Tuesday 12 April 2022

From the Archives

From the Archives – Co-education comes to Ivanhoe Grammar School

One of the most dramatic changes to Ivanhoe Grammar School took place thirty years ago in Term 1, 1992 when five girls in Year 7 and five in Year 5 walked through the gates to join over 200 male students at Plenty Campus.

Co-education at Ivanhoe Grammar School was considered many years before it became a reality.  In 1965, Richard Stowell, Headmaster of the Memorial Junior School, proposed the concept of a coeducational junior school as a joint enterprise with Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School. Victor ‘Jock’ Brown also pursued the idea of coeducation during the last years of his leadership at the School.  Parents and students had little idea that these options were even being explored or considerations made for the possibility of coeducation in the future.

While co-education may have been born of both economic expediency, it has brought significant cultural change and significant benefits to the entire School in general.  We wish to mark the enormous contribution that co-education has brought to the School since then, and have invited two girls – Sara McColl (‘97) and Felicity Doherty (nee Mendola ‘97) – from that inaugural intake to recall their memories from those days three decades ago.

Why was Ivanhoe Grammar School chosen for you? 


My parents had been looking at different private schools and it seemed like I’d be going to Braemar College (an hour’s bus ride each way!) but Ivanhoe Grammar confirmed it would be accepting girls into the 1992 intake at Mernda which was a huge relief.


I attended a few School tours with Mum in 1991 but felt the Plenty Campus just felt right.  Before we moved to Yarrambat, my brother Ross had attended The Ridgeway Campus so a connection to the School was already in place.

How was it like to be just one of ten girls at the School in 1992, and how did it change through secondary school?  


I’d attended a very small rural primary school with about 20 students in total from Prep to Year 6. I was also happy to be going to a smaller school and wasn’t fazed by the girls to boys ratio. The school made a huge effort to integrate us from day one and Deputy Head Kathy Boburka took us under her wing and made sure we settled in. I also found it amusing that the Mernda Campus (as it was then known) was seen as somewhat of an object of curiosity by The Ridgeway Campus boys.


It was a lovely environment. I didn’t feel at any time ostracised by the boys and they were very accepting of us.  I played basketball with them and in some respects, they were very protective of the girls. It was a special community. The only time it felt different was when the two campuses joined for Assemblies or whole school events, we used to get looks from the Ridgeway boys.  I don’t think they really knew there were girls at Mernda!

Best Aspects of the School?


The extra-curricular activities from sport to orchestra, and school musicals to cadets. I loved all of them. In Year 7, I joined the cricket team and was the only girl in the ASGV cricket competition which caused a bit of controversy in some of the boys’ schools. I remember an away match against Peninsular Grammar and walking out to the wicket to hear astounded boys in the outfield saying ‘It’s a girl!’ I managed to hit a boundary off the first bowler – probably down to his shock rather than my skill.

The outdoor activities were a favourite. I remember doing our ‘24-hour solos’ in the bush at Charnwood in Year 9 and settling down for the night, completely alone for the first time, listening to the sounds in the trees and scrub, and hoping the stories of terrifying wild bush pigs were a myth. Cadet camps were also a great adventure, camping in our sections in our hoochies and tramping around national parks counting our paces in rather comical camouflage with compasses and maps


The teaching staff were all very supportive. We had a close relationship with Ms Virginia Creed, Ms Cathy Boburka, Mr Ken Whitechurch, Mr Rod Summerton and the Head of the campus Mr Ian Rule. They were all terrific and really took us under their wings. As a current parent of the Plenty Campus, it is great to know the campus still has the community environment that I remember and my children have the opportunities to be well supported. As a current parent of the Plenty Campus, it is great to know the campus still has the community environment that I remember, and my children have the opportunities to be well supported

Fond Memories


I have lots of fond memories of so many of my fellow students and particularly the staff.  From my first form teacher Mr Pollard who settled us all in, the steady leadership and care of Mr Rule and Mrs Boburka, the entertaining Mr Whitechurch and his cheesy jokes, along with lots of other fantastic, inspirational and dedicated teachers like Ms McEncroe, Mrs Clarkson, Miss Douglass, Mrs Creed, Mr Le Plastrier, Mr Davies and Mr de Dear. I think a school can only ever be as good as its teachers and we were incredibly lucky to have the best of the bunch.


One of my best memories was being a part of ‘The Acapala Group’ which consisted of myself, Kristie Long, Christine Nesness and Kelly Burton.  We performed at soiree nights, assemblies and all over Melbourne including the Rod Laver Arena for the basketball semi-finals.  We even performed for teachers at their Wedding!

Cadets and camps were lots of fun.  I am so glad we did it but am sure it was a lot of planning for the teachers. The boys had communal showers and cabins, but we (the girls) were driven by the teachers to separate sleeping quarters from the boys and even had a small ensuite in our cabin!

Your year as Captain and the first female Captain of the School 


I was very proud to be appointed as the School’s first female captain and was also the Senior CUO of the Plenty Campus cadets that year.  Standing at the front of the annual passing out parade is one of my proudest memories from year 12.

Looking back now it seems incredible to me that the shy 12-year-old who started in Year 7 was confident enough to take on those roles.  It is a testament to the ability of the school and its incredible staff who were so skilled at encouraging, nurturing and stretching all of their students. During my six years at the school, I had also formed some fantastic friendships that have lasted to this day. I was also lucky to be surrounded by a cohort of incredibly fun, creative and talented fellow students who also supported me and were a great bunch of people with whom to have spent that special time.

Sarah McColl is a Senior Lawyer at the BBC London.