 students have the opportunity to achieve through the School Certificate and Higher School Certificate curriculum.

The resolve of the founders to establish a school with a philosophy which embraced the ideals of an independent mind and spirit, and promoted the Christian ethic, has been proudly achieved. It is school policy to limit enrolment to a level which preserves the values of a small caring community but which is big enough to provide the range of subjects and activities associated with city schools.

The education of the whole student has been a key feature and strength of The Armidale School throughout its history. TAS sports facilities - cricket

Now in its 111th year, TAS remains committed to a broad, liberal education which places individual development at the heart of its purpose. There is a fundamental belief at TAS that every student can, and deserves to, experience the kind of success that promotes self esteem, purpose in life and confidence to tackle new challenges. Whether it be music, drama, sport, service or adventure activities, it is the business of the School to help find and support each boy's involvement in worthwhile and personally important endeavors. We believe that positive engagement in life supports academic focus and the academic success of our students each year is testament to this.

TAS maintains strong international bonds both through our 25 overseas students and our membership of the International Round Square organisation which ties us to over 50 schools from across the globe including Gordonstoun in Scotland, Wellington College in the United Kingdom, The Athenian School in California and the Doon School in India. This has enabled TAS to establish an international reputation and allows it to offer students opportunities for exchange, service projects and leadership conferences that are the envy of many Australian schools.

Presbyterian Ladies' College (PLC) Armidale - - is a Christian girls' day and boarding school constituted under the Presbyterian Church of Australia in New South Wales that can trace its direct history back to the foundation of the New England Ladies College in 1887.

Presbyterian Ladies College Armidale Logo Located on 17 hectares (70 acres) of beautiful parkland situated 3 kilometres north of the Armidale CBD, the school's superb playing fields, modern building and up to date facilities cater for up to 400 students from Transition to Year 12, with accommodation for 150 boarders from Years 5 to 12.

At PLC Armidale your daughter will benefit from the proven advantages of an education at an all girls school. Excellence in academic pursuits, cultural and sporting activities and community service is encouraged and rewarded. Enrolment at PLC Armidale is non-selective, and students from all races and religious affiliations are welcome.

PLC's Mission is to "to nurture and celebrate the uniqueness of each girl and to challenge her to aspire to the best of which she is capable. Ad Astra." This reflects the school's belief that education involves the training of the mind, body and the spirit. Each child is an individual created and valued by God. Each needs to be encouraged, nurtured and supported throughout their schooling to ensure that they are able to experience success, building self-esteem and PLC Armidale administrationresilience.

PLC Armidale is strongly grounded in the Protestant tradition of the Presbyterian Church of Australia and seeks to provide a supportive Christian environment in which girls are taught from the Bible. From this strong Christian foundation, the school seeks to educate girls in a manner which demonstrates faith in action. The Pastoral Care program reflects the Christian values espoused and reflects the caring shown by Christ to those of His day. Similarly, the Community Service program allows the students to put into actions the values they are taught.
The Christian ethos is one the hallmarks that sets PLC apart.

PLC Armidale draws its students from most areas of New South Wales, and the eastern states of Australia, and from many overseas countries, providing an interesting international educational environment.

Founded in 1895, the New England Girls' School (NEGS) - - is an Anglican school for both boarders and day students from Pre-Preparatory to Year 12. Situated on the western outskirts of Armidale, NEGS boasts modern facilities spread over a New Englamd Girls School logomagnificent campus of 40 acres of spacious parklike grounds.

Since its foundation, the school has built a tradition of academic excellence, where every girl is encouraged to reach their full potential, both intellectually and spiritually, in an atmosphere that fosters creativity, personal and physical development and values individuality, as well as teamwork.

While that tradition remains a cornerstone of the school's Christian ethos, NEGS is also a modern, outward-looking and globally aware school that is committed to preparing its students to embrace the challenges that await them beyond their school years.

A strong, integrated pastoral care program is a feature of school life at NEGS. Our Chaplain leads weekly chapel services for all students.

NEGS' exciting and varied educational program nurtures and challenges each girl to explore the limits of their abilities and to push beyond them.

The subjects available in earlier years lead to a wider range of options in the senior years which enable the students to gain the Higher School Certificate (HSC) or the International Baccalaureate(IB). Opportunities exist for individualised programs for students, e.g. acceleration, accumulation, learning support, vocational courses and modified curriculum.

NEGS has developed strong associations overseas and is proud of its international students who bring cultural enrichment, personal charm and their example of academic tenacity and diligence to the School. With sister schools in Japan, Korea and Europe, NEGS enjoys an established international reputation and is able to offer students a world of opportunity.

Superb Facilities

All three schools have and have access to superb facilities.

