St Andrew's Cathedral School

Leadership

We want to be known for our principled, inspiring and deeply relational leadership as we authentically model an engaged and dynamic Christian faith, with a focus on the holistic development of character and an ethic of service.

Meet our Head of School –
Dr Julie McGonigle

Dr Julie McGonigle is an internationally renowned teacher and School Leader, a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and the recipient of a number of awards for teaching and leadership, including a Global Teacher Award, and national recognition for her Outstanding School Leadership. 

Originally from Northern Ireland, she studied English Literature and Language at Queens University Belfast before pursuing postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford–Jesus College. There she met her future husband, Andrew, who was reading for a Doctor of Philosophy in laser physics. She completed a Masters and then a Doctor of Philosophy in Education. Her doctorate focused on how schools in areas of social conflict can create a culture of peace. Her work spanned areas such as Israel, South Africa and Northern Ireland and went on to inform both policy and practice. 

She worked as an English teacher at a school in Oxford before moving to Cambridge to work as a Middle Leader at an International Baccalaureate school. Next, a global teacher award took her to a rural school in the Eastern Cape area of South Africa with a 5% pass rate. The remit was simple: ‘improve it’. Her work there helped to cement her understanding of school improvement and how that ran in tandem with a Christian vision of transformation.

She was part of the team that founded one of the first city academies in England. The city academy programme was an innovative model that aimed to revitalise struggling, inner-city schools in areas of high social deprivation. The school gained significant attention, including a national award for ‘Most improved academy nationally’ and it was at this school, in 2012 that Dr McGonigle met Dr John Collier, previous Head of St Andrew’s Cathedral School for 12 years, who was on study leave in the UK, visiting schools that had significant success in lifting academic standards. 

In 2017, Dr McGonigle was seconded to St Andrew’s Cathedral School for a year as Deputy Head, Academic Improvement, where she led on evidence-informed approaches to teaching and learning. On return to the UK, Dr McGonigle worked as a senior leader for a group of six schools, was involved in governance for both independent and state schools, and continued her strategic work at St Andrew’s Cathedral School.

Dr McGonigle has three children with Dr Andrew McGonigle, all of whom attend St Andrew’s Cathedral School. 

What are you passionate about? What will you be concentrating on at St Andrew’s Cathedral School? 

I am passionate about the potential of children and young people. When I was in my early teens the mother of a friend of mine said to me, ‘you’re better than you think you are.’ It was an interesting statement and one that she repeated to me often. That one voice ran counter cultural to the other messages I was hearing, most notably the messages inside my head. The more I listened, the more it blew the ceiling off my self-judgement and set me free to flourish and achieve.

Young people often put a ceiling on their ability and potential; they judge themselves as good or bad at various activities in life, often after only one try. The cultural messages and low expectations around teenagers exacerbate this self-judgment. 

As a school we are in the privileged position to be a counter-cultural voice for young people. To enable them to stand up and be leaders, not only the leaders of tomorrow but the leaders of today.

There are so many examples of how that is already beginning to happen across the world. Children and teenagers are leading the way. I recently read the book, ‘Rise Up: Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories.’ If you want to truly be inspired, I highly recommend it. 

We are also in the privileged position to teach children and young people. The truth is not that they are good or bad at various activities. The truth is that they can learn and be taught – whatever their starting point. ‘Growth mindset’, the well-known research by Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck, notes that intelligence isn’t fixed, it grows. Therefore, among other actions, she encourages the addition of the word, ‘yet’ on to the end of the sentence: I am not good at that, yet! Schools are about learning and growth, whatever your starting point. I am passionate about the power of teaching and teachers to affect growth in children and young people, no matter what their background. This drives my commitment to all at St Andrew’s Cathedral School and Gawura. 

I am also driven by the Christian belief that everyone is infinitely valued, gifted for a purpose and morally responsible, because they are Imago Dei – made in God’s image. Our culture increasingly values a human being because of ability, achievement, wealth, or physical attributes, but Imago Dei communicates value to everyone and drives an inclusive care for every individual. The belief that every student matters also drives high expectations of each student. It means I am interested in character development through a disciplined learning environment, wide-ranging co-curricular opportunities and real-world social action.

