|Perth Modern School|
|Other name||Perth Mod|
|Type||Public co-educational academically selective high day school|
|Motto||French: Savoir C'est Pouvoir|
(Knowledge is Power)
|Colour(s)||Navy blue, gold and red|
|ATAR average||97.55 (2020)|
|Type||State Registered Place|
|Designated||14 December 2001|
Perth Modern School (colloquially known as Perth Mod, or just "Mod") is a public co-educational academically selective day high school, located in Subiaco, an inner city suburb of Perth, Western Australia. Perth Modern is Western Australia's only fully academically selective public school. Established in 1911, the school is the oldest public high school in Western Australia and the oldest co-educational high school in Western Australia. Perth Modern is often the State's top-ranked school for Year 12 academic achievement.
All students attend Perth Modern School based on their performance in the Academic Selective Entrance Test, which has been criticised for unfairly advantaging those from privileged backgrounds. In 2017, 1548 students competed for the 225 year 7 places available at Perth Modern in 2018. Of 2563 students who sat the test in order to begin schooling in 2020, 225 were accepted. The school's academic program is designed to foster the analytical, critical and creative thinking skills of academically advanced students.
Planning and construction
Perth Modern School was the first government high school in Western Australia. By December 1907, the Western Australian Parliament allocated funds to build the first government high school on a site near the Thomas Street School in Subiaco. However, debate continued for some time, and it was not until 1909 that the west building and main hall contract was tendered.
Opening and academic scholarships
The school opened in 1911 with 226 students enrolled. The school charged a fee of £6 a year. Students were prepared for entry to the University of Western Australia, which opened in 1913. Demand for places at the school was high - students came from all over Perth and Western Australia, many staying with relatives or boarding as near to the school as possible. In 1912, the school inaugurated a system of scholarships designed to encourage students of ability to attend regardless of the financial situation of their parents. Students studied comprehensive science and modern languages as part of their courses, in addition to classical subjects. Until 1928, students attended Perth Modern for four years. The focus of the first two years was on basic subjects, whereas the final two years focused on a more diverse range of subjects. Students could choose out of five streams: arts, science, education, commerce and agriculture.
Central to the establishment of the school was Cecil Andrews. As a young man, Andrews was Inspector General of Schools in Western Australia and he had the honour of naming the school and directing the school curriculum. The first principal, Ferdinand Grange Brown, helped the school to a start. He was succeeded in 1912 by Joseph Parsons who led the school until 1939. Noel Sampson was the principal from 1940-1963.
New educational concepts
When it opened Perth Modern School introduced new concepts in Western Australian education:
- No corporal punishment, detention, or arbitrary/authoritative punishment
- The teaching of modern languages (such as French), and rejection of Classical studies as the core of the curriculum
The first concept allowed young women and young men access to the same higher education pathway. When Perth Modern School opened, it was rare to find women participating in the same endeavours on the same playing field as men. Prior to Perth Modern School, the only high schools in Western Australia were eight independent schools. These schools were sectarian, unisex, high fee paying schools, and only three of the eight schools catered for young women. The school educators helped raise the consciousness in generations of students who were ready, willing and able to advocate change for justice and equality based on merit, as they entered the world and pursued their careers. Although Perth Modern has always been a co-educational school, when it initially opened in 1911, boys and girls were still kept apart in different classrooms and entrances.
The second concept charged each student with the knowledge the school would offer no discipline except self-discipline. Worldwide, it was accepted teachers would use arbitrary and often violent punishments to force students to conform to the will of authority. Perth Modern embraced a new motto, Savoir C'est Pouvoir (Knowledge is Power), and the Sphinx—representing knowledge and wisdom—was adopted as the school emblem. By recognising and by raising higher reasoning in each student, the school educators imparted the gift of education as the key to future success, and this was the motivation for each student to work hard and to achieve the highest results possible.
Local-intake school and music scholarships
In 1958 Perth Modern School became a comprehensive five year high school with a local-intake area; around this time, more buildings were constructed to the east of the original building. By 1966 the scholarship entry requirements were removed, and in 1968 music became a focus of the school. The first music scholarships were awarded in 1968 to 36 first year and 19 fourth year students; the last intake of students on a music scholarship occurred in 2006. By 1970, the school orchestra was formed and the Joseph Parsons Memorial Library opened. The old Thomas Street Primary School, administered by Perth Modern School, became the home of English as a second language in Western Australia in 1990.
Return to academic selection
In 2005, the Premier of WA, Geoff Gallop, announced the proposal for the school to once again become one of academic excellence. Funding was allocated to turn Perth Modern School into a selective high school for academic excellence. This was to recognise that gathering students of high ability in one school encourages students to "be themselves" with like-minded peers, which allows opportunity for the development of higher-order thinking skills and meets the social, emotional and educational needs of gifted students. The gifted program is based on Francois Gagne's Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent. The first intake of a cohort only on an academic scholarship occurred in 2007, and in 2009, the new buildings at the Western end of the school opened. By 2008, the majority of students attended Perth Modern on an academic scholarship, and since 2011, the centenary year, all students at the school attended based on academic selection. In 2012, Perth Modern became an Independent Public School.