Sport is an important part of a well-balanced lifestyle. It teaches organisation, commitment and team spirit while helping to promote fitness and health.

The schools' extensive campuses mean that all the Armidale schools have extensive sports facilities.

TAS's facilities, for example, include a Sportscentre with a 25 metre heated indoor swimming pool, a weights room, an indoor cricket centre and indoor basketball court. The school has 5 tennis courts (hardcourt), rugby and soccer fields, 1 turf and 4 synthetic cricket wickets (plus 6 turf practice nets).

In addition, all schools have access to the extensive sports facilities within the City of Armidale as well as those on the nearby University campus.

This allows for extensive and well organised sports programs. NEGS girls playing hockey

NEGS, for example, offers athletics, basketball, cross-country, hockey, kickboxing, netball, soccer, shooting, touch football, tennis, swimming, riding and water polo. Lessons in aerobics, ballet and gymnastics lessons can also be arranged for NEGS students wishing to pursue these sports either on campus or at a venue in Armidale.

At TAS the sports program is comprehensive and well organised, with the school providing an extensive range of both summer and winter sports at all levels.

Sports offered include cricket, tennis, basketball, swimming, whitewater canoeing, athletics, squash, touch football, shooting, rugby, soccer, hockey and golf.

All schools take part in inter-school competition among the various Armidale schools and beyond.

All three schools compete against Sydney schools in sport, TAS as part of GPS sports competition, PLC and NEGS as part of the IGGSA sports competition.

In addition to sporting activities, all schools offer outdoor education programs utililising the gorge country and many national parks near Armidale.

NEGS ShootingThe school's own facilities together with their proximity to facilities in the city of Armidale and at the University allow them to offer a wide variety of co-curricular choices in music, art and drama on their own or in combination with other schools.

All schools have extensive library resources together with good access to computing and communications resources.

At TAS, for example, extended computer use and education within the school was pioneered in the eighties.

Students now use the computers not only in Computing Studies classes but as part of their everyday work, reflecting "real-life" uses of this technology. Like real life, the school aims to provide computing resources when and where they are needed. As a consequence, the campus is wholly wireless, with laptops able to access websites, email, remote storage and printers from classrooms, boarding houses or cricket fields.

Computer laboratories are also open for supervised student use outside normal classroom hours. These state of the art facilities comprise modern, fast computers with large memory and hard discs, connected, via a high speed network, to several school servers. High speed laser printers are available for student use, both colour and black and white, with colour scanners, digital video and still cameras.

Each student, from Year 3 upwards has their own electronic mail account and space for their own web server. All users of these services sign an acceptable use agreement and are provided with 20MB of download per month at no charge. Every computer has the basic productivity suite of Word Processing, Spreadsheet, Presentation and Database software installed as well as video and still image editing and music composition software. Selected machines also have access to industry standard publishing, image editing, illustration, programming, CAD, digital movie editing and multimedia software.

Students at TAS are often using tools that many others have yet to experience. As such, they feel comfortable walking into any university or business that uses computing technology.

Proximity and space also facilitate the development of new offerings beyond the scope of most Sydney schools.

Established in 1973, the NEGS' Riding Department welcomes students from Kindergarten to Year 12. One of the unique features of NEGS is NEGS Riding Schoolthat it has approximately 60 horses on campus, so students don't have to own a horse and tack, although many do. Four formal Courses are offered:

In addition, any student at NEGS can learn to ride, care for horses or refine many aspects of equitation. There are opportunities to play polocrosse, compete in dressage, show jump and event. NEGS is an affiliated Pony Club and has regular rally days throughout the school Term. In-house gymkhanas and both Official and Unofficial Horse Trials are organised throughout the year.

A number of first-class instructors and clinics with national riders ensure students are given expert tuition in a variety of specialist areas.

Flying really is the ultimate freedom and the temptation to 'join the birds' is just what the students at TAS are doing.

Aviation Studies has become part of the TAS curriculum with TAFE providing the theory and Armidale Airways the practical training.

The students begin their Private Pilot's Licence training in Year 10 (after the School Certificate) and gain their Restricted Licence. In Year 11 further theory and practical gives the student his Private Pilot's Licence and, by the end of Year 12, they can obtain their Commercial Pilot's Licence (FixedWing/Helicopter).

The students accrue 2 units each year towards their HSC and have direct entry into Aviation courses at select universities and TAFE colleges.

There is currently a world-wide shortage of licenced aircraft maintenance engineers, so for the mechanically minded student, TAS offers the chance to study Aeroskills. Again the course is run in conjunction with Tamworth TAFE and on completion the student will have advance standing into Certficate IV in Aeroskills and he will have accrued 2 units of his HSC.

