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Shaping the Future: Anna Dickinson

The 22nd century is closer than you think. Anna Dickinson, Principal of Loreto Kirribilli, is acutely aware that some of her students in kindergarten will be living in the next century. Loreto, under her leadership, instils in them the capacity to flourish in a world that will undoubtedly be vastly different to the one we know now.

Anna Dickinson, Principal of Loreto Kirribilli

“As a school community, you think about that,” she says. “If these children are going to live in the 22nd century, what skills and capabilities do they need? How do we ensure that they are able to thrive in the world they’re moving into?”

It’s a sobering thought. Loreto’s overriding philosophy is to develop inspiring women who are committed to making a positive impact on the world. “And with a rapidly changing world, it’s more important than ever,” Anna says.

“We’re committed to developing young women who are inspired to lead and collaborate with others in that leadership. Our mission underpins the values of our school – justice, sincerity, verity, felicity and freedom of spirit. We focus every year on a particular value and, this year, it’s the year of felicity.”

Felicity indeed, after last year’s COVID-19 induced turmoil that disrupted schooling, especially for those completing their final year. But according to Anna, the school and its students came through 2020 in good spirits.

“We’re a future-focused school that understands the world is VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In a VUCA world, in order for students to flourish, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication are vital.

These skills were particularly helpful as the school responded to COVID-19, creating a model of learning that was responsive to the needs of students. Anna’s 40 years in Catholic education, includes experience of all-girl, all-boy and co-educational environments.

She has been a principal at three schools and Regional Consultant at the Catholic Education Office, as well as Director System Performance for the Diocese of Parramatta.

Future hub

Loreto has over 1,100 students, with 250 staff, including teaching and non-teaching staff. Showing considerable foresight, the school is in the process of building an innovation centre to provide the technology resources students will need to meet future challenges.

It sourced Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp to design a centre of seven storeys, incorporating a range of dynamic versatile learning spaces and studios designed to enhance cross-curricular learning and inspire an entrepreneurial mindset.

This future-focused facility builds on the collective understanding of global trends in education, which the staff readily shared through the expert facilitation of Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp. The school’s project manager for the building of the innovation centre is Bloompark Consulting.

“We were looking for companies that would align with our values,” Anna says. “Bloompark very much fits that mould; we could see that it is a company that values the opportunity to have a positive impact in an educational environment and would support the school, ensuring we could achieve this project on budget and on time. I’ve been really happy with them – they’re fantastic and doing everything to meet our needs.”

Also working with Loreto on this project is Nexon, with which the school has enjoyed a long relationship with a strong emphasis on innovation and technology.

Our mission underpins the values of our school – justice, sincerity, verity, felicity and freedom of spirit.

“Nexon has always provided great support for Loreto as they understand the importance of supporting staff in the delivery of new technology.”

Life coaching

Loreto takes personal coaching seriously – so much so that every girl has a learning coach, with staff and middle-year students trained by Growth Coaching International. Students also have a teacher who meets with them each day to “check in”, says Anna.


But the school has developed another program that takes the learning coach idea one step further. “Our LK Connect program ensures that former students continue to be supported by the school. We contacted ex-students to see if they would mentor younger ex-students. Out of that came LK Connect,” she says.

The expectation is that a mentee would become a future mentor of others to make a positive difference in their lives as well.

Personal connections count

Anna describes herself as a relational principal, which means meeting the students at the gate each morning is important to her. Her passion for learning is evident in her interaction with the girls.

“Our idea is that each child is supported, engaged and challenged, promoting curiosity and a love of learning,” she says. This is strengthened by the deeply embedded spiritual dimension of the school, one where positive relationships flourish, the dignity and rights of all are respected and joy and hope are hallmarks.

Anna remembers taking advice years ago from a Patrician brother, who told her, “The wisdom of the group, Anna.” It was life-changing advice for her. “I believe in unleashing the collective wisdom of the amazing educators I am privileged to work with”, she says.

“When you unleash the capacity of people to problem-solve with you, the things they’ll come up with are extraordinary, and personally fulfilling.”

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