In 2015, the school became a six-year high school when welcomed its first cohort of Year 7 students, who were housed in the Stokes building for their first term.
In 2017, the incoming Labor government made an election promise to move the academic program operating at Perth Modern into a high-rise building in the Perth central business district, while the current buildings would be re-purposed for use as a local intake school. This $45 million plan was expected to relieve pressure on western public schools after a few secondary schools closed in the area. This was met with pushback by students and their teachers who complained the metropolitan environment would damage the mental and physical health of students and would expose the children to inner-city drugs and crime. The dissatisfied alumni, including former governor Malcolm McCusker, banded under the "Save Perth Modern" campaign, which held protests and presented a 6000 signature petition to parliament. The pushback lead the Labor Party to drop the plans, and instead announced that Bob Hawke College would be built nearby.
In 2012, $2.7 million was allocated to fund a new gymnasium to replace the older facility built in 1961. The funding was supplemented by approximately $1 million raised in fundraising for the 'Build the Dream' campaign from 2012 to 2014. The new gymnasium was opened in 2015.
In 2016, the 'Raise the Roof' fundraising campaign was launched to raise funds to build a 700-seat auditorium. The $10 million plan was criticised by some board members and became the subject of an external audit. In 2019, the fundraising target to build 500 seats was reached. The Education Department subsequently organised a tender for the first stage of construction. Construction ceremonially began in May 2020, with completion scheduled for May or June 2021.
In 2019, the school was criticised for its lack of socio-educationally disadvantaged students, with 98% of students coming from above-average socio-educational backgrounds, and for having no Indigenous Australian students. Nationally, the school is the second most advantaged, behind only Sydney Grammar School. This prompted calls for changes to the Western Australian system for assessing and supporting gifted students, as the school should reflect the diversity of gifted people. Myriad barriers to inclusivity at the school were noted, including its location in an affluent area and that many advantaged students access tutoring for the entrance test from early primary school.
The Raise the Roof project has been criticised by members of the school’s community. In 2016, students were suspended for criticising the principal via cartoons and social media. Their criticisms arose from funds advertised as being raised for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation being partially used for the Raise the Roof project. In 2017 an independent review of the project, initiated by the Department of Education, was published. The review was prompted by a letter sent to the Department’s Director-General by 10 of the 15 board members, describing a loss of confidence in the principal, Lois Joll, due to a lack of consultation on issues such as Raise the Roof. The review found fault on both sides, and requested that the Department of Education clarify the role of school boards and appropriate fund allocation. The Director-General chose to keep Joll as principal, describing her as "highly competent". Over the following four months, five members of the school board resigned, including Erica Smyth and the former P&C president.
List of buildings
In 2013 the school’s buildings were renamed after several people who had significant contribution to the school. The school campus consists of the following buildings and centres:
|Building name||Opened||Main use||Eponym||Notes|
|Andrews Building||1961||Administration, Mathematics, Science, Gymnasiums||Cecil Andrews, the Inspector General of Schools in Western Australia when Perth Modern opened|
|Beasley Building||1911||Auditorium, Humanities and Social Sciences, Music||Hillson Beasley, the building's architect||Original Perth Modern School Building.|
|Casey Drama Theatre||2009||Drama||Clare Casey, Perth Modern's Principal Mistress from 1958 to 1975|
|Embleton Music Centre||2000||Music||John Embleton OAM CitWA, a music specialist at Perth Modern from 1968 to 1991|
|Gardham Building||2009||Design and Technology||Walter Amos Gardham, the founding Manual Training Teacher from 1911 to 1930|
|Mills Building||2009||Visual Arts, Languages, Food Science, Multimedia/Computer Science||Frank Mills, a senior art teacher from 1939 to 1957|
|Parsons Building||2009||Cafeteria, Lecture theatre, Library||Joseph Parsons, the Headmaster of Perth Modern School from 1912 to 1939||The Library replaced the Joseph Parsons Memorial Library, which was demolished in 2009.|
|Stokes Building||1904||English||J P Stokes the headmaster at Thomas Street Primary School from 1949 to 1951 and Principal of Perth Modern from 1972 to 1979||Originally West Perth School (1904-1906) and then Thomas Street Primary School (1906-1979).|
|Tyler McCusker Sports Centre||2015||Assembly area, Gymnasium||Malcolm McCusker and Don Tyler, alumni who made significant donations to the building's construction|
|Auditorium||2021||Under construction, scheduled to be completed in May/June 2021|
Until 2013, the Beasley building was known as the West building. At the time of its construction from 1909 to 1911, the building was Perth Modern's first and only building. The new school was built on land which was formerly part of the northern common in Subiaco, which had been set aside for education purposes. This land was 4 hectares (10 acres) in area and was located between Subiaco and Mueller Roads (later renamed Roberts Road), west of Thomas Street in Subiaco. On 30 July 1909, S B Alexander was awarded the building contract for £11,637. The contract for the west building and main hall specified eight classrooms, art room, library, chemistry and physics laboratories, lecture rooms, as well as cookery and laundry classrooms. These facilities were grouped around the 27.4m by 14.3m (90 ft by 47 ft) central hall. The building was designed by Hillson Beasley, Principal Architect of the Public Works Department, Western Australia. By 1911, the building was completed for the sum of £18,974.
