Last week was spent with other heads from independent girls’ schools at the annual GSA Conference in Liverpool. It is always refreshing spending time with colleagues sharing ideas, concerns and interests. Having the opportunity to network, listen to outstanding speakers and finding out what is new in education is a liberating experience.
One such speaker was Jane Garvey, co-presenter of Woman’s Hour, who spoke of the importance of digging deep, working hard, being resilient but most of all persevering when success does not come quickly. Her first news story was with the Hereford and Worcester News about rubbish collection; she now interviews women of impressive calibre such as Meryl Streep, Madonna and Judy Dench. She felt that Woman’s Hour still had a role to play in raising awareness of women’s issues: sadly glass ceilings do exist, girls in Afghanistan are shot on the way to school to stop them being educated, women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and women in the UK are not allowed to be ordained as bishops.
This resonated with Professor Athene Donald, an award-winning physicist and senior academic at Cambridge University, who spoke at the last Dame Alice Harpur A level Prize Giving on Saturday. Whilst she felt that glass ceilings were being broken, she spoke of the importance of women having mentors, to help them move into the upper echelons of success. It did not need to be a single person, nor a woman but rather a network of people who appreciate you for what you are, who recognise your strengths and whom you trust to turn to for advice.
The GSA conference certainly provided that support, network and inspiration for many of us and I hope in turn we are able to return to our schools and honour that ambition for our staff and pupils.
The conference also afforded me an opportunity to visit an area of the country that I would seldom reach and I took a small detour on my way home to visit Antony Gormley’s art installation Another Place. Another Place is 100 cast-iron, life-size figures spread out along three kilometres of the foreshore, stretching almost one kilometre out to sea, 5 miles north of Liverpool. The work is seen as a poetic response to the individual and universal sentiments associated with emigration – sadness at leaving, but the hope of a new future in another place. See his website for more information http://www.antonygormley.com/
A fitting end to a fantastic conference and I look forward to meeting my colleagues again next year in Belfast.