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Abbotsleigh School, Sydney
Wahroonga, New South Wales
Australia Australia
Coordinates 33°43′13″S 151°6′47″E / 33.72028°S 151.11306°E / -33.72028; 151.11306Coordinates: 33°43′13″S 151°6′47″E / 33.72028°S 151.11306°E / -33.72028; 151.11306
Type Independent, Day and Boarding
Motto Latin: Tempus Celerius Radio Fugit
(Time Flies Faster than a Weaver's Shuttle)
Denomination Anglican
Established 1885
Principal Megan Krimmer
Employees ~148[1]
Grades K–12
Gender Girls
Enrolment ~1,370[1] (2006)
Colour(s) Black and Gold

Abbotsleigh is an independent, Anglican, day and boarding school for girls, located in Wahroonga, on the Upper North Shore of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Established in 1885 on Sydney's North Shore, the school has a selective enrolment policy from Year 5 upwards and currently caters for approximately 1,400 students from Transition to Year 12, including 170 boarders from Years 7 to 12.[1]

Abbotsleigh is a member of the Alliance of Girls' Schools Australasia (AGSA),[2] the Junior School Heads Association of Australia (JSHAA),[3] the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA),[4] the Australian Boarding Schools' Association (ABSA),[5] and a founding member of the Association of Heads of Independent Girls' Schools (AHIGS).[6]


Abbotsleigh was founded by Marian Clarke in 1885 in a small terrace house in North Sydney. The school then moved to Parramatta; first to Honiton House, then to more spacious premises at the corner of Church and Marsden streets, a site now covered by a car park. The school proved successful in Parramatta, but in 1895 Miss Clarke left 80 pupils behind to set out for a year in England to visit her family. The school declined during her absence, and on her return only a small number of boarders remained.[7]

Abbotsleigh's final move was to its current location at Wahroonga in 1898, where Miss Clarke purchased land and built a new school. It is here that Abbotsleigh became the first girls' school in Sydney to have a sports field. Significant buildings that developed over the years include the Marian Clarke building facing the Pacific Highway, Vindin House, Lynton House and Poole House on the junior campus. The last three are listed on the New South Wales state heritage register.[8][9][10]


  1. 1885 – 1913: Marian Clarke
  2. 1913 – 1924: Margaret Murray
  3. 1924 – 1930: Dorothea Poole
  4. 1931 – 1954: G Gordon Everett
  5. 1954 – 1957: Ruth Hirst
  6. 1958 – 1970: HE (Betty) Archdale
  7. 1970 – 1987: Kathleen McCredie
  8. 1988 – 1996: Diane C Nicholls
  9. 1996 – 2004: Judith Wheeldon
  10. 2005 – 2016: Judith Poole
  11. 2017 – present: Megan Krimmer


Marian Clarke Building, Abbotsleigh (Elevation)

The senior and junior campuses cater for 1300 students in total from Transition to Year 12 (Higher School Certificate).[1]

The Junior Campus is located in Woonona Ave, Wahroonga. Poole House is the oldest building on the campus and features an after-school care and music centre with a number of music rooms for individual lessons and practice. The library, school hall and administration centre are housed in the same block as the junior years' classrooms. In 2002 a new Years 4-6 centre was built surrounding a grassy courtyard featuring a state-of-the-art Arts facility as well as a new canteen for the students. Sporting facilities include a large oval, outdoor pool, three tennis courts, 2 courtyards, two sets of play equipment and a human-sized chess board. An underground parking facility was built in 2007 with the kindergarten classrooms built above. The new Early Learning Centre was completed in January 2010. It includes new Infants precinct and an Early Learning Centre for the youngest learners from birth to five years old. It is a seventy-place, coeducational centre providing long day care. Girls of the age of 5 are now able to enter the school in the Transition class (preschool age) where they are able to make the smooth transition from preschool to kindergarten. The ELC is run according to the Reggio Emillia principles.[11]

The Senior Campus is at a separate site on the Pacific Highway, and incorporates a number of facilities including a 350-seat auditorium, large assembly hall, Senior Studies Centre, Aquatic Centre and two gymnasiums. Other sporting facilities include 11 tennis courts, one indoor netball/basketball centre, weights gym, 2 cricket nets, a 25-metre indoor pool and two large ovals used for hockey, touch football and soccer. A new library named the Abbotsleigh Research Centre (ARC) was built and officially opened on 2 April 2006. The ARC contains the Library Teaching Room (LTR) – a computer room, laptops that can be used on tables around the ARC, and three seminar rooms. There are over 40,000 books, over 4,000 videos and DVDs and approximately 70 Periodical titles. The ARC has won awards for its unique interior design.[12] The ARC includes a new Art Centre which has three classrooms, an Arts staffroom and a number of storage spaces. A large outdoor area incorporated into the design, with 6 tables for students and sails, is often used for a number of school events overlooking the top oval. In addition to this, a new canteen was built in 2008 to join with the Saturday morning sport canteen, featuring new outdoor cafe-style eating areas overlooking the oval.