Beasley’s design of the west building and main hall comprised three parallel two storey wings facing north and south with a courtyard to the west. The west building is linked by a covered walkway to the third heritage listed wing. The building was typical of Beasley's mixture of formality and informality, with interesting interiors serving ritualised assemblies and examinations. The building reflected many key characteristics of Federation Arts and Crafts architecture. It was constructed from red brick with a stone base facade. Decorative exterior features included white painted cement rending to all framing, quoins, and copings. The design and construction also featured a central landmark clock tower with a battlemented parapet, a tapering roof lantern, and dormer windows. The roofs were designed and built with steeply pitched parapeted gables covered with tiles, and with prominent eaves and exposed ends to rafters. The main hall was set two storeys high with a jarrah ceiling. Carved, sloped, roof rafters were designed to give the interior of the building an ecclesiastical feel. The gallery was built spanning east and west on the first floor with staircases at each end. Other notable details of fine design and craftsmanship of west building included the stained glass transom windows and fanlights executed in Art Nouveau style at the north side of the building and inside the entrance foyer.
Refurbishment and heritage listing
The west building was refurbished during the late 1980s and the work was recognised and received several awards. The west building and main hall were interimly registered by the Heritage Council of Western Australia in 1992 and it entered the State Registry of Historical Places in 2001. The building was included on the basis of aesthetics and by the number of notable alumni who hailed from these doors.
Prior to 2013, the Andrews Building was known as the East building. The East building and older gymnasium were built around 1958, when Perth Modern became a local-intake school. Both buildings have been listed as well sited bearing a functionalist aesthetic. The design and construction have been recognised as fine examples of post-war International style. The new administration building (opened 2009) joins and provides lift access to the east building.
The Old Modernians War Memorial was unveiled in 1922 to commemorate the service of ex-students in WWI. During the war, 186 Modernians enlisted, 29 of whom lost their lives as a result of their service. The names of 24 Modernians are recorded on the monument. Five names are recorded on a plinth added to the monument in 2020. The memorial was designed by William Hardwick, the Principal Architect of Western Australia in 1920, and it is located between the Beasley building and the oval. Details of the students' military service are recorded on the school's website.
City Beach Residential College
Students from regional areas can board at City Beach Residential College. The college is located in City Beach, next to the International School of Western Australia. It is the only boarding facility for students of public schools in metropolitan Perth. It can accommodate up to 66 boarders from rural Western Australia. However, it is not exclusively for Perth Modern students; students who are enrolled in selective gifted and talented programs in metropolitan Perth public schools (mainly John Curtin College of the Arts and Perth Modern School) can board there. As of 2018[update] the College accommodates 56 students.
Western Australian academic ranking
Perth Modern students perform consistently well in the WACE school rankings. Since 2011, the year 12 cohorts have produced the highest average ranking when compared to the rest of the schools in Western Australia.
Median ATAR and TER
Prior to 2011, the student ranking system used in Western Australia was the Tertiary Entrance Rank (TER). Since 2011, the Western Australian system used to rank students is the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). Perth Modern broke the state record for the highest median ATAR in 2018, and again in 2020.
Beazley Medal winners
Since 1984, a Beazley Medal has been presented to the top ranked academic student in Western Australia each year. As of 2019, five Perth Modern Students have won the award:
- 2018: Pooja Ramesh
- 2016: Caitlin Revell
- 2015: Hui Min Tay
- 2014: Jamin Wu
- 2010: Michael Taran
Perth Modern School hosts the independent Graduate College of Dance, from which a number of acclaimed high-profile dancers have graduated. The Graduate College of Dance is a leading vocational dance school in Australia. The College prepares talented dancers aged 9 to 17 (year 5 to 12) for the dance profession. The college's comprehensive curriculum combines professional dance training with an academic education to tertiary level. The college is a private organisation requiring fees from applicants, enrolled students at Perth Modern School and private students from elsewhere. The Department of Education and Training previously accommodated the Graduate College of Dance at Swanbourne Senior High School. With the amalgamation of Swanbourne into Shenton College in 2000, the department offered the Graduate College of Dance accommodation at the Perth Modern School site due to the availability of appropriate space and suitable dance flooring.