The Boarding Experience

Unlike many metro schools where boarding has either disappeared or at least become a small part of school numbers, boarding continues to be a central feature of Armidale school life to the mutual benefit of both boarders and day pupils. Boarding, NEGS

Unlike many city schools where the school closes down in the afternoon, Armidale school activity continues in some form 24/7. Day pupils and their parents benefit because of greater flexibility in school arrangements, while boarders benefit from closer involvement with the local community.

Boarding is, however, very different from the rigid arrangements of the past. The school's duty of care remains, but is now delivered in a much more flexible and varied way to meet the needs of both students and parents.

PLC Armidale has over 117 years experience in catering for girls living away from home. Four on-campus boarding houses cater for up to 150 boarders from Primary to 12.

Boarders, NEGSThe House Staff at PLC aim to provide a caring Christian environment and one that upholds the philosophies of Independent Education. Although the boarders are expected to observe specific rules, and to act as cohesive members of a community, individuality is cherished. The school's teachers are vitally concerned about their roles as pastoral carers, and work to create a warm and homely environment for the girls within their care.

During the week evening homework for Years 7 and 8 is supervised by the boarding staff in the School Resource Centre. Older boarders work in the boarding houses, with assistance from the Duty Mistresses, all competent academics. The Computer Centre is open at Prep time during the week and a duty mistress supervises the Computer Centre during the day on Saturday and Sunday.

Years 11 and 12 boarders are able to attend the cinema or go to a restaurant on Friday or Saturday evenings, and Year 10 may attend the cinema on Friday or Saturday evenings; this is a formally arranged exeat. Suitable videos are available on Friday and Saturday evenings and the senior students take the responsibility for collecting and returning these. There are numerous sporting activities available for students at weekends.

Individual boarding staff add special talents to the life of the boarders. The school has duty staff who can take an afternoon sporting outdoor activity such as swimming or horse riding, and depending on interest there can be weekend art or craft activities. The music practice area is available.

Sport and music are important features of after school co-curricular activities and allow students to extend the range of participation developed within the school timetable. Students learning to play an instrument practise every week day under the supervision of a member of the music staff.

The weekends provide time for both study and enrichment activities. All boarders may shop in the town centre on Saturday mornings if they have no sporting commitments. This provides the time to purchase essential items and also to browse, as Armidale has many good book, music and specialty shops. With the exception of Year 12 students, all boarders wear full uniform to town on Saturday mornings, and are expected to travel in groups.

Facilities include:

The pattern is similar at TAS.

At TAS the boarding experience remains central to the school. Independence, punctuality, responsibility and consideration for others all come from a successful boarding experience.

The school specialises in offering first class, seven-days a week, boarding care. Whilst day student numbers have grown over the years, TAS remains committed to its role as a boarding school and to meeting the evolving expectations of the boarding experience. Pastoral care from housemasters with the time to support every student, academic structures which promote good habits, activities which make weekends a positive experience and comfortable facilities which respect personal privacy are basic expectations.

NEGS is one of the largest boarding schools in Australia with boarders come from country districts in New South Wales, interstate and overseas and is one of the largest boarding schools for girls in Australia.

The school's four boarding houses (Dickens, Kirkwood, White and Forster) provide modern accommodation. All Year 12 and some Year 11 students have their own private rooms. In Years 5 to 10 students share bedrooms accommodating two, three or four girls.

Each Boarding House is supervised by specialist staff who reside with the students in the boarding houses. In addition, the Principal of NEGS, the Head of Boarding and the School's Chaplain are among the staff members who reside with their families on the NEGS campus.

International Students

International students, PLCInternational students first came to Armidale in significant numbers during the fifties with the establishment of the Colombo plan. Since then, many thousands have attended Armidale's schools and the University of New England. Reflecting this history, Armidale offers a warm and supportive environment for students from many different countries, cultures and religions.

All Armidale schools understand and welcome overseas students and have put in place special arrangements to assist them to settle in.These include:

School Contact Details

The Armidale School
Douglas Street
Locked Bag
Armidale NSW Australia 2350

Phone: +61 2 6776 5800
Fax: +61 2 6776 5830

For General Inquiries contact reception at: enrolment information, a prospectus or scholarship information contact the Registrar at: Copies of our information books for overseas students are available in four languages: Chinese, Korean, Thai, English

PLC Armidale
Locked Bag 5, Armidale,
New South Wales 2350

Phone: +61 2 6772 2418
Fax: + 61 2 6772 5697

The New England Girls' School,
Uralla Road, Armidale
New South Wales 2350

Australia Telephone : +61 2 6774 8700
Facsimile : +61 2 6772 7057
Email : .If you would like a copy of the NEGSProspectus or any other details about NEGS please contact:

Principal :Dr Rebecca Ling email:   
Registrar Mrs Deborah McKern Email: