The annual Australian Education Awards in August – held in person for the first time since 2019 – saw Wenona School’s Dr Briony Scott named principal of the year among the nation’s non-government school leaders.
The North Sydney school also received awards for its boarding school and STEM programs, while its middle-school head, Natasha Isbel, was recognised with an excellence award.
“These awards mean something to me and my colleagues because they celebrate the achievements and challenge the negativity around the teaching profession,” says Scott, who adds that Wenona hadn’t previously entered the national awards program.
Known as an outspoken advocate for teachers, she features regularly at education and community forums and conferences, and writes about the sector for media outlets.
Scott says she’s honoured by the award, while also conscious that many educators have gone through far more challenges than she has in the past few years.
“This award gives me the privilege of being able to speak publicly about my profession and remind people that teachers have overwhelmingly been outstanding throughout the pandemic, despite myriad – and often conflicting – messages from different people in politics telling us what we should do”
Public and independent primary and secondary school leaders from across the country are nominated each year and among the 2022 excellence awardees, Ravenswood School for Girls was another standout with principal Anne Johnstone receiving honours and the school recognised for its student wellbeing and boarding programs alongside a best-teacher nod for Ravenswood’s Kerrie Besgrove.
Besgrove teaches years 5 and 6 mathematics, leads the school’s gifted and talented program, and mentors individual students and groups taking part in extra-curricular endeavours including the Da Vinci Decathalon, a keenly contested national academic competition between school teams.
More than 1200 girls from kindergarten to year 12 attend Ravenswood’s Gordon campus, of which about 50 are boarders. e school’s wellbeing program is based on positive education principles and weathered the pandemic with a community that included several full-time psychologists and Daisy the therapy dog.
Mentoring for students in years 7-12 and an evidence-based approach designed to encourage positive emotions helps students manage stress, connect with each other and build “microhabits” to help reach personal goals.
Wellbeing lessons are held from kindergarten to year 10 and, for the past two years, Ravenswood students have been part of a leadership team running a wellbeing conference for student leaders across Sydney.
Recent renovations at the boarding college were an opportunity to introduce a new wellbeing room, which includes sensory elements such as custom lighting, weighted blankets and fidget toys designed to help reduce anxiety among students living away from home.
And, in a tribute to the UN International Day of Happiness in 2021, student leaders created happiness action packs for staff with strategy tips, based on the science of positive psychology.