Cate Begbie returns to PLC, the school that stole her heart.

Happily ensconced in her role as Deputy Principal at St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School in Brisbane, the concept of returning to her old stomping ground in Perth could not have been further from Cate Begbie’s mind in November last year.

At least, that was the case until she saw the advertisement calling for expressions of interest in the role of Principal of a school that stole her heart a decade earlier.

“The prospect of coming home and reconnecting with the PLC community in this role is just so exciting for me,” Ms Begbie said. “It is a dream come true. I can’t wait to start contributing once again to PLC and helping to make a positive difference to the educational outcomes and future of the students, living the vision and values of the School and working with the staff to continue to build PLC as one of Australia’s leading girls school.”

“I am not moving back to Perth because I want to be a Principal, I’m moving back because I want to be the Principal of PLC.”

Chair of the PLC Council, Claire Poll, said the recruitment process for Ms Begbie’s appointment was extraordinarily rigorous. At the end of the process, it was Ms Begbie’s integrity, empathy and reputation as an educational leader that won the day.

“She reflects the values of PLC in every way,” Mrs Poll said. “We were very fortunate to have been able to spend some time at St Aidan’s shadowing Cate on one particular day.

“During that time, the respect of her colleagues and the strong relationships she clearly has with the students – she knows most of them by name – impressed us beyond doubt.”

In the eight-and-a-half years since she was PLC’s Deputy Head of Junior School, Ms Begbie has acquired a wealth of leadership experience across the breadth of education from kindergarten to Year 12.

“It was my experience as Acting Head of Junior School at PLC in 2010 that inspired me to seek out a leadership role of my own,” she said. “While I found it very difficult to leave PLC it was the right move at the time for me.

“I had the privilege of being Head of Junior School at Wesley College in South Perth.

“Working in a co-educational Junior School environment after spending most of my career in girls’ only education was a change that unintentionally served to strengthen my commitment to girls’ education.

“I thrived in this environment and the experience challenged some of the perceptions I had developed over time. It also left me deep in thought as to how we encourage in our girls, the same risk-taking and self-belief we often see in boys and young men at school.

“I do believe that in the last ten years of my career in particular, I have developed effective leadership skills that have enabled me to add value to each of the school communities I have worked within.

“High performing communities of learners, such as PLC learners, need leaders who espouse outstanding learning and leading attributes. I am acutely aware of the challenges educators face in today’s disruptive world and believe my capacity to be reflective, intuitive, creative, decisive, and warm and engaging can assist PLC to respond to inevitable change with a filter that allows its community to always know what it stands for, what it believes in and what it values.

“As a leader, I recognise that there are times when change is necessary, but also times to focus on consolidation and stability.”

What is very clear with Ms Begbie is that she not only champions the PLC values – she lives them.

“I am a positive person – I love my work and my life, but I take neither for granted,” she said. “The privileged opportunity to become a part of, not just visit, a rural area of India for the last 12 years has allowed me to develop a unique perspective on life that keeps me very grounded.

“I know what a ‘real’ problem is and I don’t sweat the ‘small stuff’. I know how rich in heart some of the world’s poorest people are. I have seen the greatest of positivity, hope, generosity and kindness from these people.

“I have also seen terrible things that have made me question humanity. The experiences I have had over the years have greatly influenced the person I am. I have a very strong sense of Service.”

Ms Begbie said PLC had always been a forward-thinking school focused on preparing girls for the future. Its teachers are incredibly committed. It was one of the first schools in Australia to introduce the individual laptop programme, has an extremely strong service culture and was an early adopter of the International Baccalaureate.

“Now, more than ever, the world in front of students presents more uncertainty than ever before. They need a different skill set to previous generations.

“They need to be able to think – and to think creatively and critically. They need to problem solve and be flexible; be resilient and embrace failure.

“How can we help them do this? By creating a safe learning environment. Balance our focus on academic achievement and student wellbeing. Role model facing challenges in a positive manner and give the girls experiences outside of the school grounds.

“I envision a girls’ school of independent learners, who know how they learn, who are reflective, resilient and well-prepared to meet the challenges of the changing world with confidence and grace.”

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