Wishing you all a Merry Christmas 

I love this time of year; the decorations, the festive food, the celebrations and the singing! The latter, I have to confess, is my favourite. Belting out a Christmas carol, particularly when accompanied by a full orchestra, as we were at our Senior School concert earlier this week, is so good for the soul. It has been wonderful to bring singing back to the school after the two years of the pandemic. From the rousing version of Sweet Caroline in honour of the Lionesses’ win in our first whole school assembly of the year, the poignant rendition of of I vow to thee my country for the Queen’s commemorative assembly, to the very enthusiastic house singing this week, and our final coming together in the church services on the last day of term. I have enjoyed every opportunity to sing as a community. I have really missed singing, how it feels when we all sing together; the collective rhythm and energy is a feeling you can’t beat.  

It has been a long and busy term, where the students have achieved great things. I have been blown away by the depth of  talent from our wonderful concerts to our first fantastic drama performance of the year, the joint production of Bugsy Malone: The Musical with Bedford School. There have also been amazing sporting successes, academic achievements and exceptional service through commitment to our outreach programmes with local primary schools. The students have been phenomenally busy, but thanks must also go to our outstanding staff, who give so much to make all of this possible. I am honoured to lead a team of such dedicated and caring colleagues who are so committed to our students in their studies, their co-curricular pursuits and their well-being. 

When we were living through the pandemic, the focus of my messages to the students was about how we were living through an important moment in history, and that though it was tough, it would not last forever. I know that we are still living in difficult times, the prospect of ongoing economic instability, the rise in the cost of living and the war in Ukraine adds a sense of uncertainty for many of us. I trust that once again we will continue to pull together as a community and focus on being empathic and kind to one another. And what an apt message that is at this time of year, when we often come together as families and the adage of peace and love is at the forefront of our minds. As the US President Calvin Coolidge said “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

And on that note, may I wish you all a wonderful holiday; make sure you rest (even if you are studying for mock examinations), enjoy time with your family and Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. 

Community Outreach – Making a positive impact

This week, Mrs Axford (Assistant Head – Co-Curriculum and Experiential Learning) guest writes on the Headmistress blog about the positive impact of our community outreach programme in Bedford. 

Listening to a primary school child read a book may not sound like a big deal. But we hope that sustained engagement by Bedford Girls’ School (BGS) with local primary schools is helping to enhance the life chances of children in our borough.

Over the weekend I met up with an old friend and we got talking about her experiences as a volunteer at a local primary school, helping young children with their reading. My friend spends two hours each week at the school, where she listens to the young children read, providing them with caring, one-on-one support. My friend has a busy full-time job, but she said that working from home meant she now had more time to dedicate to other activities. She clearly loves her volunteer work, and enjoys seeing how the children grow in ability and confidence, as they giggle their way through Captain Underpants or follow Gobbolino, the Witch’s Cat, as he goes on adventures and chases his dreams. This free one-to-one reading support is organised by Bedford charity, “Schoolreaders”, which matches volunteers to local primary schools across the country.

This conversation led on to a discussion of similar outreach activities that we’ve been doing at BGS for some time.  Back in 2019, we began working with Shackleton Primary School here in Bedford. Fifteen Lower Sixth students began going into Shackleton once a week to help the children with reading. Despite some stop-start through Covid, the activity has grown, and this year, since the start of this autumn term we have had sixty BGS Sixth Formers involved, going into two local schools each week. In addition to Shackleton we are also working with Marston Vale School. The BGS students provide 1:1 reading support to children from reception right through to Year 6. Our students are out of school for 90 minutes each session, making use of the lunch break, giving at least one hour of dedicated reading support time each visit.

Before they start, we provide training to the BGS students to ensure that they have the appropriate strategies and tools at their finger-tips to maximise the benefit to the children. Fluency of reading affects future life chances. If a child cannot read English easily, they cannot access the rest of the school curriculum easily, or access many aspects of the wider world. And a young person who leaves school with poor literacy they might struggle to read a medicine packet, or fill out an application form, and at an extreme, the ability to read has a positive impact on keeping young adults out of the criminal justice system, as a BGS governor who works in that system highlighted to me recently. 

BGS is nestled in a borough where many families face significant daily challenges.  Even before the pandemic, research showed that in our borough, children receiving free school meals had literacy attainments on average over a year behind the general cohort by the age of 11. Post pandemic it is highly likely that that gap will have widened. Schools across the borough face a variety of challenges. At Shackleton Primary, over 60% of the school children’s first language is not English. The OFSTED inspectors commented in 2021 that ‘Shackleton Primary is in a deprived area where many families live in poverty’. The report continued that. ‘Shackleton’s leaders refuse to accept this as an excuse for underachievement, and have created a “buzz” at the school, a feeling that “something interesting is going on from the moment you walk through the door”. We are so proud that BGS students are playing their own small part in supporting the work of this school and their students.

