The Student Council: Origins and Purpose

Mrs Pauline Harvey-Short, former Dean of School

The following article was originally published in the Summer 2017 edition of the Grammar Gazette. 

What is the quintessential Grammar girl? From earliest days of the School, a Grammar girl was seen as poised, learned, responsible, capable and organised. The older girls, be they be known as Sixth Formers or Year 12 students, were held in high esteem by younger students and expected to help the younger girls in academic and sporting pursuits, while maintaining the high standards of behaviour set by the Lady Principal of the time and her staff.

How did these girls acquire the skills needed to meet these expectations and gain the respect of the other School students?

A Girls Grammar broad-based, liberal education underpinned their knowledge and skills; however, lessons learnt through the responsibility of being the leaders of the School were also a major contributing factor.

The prefect concept was introduced into student life in 1920 with six prefects, including one Head Girl. It became the prefects’ responsibility to nurture young Grammar girls, set standards, instil school spirit and exemplify service.

The Student Council is the modern iteration of the Prefect body and in 2017, it consists of twenty-six students who are democratically elected by their peers after a rigorous application and presentation process.

The Student Council comprises the two Head Girls, two Service Captains, two Sports Captains (representing the sports captains of our nineteen sports), two Arts Captains (representing the captains of music, debating, visual art, drama and publications), and eighteen House Captains (two from each of the nine houses).

Throughout the decades the role of this group of student leaders has, in essence, remained the same — to be exemplary leaders of the entire student body.

However, the responsibilities have dramatically broadened and the Student Council’s role now encompasses setting the goals for the Year 12 cohort, establishing the School motto for the year, organising whole-of-School events such as Blue Days, fundraising for the School charity and, most importantly, creating a united and effective Year 12 cohort to set the tone for the whole School throughout the year. These tasks give the girls of all levels purpose and ownership.

Perhaps the task of least familiarity to many past students is the development of the motto for the year.

Until 2000, the only motto referred to was the School motto, ‘Nil Sine Labore’. In 1926, the girls saw its value:

Our motto is indeed a very wise one, and ever as we grow older we realise its truth, that nothing worth having in work or in play can be won without definite and concentrated expenditure of energy. But we also realise a still more important truth that, though at first the effort is but a means to an end, in time joy is born of the effort itself, and therein lies the secret of true happiness (1926 Magazine).

In 2017, as in more recent years, while considering the School motto, the Student Council led by Head Girls, Lucinda Duke (2017) and Elizabeth Prins (2017), came together for two days in January before the school year started to discover their strengths as a group and discuss and decide on the goals for the year. It was from these identified goals of celebrating diversity, gratitude and teamwork that the motto of ‘Out of the Blue’ emerged. The 2017 motto gave the Student Council its direction, enhanced decisions made in relation to events to be held, and acted as a ‘call to arms’ for the Year 12s and the rest of the School.

As the ‘engine room’ of student-based activities, the members of the Student Council learn diplomacy, organisational skills, the benefits of service, and the responsibility of office, all of which prepare them for their adult lives.

Hopefully, along their Year 12 journey, they come to appreciate that nothing is achieved without work and there is a ‘joy born of the effort itself’.

The Prefects

(A Parody on ‘Those Teachers’)

Who stalk about thro’ all the schools

And when they catch us breaking rules

Make us feel we’re silly fools? The Prefects!

And when we’re having any fun,

Along with eager steps they run,

And say it isn’t to be done? The Prefects!

And when with joyous steps we go

Down to the gym, we always know,

They’ll come and give away the show. The Prefects!

Who always after school each day,

Wait in the porch so they may say,

“Put on your gloves to go away!” The Prefects!

And when we think the coast is clear,

They’re always sure to be quite near,

And at your gloveless hands they sneer!

The Prefects!

(E.H., IVA, 1918 Magazine)