Motto and crest[edit]

The Abbotsleigh motto, Tempus celerius radio fugit, may be translated from Latin as "Time flies faster than the weaver's shuttle". As the shuttle flies a pattern is woven; the shuttle of time also weaves a pattern of which the threads are people, buildings and events. The motto was given to the school by Miss Marian Clarke, whose family crest was a weaver's shuttle surrounded by the motto, Tempus fugit radio celerit. The school used this form until 1924, when it decided that the ungrammatical Latin should be changed to the present word order, which has been used ever since.

The reference to the weaver's shuttle is also believed by many to be a reference to the "proper" place of women in terms of domestic duties/servitude to men. Some members of the school community are calling for the motto to be changed in order to keep pace with modern views on feminine rights.

The 1934 edition of The Weaver explains the symbolism of the school crest: "the lion for the strength in God, lillies for purity and fish as the symbol of Christianity through baptism."[13]

Associated schools[edit]

Abbotsleigh has a number of international sister schools and exchange agreements with other institutes, including the École Alsacienne in Paris, France, Ohtani High School, Japan, Miami's Palmer Trinity School, Queenswood School in Hertfordshire, England, and Ridley College in Ontario, Canada. Girls have the opportunity to host an incoming exchange student or, in Years 9 and 10, to attend one or more of these schools on exchange for a period of one or two terms. Abbotsleigh is also unofficially associated as the sister school to The King's School, an independent Anglican day and boarding school for boys in North Parramatta.


Abbotsleigh offers an extensive range of subjects, with Maths, Science and English being graded from years 7-10. In Year 8, students choose elective subjects to study for Years 9 and 10. Students must study Maths, English, Science, PDHPE, Australian History/Geography, and Christian Studies. They may then choose three elective subjects from: Commerce, Elective History, Elective Geography, Design and Technology, Information Software Technology, Music, Drama, Visual Arts, Photography and Digital Media, Japanese, French, German, and Latin. Mandarin has currently replaced Japanese for 2010 Year 7 girls and will remain this way for all girls that will enter Abbotsleigh Senior School through Year 7. For girls studying Japanese in older grades will still continue to do so.

In the Upper School, students have an even wider range of subjects to choose from, which follow the Board of Studies HSC syllabus. Subjects offered include English (Standard, Advanced, Extension 1 and Extension 2), Maths (General, 2-unit, Extension 1 and Extension 2), sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth and Environmental science, Senior Science), histories (Modern, Ancient and Extension History), social sciences (Business Studies, Geography, Economics), Music (1, 2, extension), a wide range of languages including French, German, Latin and Japanese, Art, PDHPE, Information Processes and Technology, Software Processes Technology, Drama, Design and Technology, Theology and Studies of Religion (1-unit only unlike many other religious independent schools).


Students can participate in a number of extracurricular activities. Most girls participate in at least one activity, if not many. Abbotsleigh has over 15 girls achieve the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award each year, which is presented at the school's Speech Day in December. Additionally students may participate in chess teams, debating, mock trial, public speaking, ski team, jewellery making, ceramics, sewing classes, film club, SRC, Environment Club, and a number of charity and service groups. Students from Year 10 are selected to form the charity and service group boards with students taking the positions of president, secretary, treasurer and club member. The school also has an Agricultural group (Ag Club) for the boarders where two cattle are raised between January and April for a number of competitions including the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

There is also a dance program of considerable size at the school, with over 500 girls from Kindergarten to Year 11 participating in several types of dance such as street, tap and contemporary.



The school competes in many Independent Girls' Schools Sporting Association (IGSSA) sports including, softball, tennis, swimming, basketball, soccer, athletics, cross country, hockey, netball, waterpolo, touch football, and cricket. Abbotsleigh provides much of the sport equipment including tennis racquets, balls, skipping ropes, hockey sticks, rugby balls, golf sets, etc. It is compulsory for Abbotsleigh girls to do PE once a week to enhance their physical activity until Year 11.


Abbotsleigh boasts a rich co‑curricular music program. Its varied instrumental ensembles include Orchestra, Symphonic Winds, Jazz Ensemble, Senior Strings, String Ensemble and Concert Band. Chamber groups such as String Quartets, Flute Ensemble, Brass Ensemble, Guitar Ensemble and Clarinet and Saxophone Ensemble are also available to girls without an audition. Girls are invited to participate in Choir, which anyone can join without an audition. Additionally, they may audition for smaller vocal groups such as Vocal Ensemble and Chamber Choir. Girls can also be involved in the Gospel Choir, which performs at various Chapel services throughout the year. These ensembles participate in multiple school-based events throughout the year, as well as eisteddfods and music festivals. There are also opportunities to participate in interstate and international music tours, musicals and gala concerts.

Abbotsleigh also offers an Extended Tuition music program from Kindergarten to Year 12, where girls have the opportunity to learn an instrument (piano, singing, woodwind, brass, strings or percussion instruments) from one of their Peripatetic instrumental teachers. Girls who are involved in this program are also encouraged to participate in their co‑curricular ensembles.

Additionally, Abbotsleigh's Junior School offers a Year 2 String Program, where girls are required to learn either violin or cello. Girls in Year 3 participate in the Year 3 Instrumental Program, where they are introduced to a band instrument, such as flute, clarinet or trumpet. Girls then have the option of continuing these studies in the Extended Tuition music program and Junior School co‑curricular ensembles.

