2017 is a significant milestone in the life of Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Armidale and the community is celebrating. In 2017, the prominent regional all-girls’ school will turn 130 years old, having been governed by the Presbyterian Church for seventy-five of those years.
PLC Armidale has experienced six different physical locations within Armidale and had numerous name and governance changes.
In its milestone year, PLC Armidale will embark upon a new global initiative, opening its doors to the first cohort of girls enrolled in the newly created one-year, residential, intensive English language (ELICOS) centre and cultural familiarization program. Entitled, PLC Pathways, the new program officially opens its doors on February 6, heralding a new chapter in the colourful history of the College.
The recently appointed Director of PLC Pathways, Mr Christopher Spencer, is known to many in the diverse educational community as a well-respected educator, with exceptional experience in both independent and government schools. Chris shares his story with FOCUS, as the College prepares to embrace its new opportunity.
How have you settled in to your new role at PLC Armidale?
I’ll let you know when I have! I’m really relishing this opportunity to utilise a broad range of my experiences in teaching and leading to build a program from a philosophical foundation right through to classroom practice.
I have been familiar with PLC and many of the staff for a long time. That’s been really helpful, as schools are busy and intense places. It is a beautiful place to work and learn; it has a crisp, clean and fresh feel to it and there is always the echo of girls singing and laughing going on somewhere! I’ve also been really thrilled to come on board at time when the College has such dynamic, imaginative and decisive Christian leadership.
What makes this program different to the usual English Language Centres?
Our program is fully residential in an environment, which specialises in girls’ education. So, we have freshly renovated boarding facilities, a beautiful campus, a long history and focus on pastoral care and strong connections to a community, which is stable and welcoming. Comprehensive language acquisition is the goal, but the means by which that is achieved goes far beyond the classroom.
Secondly, the course is designed for our girls to thrive in Australia, not simply achieve a score in a language test. We provide a deep understanding of Australian culture and strongly develop 21st Century learning values such as critical thinking, enabling engagement with the Western tradition. Our aim is for our girls to be informed, insightful and decisive as they move into adulthood.
How will the program operate at PLC Armidale?
The majority of the girls’ curriculum is focused on language acquisition through studying real, substantial and engaging content, so we will be addressing challenging subject matter over a range of key learning areas. At the end of the course, the girls will enter into mainstream schooling prepared for the Australian educational environment. Our Pathways’ girls, like our Australian students, will be involved in co-curricular activities like sport, music, Chapel and community service.
Our goal is for our girls to be at home at school, and we’re working hard to make that possible. We have staffed the Austin boarding house with high achieving young women, many of whom themselves are studying at UNE and some of whom are Mandarin speakers, to ensure our girls are not hindered by any language barrier when it comes to pastoral care.
Where are the girls coming from, and what age will they be?
Initially, our girls are coming from mainland China and are in the middle high school years. However, we have already had expressions of interest from elsewhere in Asia and Europe, so we may well end up with a wonderfully diverse cohort of students in the very near future.
What benefits will the program bring to PLC Armidale and the wider Armidale community?
Education intersects social and business worlds, so the benefits of having another international connection will bring a range of positive outcomes for the community. Quite apart from the economic flow on into the local community, our girls will have enhanced opportunities to develop networks and friendships abroad. And having this global mindset brings many of its own rewards, of course.
Thank you very much for your time, Chris and all the best with the new program.
Happy anniversary, PLC Armidale!