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St Catherine's is the oldest independent Anglican girls' school in Australia. It was founded in 1856 by Mrs Jane Barker, wife of Bishop Barker, to provide an education for the daughters of clergy equal to that given to boys. Mrs Barker named the school after the patron saint of scholars, St Catherine of Alexandria. In 2016 we celebrated 160 years old - a very special birthday!
The School first opened in what is now Ocean Street, Woollahra and in 1859 moved to the Waverley site which was then bushland. The original school house, the Stone House, is now the administration block.
The first ‘superintendent’ of the School, Miss Mary Loftus attempted to impose strict standards on students and Mrs Barker eventually appointed an English woman, Miss Law, as Headmistress. It was said of Miss Law that her face ‘though kindly while smiling, could smite a girlish offender with fear.’ She remained Head until 1883.
There were only 14 pupils when Miss Helen Phillips became Headmistress. To enable enrolments to grow from 1884, the new Advisory Council decided to enroll daughters of the laity and all girls were boarders.
The 1890's were difficult years as the Depression caused a drop in enrolments. Sydney's sprawl had reached Waverley and St Catherine's was no longer out in the bush so it was decided to accept day girls as well as boarders. Miss Rebecca Darling, then Miss Charlotte Fox were Headmistress' during this time.
At the School's jubilee in 1906, when Miss Ellen Lenthall was Head, there were 48 girls to join in the celebrations.
Miss Lenthall, ‘a clever intellectual with a great sense of humour’, remained as Head for 32 years. She was followed by Miss Isabel James who became Mrs Isabel Hall. Enrolment grew to 120 pupils. Mrs Hall steered the School through the post-Depression years of the thirties and the Second World War and was followed by Miss Ella Mitchell.
In 1950, Miss Una Fitzhardinge, an old girl of St Catherine's became Head. Five years later Miss Faith Patterson was appointed and became the longest-serving of all the Heads, remaining until 1987.
Miss Patterson expanded the School from 200 to 900 girls and carried through a succession of building projects to accommodate the increasing numbers. She transformed the School with additions such as the St John's building, the Assembly Hall, the Lenthall block, the Isabel Hall Wing, the swimming pool, the Maccallum Junior School and the Faith Patterson Study Centre.
In 1988 when the School was 132 years old, Mrs Jo Karaolis became its tenth Headmistress. Her headship was a time of great innovation and curriculum change. In 1994 the Dame Joan Sutherland Centre was opened, followed five years later by the new Junior School.
Mrs Lynne Stone became the Headmistress in 2001. With a focus on student leadership and staff professional development, 2001-2009 saw many facilities upgraded throughout the School. This included the Jo Karaolis Sports Centre which opened in 2002 and the re-designed Isabel Hall Wing in 2006.
Dr Julie Townsend BA (Hons), Cert.Ed, PhD, MBA (EdLship), MACE has been Headmistress of St Catherine's since 2010.
The School celebrated its proud history and its 150th anniversary in 2006. In 2016 the School celebrated its 160th birthday!
In 1988, Mrs Jo Karaolis became our tenth Headmistress and opened the Dame Joan Sutherland Centre in 1994. Her headship was a time of great innovation and curriculum change.
Mrs Lynne Stone became the Headmistress in 2001. She focussed on student leadership and staff professional development and several facilities were upgraded including the Jo Karaolis Sports Centre and the re-designed Isabel Hall Wing.
St Catherine’s was founded by Mrs Jane Barker in 1856 to provide an education for the daughters of clergy equal to that given to boys.