I always enjoy alumnae events. It gives me a chance to meet women from our legacy schools, and increasingly, to meet alumnae from BGS who have now left university and begun their careers. What strikes me is, first, their quiet confidence. They acknowledge the impact their education has had on them and how it has shaped them powerfully in such different ways. Secondly and perhaps, more importantly what struck me was how their career paths have unfolded in ways they were not expecting.
This was reiterated at the most recent alumnae event held in London last week. Women of many different generations gathered and almost all agreed that what they set out do was no longer, what they did.
For many, since leaving school, it was about recognising and honing their skill set, searching for the job that would make the most of those skills. For others it was about being flexible, trying out different options and adjusting to the many varied work environments; for some it was about taking risks by stepping out their comfort zone and trying something completely new. I loved talking to former students, for one it was about the challenges and joy she would experience in travelling to Thailand in the next month to work in an elephant sanctuary, something she would never had contemplated on doing when she left school. For another, it was about the courage to leave a very safe and prestigious job to follow her passion and set up her own calligraphy business and how she felt liberated in using her skills, and for another it was about trialling working as an editor on an Economics magazine looking at global risks, seeing if it used her formidable skill set she had been accruing both during school, university and in the working world.
Schools should be about providing pupils with skills and attributes to help them adapt and flourish in an ever changing world, providing them with the resilience and confidence to face challenges and take risks. However, as I watch, this week, our current generation of girls sit public examinations, girls who have worked for weeks storing copious amounts of knowledge in their memory cells to apply in a fixed pressurised time frame, with no collaboration, I question how long this system of assessment can remain. It is testing and measuring them for skills they will not have to use, these assessments do not allow the girls to demonstrate the depth of their talents. Many of the alumnae I met last week were flourishing not because of their success in these assessments but because of the values and attributes that they had learned at School. We need to reward and recognise these skills and to celebrate these confident independent women striving to make a difference to the world.