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Clare jumps on St Mary’s train


The chance to be a leader and mentor in an all-girls school, while continuing her work in restorative justice and ecological conversion, is one of the reasons Clare Nocka put her name forward to be principal at St Mary’s College.

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Starting in the role in May, Clare has now completed her first term as the head of the city-based college in what she described as a “positive” transition.

“It’s been incredible to come into a place where you can really see the strength of leadership that’s been grown here,” she told The Southern Cross.

“In a sense there was the opportunity to ‘slipstream’ in and the year was already up and running, so to be able to start somewhere without the pressure of setting things up – that’s been a good experience.

“In another respect, I feel like I’ve jumped onto a moving train,” she laughed.

Clare, who was previously principal at St Joseph’s School Tranmere, took over at St Mary’s following the retirement of Eileen Young and admitted she was nervous about having such “big shoes to fill”.

“Eileen was my mentor when I had my first leadership position and she was also someone I learnt from about restorative justice. But I felt I had something to offer here that would follow on from Eileen… in some ways I believe we might have quite similar leadership styles,” she said.

Since settling into St Mary’s Clare has been getting to know the staff and students, although learning everyone’s names is a work in progress.

“Coming from a small parish primary school where I knew everyone, it’s quite a different thing to come into a big college environment, and on a day-to-day basis I probably don’t have as much contact with the students as I did at Tranmere.”

However, being at a large school does offer other advantages.

“I was drawn to St Mary’s for the opportunity to work in an all-girls context,” Clare explained.

“In my leadership development I’ve had outstanding female mentors that have been really important in my formation and development. From a young age, it started with my strong-willed mother who had a leadership role in the Norwood parish and Bernadette Kiley was also an influential teacher of mine.

“In my previous school two of the things I developed there were the introduction of restorative justice and the work for ecological conversion. So I was happy that I could bring both to St Mary’s College – as it is work that has already started here and aligns well with their social justice and outreach programs.”

Clare is also pleased that at St Mary’s she is working with a larger leadership team and she is looking forward to helping build strong cultures of leadership, “whether with colleagues or with girls in the school”.

In what she described as an “exciting time” for the development of the college, later this year she will oversee the start of a multi-million building project on the corner of West Terrace and Franklin Street. When complete, this will house a Year 12 study centre, visual arts suite, gym and PE teaching spaces. The college is also preparing for an increased intake in 2019 when Year 7 moves into the secondary school.

Outside of school, Clare enjoys indulging her passion for live music and attends as many music festivals as possible, with WOMAD a particular favourite. She sings in the Norwood parish and keeps herself attuned with the lives of teenagers through her children Isaac, who is studying primary teaching, and Maggie, who is in Year 11.


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