Perth Modern's music programme is available to all enrolled students. Previously, to be accepted into the music program, students were selected after completing an audition.
The programme encompasses the Kodály methodology in its teachings. Most aural and theory concepts are taught with the aid of the philosophies of music by Zoltán Kodály, in which hand signs are used as a way of representing musical notes by holding the hand in a certain position for each note. The music programme places an emphasis on singing. It is a requirement that all students in the programme are in at least one vocal ensemble.
The school has five wind orchestras, three standard orchestras (two string and one symphony) and two classical guitar ensembles as well as various other instrumental groups, chamber choirs and jazz ensembles. The Perth Modern School Symphony Orchestra has the longest tradition of any school ensemble in Western Australia, having been first formed in 1915.
The Perth Modern school song is Moderna Scola. The original Latin poem was composed by John Colman, who was a student from 1930 - 1931. The tune was written by Stephen Dornan OAM, during his time as a student from 1929 - 1933. Dornan later revised the tune in 1998.
Perth Modern School was excluded by WA private schools from joining established interschool sporting competitions. In 1915, the principal, Joseph Parsons, separated the school into Red, Blue, Gold and Sphinx factions to promote sporting rivalry.
In 2007 Perth Modern School introduced a new house system to provide competition and recognition of achievement. Students can earn points for a variety of reasons, including academic achievement and participation in extracurricular activities. Awards are given to students who achieve a certain number of required house points.
The houses were named after the first four Perth Modern School Principals: Fredrick Brown, Joseph Parsons, Noel Sampson and Talbot Downing.
At the end of the year, the house with the highest accumulated total number of house points is recognised as the Champion House.
Heads of School
|Title||Officeholder||Term dates||Time in office||Notes|
|Headmaster||Fredrick Brown||1911–1912||0–1 years|||
|Joseph Parsons||1912–1939||26–27 years|
|Noel Sampson||1940–1958||22–23 years|
|Talbot Downing||1964–1965||0–1 years|
|William Speering||1966–1971||4–5 years|
|Joseph Stokes||1972–1979||6–7 years|
|Thomas Byers||1980–1991||9–10 years|
|Eric Alcock||1992–1999||6–7 years|||
|Robyn White||2000–2010||9–10 years|||
|Lois Joll||2011–||9–10 years|
Perth Modern School alumni are known as Perth Modernians. In 2010 The Age reported that Perth Modern ranked equal fourth among Australian schools based on the number of alumni who had received a top Order of Australia and was the top ranked Western Australian school. Fourteen Perth Modernians have won Rhodes Scholarships from the University of Western Australia.
Notable Perth Modernians include:
- Sir Garrick Agnew - Olympic swimmer, businessman
- Caitlin Bassett - Australian Netball Diamonds captain
- Margaret Battye – lawyer, female rights activist
- Kim Edward Beazley - Cabinet minister
- Joe Berinson - Attorney General of Western Australia
- Sir Phillip Bennett – first Chief of the Australian Defence Force
- Len Buckeridge - founder of Buckeridge Group of Companies (BGC)
- H.C. "Nugget" Coombs – first Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia
- Elizabeth Gaines - business, first female CEO of Fortescue Metals Group
- Ross Garnaut - economist
- Rolf Harris – entertainer, TV personality, artist, musician, actor; sex offender
- Sir Paul Hasluck – 17th Governor-General of Australia, Cabinet minister
- Bob Hawke – 23rd Prime Minister of Australia, ACTU President
- John Hay - leader in academia
- Ern Henfry - VFL footballer at Carlton, premiership captain
- Janet Holmes à Court – businesswoman, philanthropist
- Clarrie Isaacs – Australian Aboriginal rights activist
- Anthony Jones – AFL footballer at Fremantle, Sandover Medal 2007
- Betty Judge-Beazley - athletics world records holder
- John La Nauze - historian
- Katherine Langford - actress
- Malcolm McCusker – 31st Governor of Western Australia
- Emma Matthews - lyric soprano, Opera Australia
- Ken Michael - 30th Governor of Western Australia
- Maxwell Newton – first editor The Australian
- Lawrence O'Donnell – Chief of the Australian Army
- Victor Sangiorgio - pianist
- Alan Seymour – playwright and author, The One Day of the Year
- Ralph Slatyer - first Chief Scientist of Australia
- John Stone – Secretary to the Treasury, Australian Senator
- Daryl Williams – Attorney General of Australia
- Sir Albert Wolff – Chief Justice of Western Australia
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Media related to Perth Modern School at Wikimedia Commons