Perth Modern School

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Perth Modern School
Perth Modern School, 2015 01.jpg
Subiaco, W.A
Coordinates 31°56′42″S 115°50′16″E / 31.9450°S 115.8377°E / -31.9450; 115.8377Coordinates: 31°56′42″S 115°50′16″E / 31.9450°S 115.8377°E / -31.9450; 115.8377
Type Selective, Day & Boarding School, Public
Motto French: Savoir C'est Pouvoir
(Knowledge is Power)
Established 1911
Principal Lois Joll
Gender Co-educational
Enrolment 1381 (11 May 2017)[1]
Campus Urban
Colour(s)                Blue, Yellow and Red

Perth Modern School (colloquially known as Perth Mod or just "Mod") is an academically selective co-educational public high school located in Subiaco, an inner city suburb of Perth, Western Australia. The school, established in 1911, caters for students with high academic ability.

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 honour since 1975.[2] Fourteen Perth Modernians have won Rhodes Scholarships from the University of Western Australia.[3]

Students of Perth Modern School are called "Perth Modernians" or "Modernians" or "Mods" for short.


Perth Modern School was the first government high school in Western Australia . The school opened in 1911. Students were prepared for entry to the University of Western Australia, which opened in 1913. The school charged a fee of £6 a year. 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.[4]

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 of directing the school curriculum. The first principal of the school, Ferdinand Granger Brown, helped the school to a start and he was succeeded in 1912 by Joseph Parsons who led the school until 1939.[5]

Throughout its history the school has been at the forefront of state education. Perth Modern School pioneered two modern and entirely new concepts in Western Australian education. One was the concept of co-education and the other was that there was to be no corporal punishment, no detention, and no punishment arbitrary or authoritative.[4]

The first concept provided co-education granting 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.

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 recognizing 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.

In 1958 Perth Modern School became a comprehensive five year high school. In 1968 music became a focus of the school and the first of the music scholarships were awarded to 36 first year and 19 fourth year students. By 1970, the school orchestra was formed and the Joseph Parsons Memorial Library opened.[5]

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.[5]

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.[5]

The school reverted to its original concept of a fully selective government school in 2007, recognising 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.[6][7] The gifted program is based on Francois Gagne's Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent.[8] In 2011, the centenary year, all students were once again academically selected.[9]

In 2017, the incoming Labor government made an election promise to move the academic school operating at Perth Modern into a high-rise building in Perth's CBD, while the current buildings would be repurposed for use as a local intake school.[10] The Labor government abandoned its plans after community backlash.[11][12]

Heritage trail[edit]

West building and main hall (now Beasley Building)

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.[13]

The new school was built on land which was formerly part of the northern common in Subiaco. The land was set aside for education purposes. The site, of over 4 hectares (10 acres) in area, was located between Subiaco and Mueller Roads (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.[4]

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 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 in 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 in 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 level with staircases at each end.[4]

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.[13]

The west building was refurbished during the late 1980s and the work was recognised by several awards. The building is a leading venue for chamber music and general ensemble performance in Perth. The west building is linked by a covered walkway to the third heritage listed wing which houses society and environment classes

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 bases of aesthetics and of the number of notable Australians who hailed from these doors.[13]

War memorial

The Old Modernians War Memorial was unveiled in 1922 to commemorate the service of ex-students in World War I. The outbreak of WWI saw 177 Modernians enlist, 27 of whom lost their lives, though only 24 names are recorded on the monument. The memorial was designed by William Hardwick, the Principal Architect of Western Australia in 1920, and it is located at the oval-side front door of the school.

East building and gymnasium (now Andrews Building)

The east building and gymnasium were built after the Second World War. 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 joins and provides lift access to the east building.[13]

Modern campus[edit]

The school is demarcated by the following buildings and centres -

Andrews Building

  • administration building
  • east building
  • 27 Maths and science classrooms
  • Physical education office (formerly gymnasium, metal & woodworking rooms, and the old canteen)

Beasley Building

  • auditorium
  • humanities and social sciences
  • music
  • west Building and oval (original Perth Modern School, 1911)

Casey Drama Theatre

  • drama theatre
  • adjacent to The Graduate College of Dance

Embleton Music Centre

  • music classrooms

Gardham Building

  • design and technology

Mills Building

  • visual arts, languages, food science, and multimedia/computer science

Parsons Building

  • library and cafeteria (replaced Joseph Parsons Memorial Library, demolished 2009)
  • lecture theatre

Stokes Building

  • English (original Thomas Street Primary School, established 1904)

Tyler McCusker Sports Centre

  • gymnasium (used for badminton, volleyball, netball etc.)
  • basketball courts
  • beach volleyball court
  • assembly area

The school also has a campus-wide WI-FI network, reverse cycle air-conditioned classrooms and an oval located in the middle of the school.

City Beach Residential College[edit]

Students coming from regional, rural, remote and international areas attending the school can board nearby at City Beach Residential College located in Bold Park next to the International School of Western Australia (ISWA). It contains 72 beds and was funded by a grant from the government. Students have their own rooms, in 6-bed units, each with three bathrooms, a kitchen and recreation area with TV.

Academic ranking, Western Australia[edit]

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.