Meet our Deputy Head of School (Secondary) – Mr Brad Swibel

Brad Swibel came to St Andrew’s Cathedral School in 2013, having worked in schools on the South Coast and South West Sydney. Originally an English teacher, he was inspired by the outstanding English and History teachers he had during his HSC year – memorable, enthusiastic educators who knew how to get the best out of their students. 

As Deputy Head of Secondary School, he is responsible for overseeing academic progress, wellbeing, policies and staffing in the Middle School and Senior College.

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His career has been grounded on a Christian approach to character development, with a holistic focus on the pursuit of excellence and the flourishing of students, teachers and the school.

He has led teams to develop the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP), the teaching of Character Strengths, positive education, and a level-based discipline system, as well as establishing approaches to evidence-informed teaching and Christian education. 

In 2021 he received a Leadership Award from the Australian College of Educators’ (ACE) for his work in developing data analytics dashboards at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in consultation with the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney. These dashboards help improve student wellbeing by personalising the learning experience and allow teachers to set learning strategies and identify students at risk for interventions. Brad is also co-leading the School’s four-year partnership with Corwin, a global provider of evidence-based professional learning, led by Professor John Hattie, one of Australia’s foremost educational researchers.

Brad is a keen landscape photographer, and in 2020 he won awards at the Australian Photography Awards and the Neutral Density Photography Awards for his seascapes of the South Coast. All three daughters have attended St Andrew’s Cathedral School.

Meet our Deputy Head of School (Primary) – Mrs Rhonda Robson

Rhonda Robson oversees the Junior School and Gawura at St Andrew’s Cathedral School. She has found it immensely satisfying to witness the stunning transformation of both of these schools in recent years.

The development of high quality teaching and learning programmes have led to exceptional academic improvement and the intentionally individualised pastoral care and student wellbeing programmes have created a warm and joyous culture, where all children are valued and thriving.

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At the end of 2021, Rhonda was awarded Primary School Principal of the Year for all Independent schools, across Australia, by the Australian Education Awards. This prestigious award was given in recognition for her work to transform St Andrew’s Cathedral Junior School into the outstanding school it has become. Rhonda brings much expertise, she has taught for more than 30 years, being a primary school principal in two schools, for more than 14 years. She has taught primary, secondary and university levels, she has taught both the HSC and the International Baccalaureate and has lectured in Educational Psychology and Developmental Psychology.

She has spoken at state and national events in Gifted Education, Indigenous Education and Primary Education. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Education, and a Diploma of Teaching, a Masters of Education (Counselling Psychology) and a Certificate of Gifted Education. She was drawn to a career in education because she wanted to be in a role where she could actively assist others. Rhonda was deeply influenced by one of her primary school teachers, a woman full of joy and positivity who encouraged children, so that they felt as though they were capable of anything. 

She has been involved in all aspects of developing and improving the Junior School and Gawura, including expanding the schools over two floors, introducing a dedicated Art Space, the Gawura space, and the Junior School Library. She has also participated in the development of our Teaching and Learning Model, Character Strengths, the oversight of the Junior School Christian Education programme, as well as the development of the Junior School and Gawura co-curricular programme. More broadly she has been involved in the development of three School Strategic Plans, as well as the Reconciliation Action Plan.

She is passionate about quality Christian education and helping both teachers and parents to understand ways to improve learning. She enjoys the rich gifts of an extended family, with all four elderly grandparents nearby and four children in their twenties still living at home.

Meet our Executive Director School Services – Ms Nicola Warwick-Mayo

Nicola is responsible for the business, operational and financial aspects of the School. This includes operational and strategic oversight of finance, IT, human resources, risk management, facilities, community engagement and fundraising. She directly oversees a team of around 40 staff and has responsibility for all support and operations staff – around 120 people. 

She is a Chartered Accountant and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Before she came to the school she worked primarily in finance roles in the Financial Services and Corporate Treasury sectors. 

Nicola is passionate about enabling better strategic decision making through effective analysis and communication of information, as well as developing and leading teams that have a positive strategic impact. She loves the opportunity to have collaborative input into the many different activities that support teaching and learning. 

She oversaw the redevelopment of Chapter House, a joint project with St Andrew’s Cathedral. She was also responsible for the creation of the new Sports Centre on the ground floor of St Andrew’s House. 

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