2 reviews about Melbourne Girls' College

04 Oct 2016

MGC has a lot of appeal: a lovely campus in a riverside setting, an all-girl student body, a varied extra-curricular program, and a reputation for encouraging leadership.

It also has a lot of problems. Under the new Principal, now into her second year, a swathe of unwelcome reforms have been implemented, provoking a lot of resentment. Already long lessons have been further extended to 4 x 75 minute periods per day; free-time on Tuesday afternoons has been reduced to accommodate the new schedule; morning tutorials have been abolished (they were great for transition into Year 7 and general orientation); selected entry into the College now depends on interest in maths, science & technology, rather than leadership.

Aspects of the curriculum are also problematic. In Year 7, there is a double-component of Maths, but no Language, while Languages are not introduced until Year 8 (putting students behind their peers), also as a double-component. This can cause "swamping", firstly in Maths in Year 7 and then in Language in Year 8. Students can be put off both very important subjects altogether by the time they're in Year 9.

This problem is exacerbated when the teacher is not so good, and made even worse by the extreme length of the lessons, which can become demoralising. As well, Year 7 classes are large - two classes combined. My daughter reported general mayhem in her Year 7 Maths classes, and is looking forward to dropping the subject at the first opportunity. It used to be her favourite. She is also unlikely to persist with her chosen Language. This is a very unfortunate, unexpected change in her academic outlook since starting at MGC, and certainly not good for her educational development.

Subjects are often combined, so that English is studied via Humanities, which also incorporates Geography. Although this sounds like a good idea, the result is a lack of rigorous grounding in any one discipline. The Principal's communications are littered with grammar and punctuation errors, and one could infer that she doesn't regard some aspects of education as particularly important.

Classes are now based on a "framework for curiosity and powerful learning", in which students learn by research, often in groups. This also sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice leads to a lot of sleepiness, surfing and socialising. My daughter feels that students are expected to teach themselves and do each others' work. Any resulting short-fall in education becomes the parents' responsibility (made up for by after-hours tutoring or the student's innate talent).

The Principal has recently justified this educational approach by advocating the view that "there is no such thing as a right answer". That is an interesting concept, but doesn't seem realistic at the secondary level, especially where sciences, maths, technologies, languages, history, culture, geography, law, economics, logic, spelling, grammar, punctuation, art and even P.E. are concerned. Creativity should be supported by a sound knowledge base and the application of honed skills.

I am aware of some excellent teachers at the College, but in my dealings with other staff, I have experienced an unwillingness to admit to mistakes, to apologise and move on. Parent concerns are not always handled respectfully - a parent was accidentally emailed internal communications between leadership staff which contained dismissive and disrespectful commentary.

I am familiar with a number of incidents that suggest poor judgement and inadequate duty-of-care towards students, who rate amongst the highest in Victoria for mental health issues. Last year, a teacher at music camp jokingly recommended drug-use to a hall full of girls and their parents at the concert, but there was never any follow-up with either parents or students, and the teacher is still in charge of girls. This year, a uniform blitz saw girls being shouted at by staff, who were posted at entrances and exits, or being offered $5 vouchers printed with icons of hamburgers as an incentive to dress correctly, or given detentions... Such methods do not demonstrate respect, sensitivity, sophistication or awareness.

There has been a great deal of frustration amongst the student body, especially student-leaders, who were not being consulted before changes were made under the new regime. Unfortunately, negative reviews of leadership staff on the Rate-Your-Teacher site have been removed, so it's now impossible to get a feel for student/parent concerns and impressions. It seems that some staff are unwilling to acknowledge criticism.

My daughter was thrilled to start at MGC, and I was thrilled for her. She had grand ambitions and strong sentiments about a school that we regarded as prestigious. In a very short space of time, we have become disappointed and, sadly, disillusioned. Nevertheless, my daughter remains loyal to her MGC ideal, so we hope for a change in leadership and policies. But that would still probably come too late for her.

05 May 2008

I was a student at this school only a few years ago and my younger sister is completing her VCE at the same school this year. It is a fairly good school and has improved greatly, even just within the few years that I haven't been there. It is a public school but tries to compete with local private schools in terms of facilities and academic outcomes. Most of the teachers there were dedicated and hard-working. However, on the administration side, there is a lot to be desired. The school has undergone recent renovations which are very modern and sophisticated. However, in the school's efforts to be like a private school, parents are often put under pressure to pay non-compulsory fees. Overall, I enjoyed my experience and found some very hard-working teachers. However, in recent times, it has tried too hard to be like a private school and put parents under an unnecessary financial buren.

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