Last Saturday we held the annual general meeting for former pupils and staff of Dame Alice Harpur School. It was a delight to see so many people spanning a wide range of generations: from former pupils who had left school three years ago to those in their late 80s. Without exception every person there was proud of the schooling they had received and wanted to do all they could to help the next generation of alumnae from Bedford Girls’ School.
As a body of people they were keen to create a very strong alumnae association. They wanted to build an active pool of former pupils and staff to help nurture and develop the younger, new members as they left school. One recent alumna wanted to come back to school to speak to our Year 11s about the value of work experience and how the work experience she had at Year 11 had shaped her life. She also recalled the benefits of Future Fortunes, organised by our Careers Department for the Lower Sixth, which gave her the opportunity to meet professionals which helped her to build up links that she is still using today.
It is this type of alumnae community we are trying to create where former pupils proactively reach out to members in a number of different ways. It stretches far beyond reunions at school and offers a wider range of activities to benefit members of different ages in diverse communities.
Our aim for our alumnae association resonates with what Hillary French, president of the Girls’ School Association, spoke about this morning on BBC Breakfast. She said that schools had a role not just in teaching girls to pass examinations but also, importantly, to give them the softer skills of networking and building contacts to help them compete successfully in the very competitive job market. It is with this ambition in mind, this evening I am meeting with former alumnae of both Bedford High School for Girls and Dame Alice Harpur School who are currently studying in Newcastle and Durham. Why the North East? The GSA Heads’ Conference this year is being held at Newcastle and it provides me with opportunities to introduce former pupils of both schools to speakers at the conference and in doing so build up their networks. Schooling at BGS continues long after the girls have left us in Upper Sixth!