House system[edit]

The House System was introduced by Miss Everett. The Weaver for May 1931 explains: "Points are awarded for work, conduct and sport and a shield will be presented annually to the winning House. "The "Malloch Shield", given the following year by Mr A Malloch, was won for the first time by Sturt.

In the Junior School there are five houses:

  • Blaxland (blue) Named after Gregory Blaxland (1778–1853), an Australian explorer and pioneer farmer.
  • Lawson (green) Named after William Lawson (1774–1850), an Australian explorer.
  • Macquarie (red) Named after Lachlan Macquarie (1771–1824), the Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821.
  • Sturt (yellow) Named after Charles Sturt (1795–1869), an Australian explorer.
  • Wentworth (purple) Named after William Wentworth (1790–1872), an Australian explorer, statesman and lawyer.

In the Senior School there are eight houses:

The House System has been modified over time to reflect the changing needs of the School, and its increased enrolment. One of the most significant changes occurred in the late 1960s under then Headmistress Betty Archdale. Senior School Houses had previously been named after well-known male Australian poets, and Archdale introduced new house names recognising accomplished Australian women. This was the basis for the Senior School Houses in use today. Houses now compete for the House Choir banner and the Spirit Cup, as well as the Sports Cup. Since 2008 girls have organised get-to-know-each-other events and House Days where students of the same house assemble at lunch time and have a large "house picnic".


Abbotsleigh has offered boarding since its establishment, and currently caters for boarding students from the greater metropolitan area, rural New South Wales and overseas. The school currently has five boarding houses:

  • Hirst Opened in 1980 and 1985. Catering for Year 12 boarders. Now replaced by the newly opened Wheeldon House.
  • Lynton Opened in 1969. Catering for Year 7 boarders.
  • McCredie Opened in 1990. Catering for Year 9 to 10 boarders.
  • Read Opened in 1931. Catering for Year 8 to 9 boarders.
  • Wheeldon Opened in 2008. Catering for Year 11 to 12 boarders

There are currently approximately 150 boarders at Abbotsleigh from Years 7 to 12.[1] Boarders make up about one-sixth of the senior school population.

Notable alumnae[edit]

Entertainment, media and the arts
Medicine and science
Politics, public service and the law
Religious Service
  • Liz Forsyth – Deputy Chairman - KPMG Australia

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Abbotsleigh Annual Report 2006 Archived 30 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine. (accessed:11-08-2007)
  2. ^ Butler, Jan (2006). "Member Schools". Members. The Alliance of Girls' Schools Australasia. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  3. ^ "JSHAA New South Wales Directory of Members". New South Wales Branch. Junior School Heads' Association of Australia. 2007. Archived from the original on 18 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  4. ^ "AHISA Schools". New South Wales. Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia. November 2007. Archived from the original on 2 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  5. ^ "Abbotsleigh". Schools. Australian Boarding Schools' Association. 2007. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  6. ^ "Heads of New South Wales Independent Girls' Schools". AHIGS. The Association of Heads of Independent Girls' Schools. 2007. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-06. 
  7. ^ "History of Abbotsleigh since 1885". History. Abbotsleigh. Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  8. ^ State Heritage Register
  9. ^ State Heritage Register
  10. ^ State Heritage Register
  11. ^ Abbotsleigh Website
  12. ^ The website of the Australian Institute of Architects
  13. ^ Abbotsleigh School: School identity Archived 29 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine. (accessed:13-06-2007)
  14. ^ "NSW Rhodes Scholars" Archived 24 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine. — University of Sydney list, (retrieved 23 July 2007)
  15. ^ a b c d e f g "Abbotsleigh". New South Wales. School Choice. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  16. ^ Suzannah Pearce, ed. (17 November 2006). "Whitlam, Freda Leslie". Who's Who in Australia Live!. North Melbourne, Vic: Crown Content Pty Ltd. 
  17. ^ McFarlane, John (1988). The Golden Hope: Presbyterian Ladies' College, 1888-1988. P.L.C Council, Presbyterian Ladies' College Sydney, (Croydon). ISBN 0-9597340-1-5. 
  18. ^ Roberts, Alan (1988). "Simpson, Helen de Guerry (1897 - 1940)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 11 (Online ed.). Melbourne, Vic.: Melbourne University Press. pp. 611–612. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  19. ^ Curthoys, Ann (1979). "Bennett, Agnes Elizabeth Lloyd (1872 - 1960)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 7 (Online ed.). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. pp. 265–266. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  20. ^ Moore, Kate. "Crossing, Sally". The Encyclopedia of Women & Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia. Australian Women's Archives Project 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  21. ^ Allen, Judith (1986). "Miles, Beatrice (Bea) (1902 - 1973)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 10 (Online ed.). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. pp. 499–500. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  22. ^ Stell, Marion K. (1988). "Peden, Margaret Elizabeth Maynard (1905 - 1981)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 11 (Online ed.). Melbourne, Vic.: Melbourne University Press. pp. 192–193. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 

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