WA school ATAR ranking

Year Rank Median ATAR Eligible students Students with ATAR % students with ATAR
2017[14] 1 95.9 223 222 99.55
2016[15] 1 95.55 222 220 99.1

Year 12 student achievement data

Year Rank[i] % +75 in WACE[ii] Rank % +65 in WACE[iii] % graduates[iv]
2015[16] 2 40.62 3 66.73 100.00
2014[17] 2 35.89 1 68.89 99.43
2013[18] 3 32.22 3 63.01 99.47
2012[19] 1 37.03 2 68.42 100
2011 [20] 4 34.09 6 67.32 100
2010[21] 15 21.32 18 59.01 97.1
2009 [22] 11 50.51 (>75% minimum of one subject) 18 49.9 (64.6% or more) 98.29
  1. ^ Ranking of school compared to other schools in the state
  2. ^ Based on the number of Stage 3 course enrolments in the school where a WACE course score of 75 or above was achieved
  3. ^ Based on the number of Stage 3 course enrolments in the school where a WACE course score of 65 or above was achieved
  4. ^ Percentage of Year 12 cohort that graduated with a WACE certificate

Beazley Medal winners

Each year, a Beazley Medal is presented to the top ranked academic student in Western Australia.

  • 2016: Caitlin Revell
  • 2015: Hui Min Tay
  • 2014: Jamin Wu
  • 2010: Michael Taran

Performing arts[edit]


Perth Modern School hosts the independent Graduate College of Dance, from which a number of acclaimed high-profile dancers have graduated.[23] 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.[24]


Perth Modern's music programme is selective and available to all enrolled students who complete 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 four 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.

House system[edit]

Perth Modern School was excluded by WA private schools from joining established interschool sporting competitions. In 1915, Mr Parsons separated the school into Red, Blue, Gold and Sphinx Factions to promote sporting rivalry.[5]

In 2007 Perth Modern School introduced a new house system to provide competition and recognition of achievement. The houses were named after four of the first five school principals with each house represented by the following colours:


Students can earn points from any activity and the school encourages students to take part in academic, sporting, arts or community events by awarding house points. Awards are given to students who meet the minimum number of required house points.

At the end of the year, the house with the highest accumulated total number of house points is awarded the house cup.

Notable alumni[edit]

Perth Modern School alumni are known as Perth Modernians. They have received more top Order of Australia honours than the alumni of any other school in Western Australia.[25] Fourteen Perth Modernians have won Rhodes Scholarships from the University of Western Australia.[3] Notable Perth Modernians include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Alphabetical List of Western Australian Schools" (pdf). Western Australian Department of Education. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 10 Aug 2014.
  2. ^ Topsfield, Jewel (4 December 2010). "Ties that bind prove a private education has its awards". The Age. p. 11..
  3. ^ a b "Western Australian Rhodes Scholars". University of Western Australia. Archived from the original (doc) on 7 April 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d "Perth Modern School West Building including Main Hall". Australian Government, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Perth Modern School History and Tradition". Australian Government, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Higher Order Thinking". Popet. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  7. ^ "DET WA Gifted and Talented"
  8. ^ NSW AGTC: Francois Gagne's Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent [1]
  9. ^ Borrello, Eliza (16 February 2011). "Perth Modern returns to its roots". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  10. ^ Kagi, Jacob (30 May 2017). "Perth Modern School relocation: Government leaves door open for rethink". ABC News. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  11. ^ Powell, Graeme (13 June 2017). "Perth Modern School: Community backlash sees Government abandon relocation plans". ABC News. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  12. ^ Gartry, Laura (27 February 2017). "Perth CBD high-rise school: Parents at war with Labor over 'stifling, sterile' plan". ABC News. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d "Perth Modern School" (PDF). Register of Heritage Places - Assessment Documentation. Heritage Council of Western Australia. 14 December 2001. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  14. ^ "WA School Ranking - 2017". Better Education. 2017. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  15. ^ "WA School Ranking - 2016". Better Education. 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Year 12 Student Achievement Data" (PDF). Government of Western Australia. 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  17. ^ "Year 12 Student Achievement Data" (PDF). Government of Western Australia. 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  18. ^ "Year 12 Student Achievement Data" (PDF). Government of Western Australia. 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  19. ^ "Year 12 Student Achievement Data" (PDF). Government of Western Australia. 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  20. ^ "Year 12 Student Achievement Data" (PDF). Government of Western Australia. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  21. ^ "Year 12 Student Achievement Data" (PDF). Government of Western Australia. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  22. ^ "Year 12 Student Achievement Data" (PDF). Government of Western Australia. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 March 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  23. ^ "ALUMNI & ACHIEVEMENTS / WHERE DID THEY GO?". The Graduate College of Dance. Perth, WA: The Graduate College of Dance. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  24. ^ Ravlich, Ljiljanna (14 September 2006). "Perth Modern School - Music and Ballet Scholarship Programs" (pdf). Hansard. Perth, WA: Parliament of Western Australia. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  25. ^ Topsfield, Jewel (4 December 2010). "Ties that bind prove a private education has its awards". The Age. p. 11. The hard copy article also published a table of the schools which were ranked in the top ten places in Australia, as follows: (1st with 19 awards) Scotch College, Melbourne, (2nd with 17 awards) Geelong Grammar School, (3rd with 13 awards) Sydney Boys High School, (equal 4th with 10 awards each) Fort Street High School, Perth Modern School and St Peter's College, Adelaide, (equal 7th with 9 awards each) Melbourne Grammar School, North Sydney Boys High School and The King's School, Parramatta, (equal 10th with 6 awards each) Launceston Grammar School, Melbourne High School, Wesley College, Melbourne and Xavier College.

Further reading[edit]

  • Sphinx Foundation (2005). Perth Modern School: The History and the Heritage. Cottesloe, WA: B+G Resource Enterprises; Sphinx Foundation. ISBN 9781920715953.
  • Woodman, Alison; Staaden, Ross (2011). Past, Present & Future: Celebrating 100 Years of Exceptional Education at Perth Modern School (1911-2011). Subiaco, WA: Perth Modern School P & C Association. ISBN 9780646557847.

External links[edit]

Media related to Perth Modern School at Wikimedia Commons