I see the reading support we provide to local primary schools as a ‘marathon rather than a sprint’, with each cohort of BGS students passing the baton on to fellow-students in the years below; each year building on the support that the BGS students have given in the years before.  By the time we break up for the summer holidays this year, we will have provided 1,800 hours of one-to-one reading support to children at local primary schools across the school year.  We have already been working with local schools for three years. If we can sustain this for seven years, we will have seen primary school children from Reception all the way through to the end of Year 6, providing 12,600 hours of 1:1 reading support.

The sustainability of the project is key. I hope our current BGS community is building a legacy of service that will last long into the future. I hope that the sustained intervention of our BGS students at local primary schools – a decade of Captain Underpants and Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and hundreds of other books – will help to transform the reading ability of thousands of children in our borough, helping local children get the most out of their education, enhancing life chances.

And enhancing life.  

Changing our Culture

This week, Upper Sixth Form students, Sophie Forbes-Laird and Nina Leech, guest write on the Headmistress blog about leading the Changing our Culture project.

97 percent of women in the UK have been sexually harassed, recent research has found. As young women ourselves, we and our friends were not nearly as surprised at this statistic as our male peers, when it circulated social media. 

In England and Wales, 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted. Again, as young women in today’s society, this statistic did not shock us. Sexual assault and in particular sexual harassment is far too common, and given women are regularly the victims of this behaviour, it’s an issue important to many of us at BGS.

In April 2021, Ofsted published a report following the rise of the Everyone’s Invited campaign. This is an anonymous platform, looking to fight rape culture through education and awareness, allowing young people to submit their experiences of sexual assault and harassment. Over 50,000 testimonies have been submitted, with that number still rising today. The Everyone’s Invited research also found that 9 out of 10 school girls had received unwanted inappropriate pictures online and had been subject to sexist name-calling. Everyone’s Invited highlighted a huge issue in society and the culture surrounding young people across the UK, importantly it began a conversation about experiences that are so common, that they get overlooked. 

Recognising that change needed to happen, Sixth Formers from Bedford School and BGS began collaborating on a ‘Changing our Culture’ project;  We are both passionate about this issue and have both been involved in the project from its inception in 2021 and took over the lead this year to drive this project forward. 

Our project has a real focus on sexual harassment and sexist comments. More violent behaviours are rarer and unrelatable to our younger students; but every single one of us can help change the culture that we live in. 

Research finds that the root of so many of these unacceptable behaviours stem from a long history of objectifying women. We want to encourage the students we are working with to recognise that small changes to behaviour and humour can make a  huge difference to our culture and stop the encouragement of the unhealthy attitudes towards women and girls that have been circulating for so long. 

We recognise that to change the environment that young women are growing up in, we need everyone in our community to get behind this issue. Therefore we have been really fortunate to have been met with excellent collaboration and support from the Bedford School citizenship team, students and staff; working together is key so that both boys and girls have role models that they can look up to.  Although girls are generally the victims, sexual harassment and assault are not problems for women to face alone; and they are certainly not ones we can reduce without the boys and men in our community engaging with the issue. It’s not unlikely that young men would be unaware of the challenges women face, for example on public transport, if they aren’t directly experiencing it. 

That’s why the focus of our project with the boy’s citizenship team has been on developing empathy.  We aimed to educate the Year 9 boys on a culture of respect within the school community as well as the wider society.  We were fortunate to find great empathy and an eagerness to engage from both the older boys in the citizenship team, but also the younger boys in Year 9, who we worked with last Tuesday, in their citizenship morning at Bedford School. 

An informative presentation was given by two girls and two boys from Upper and Lower Sixth tackling rape culture and focusing on how to be a positive ally towards the girls and women in their lives; including a clear focus on what behaviours are not tolerated or acceptable.

Following the presentation, partnerships of Sixth Form students ran ‘breakout rooms’ in which practical scenarios were discussed with smaller groups of Year 9 boys – including discussions on consent and solutions. The boys listened and engaged with the issue seriously, the breakout rooms allowed them to ask questions and develop their understanding. We feel it was really powerful for them to learn about these issues and hear our experiences. The session was very successful and hopefully, this chain of positive behaviour will continue to be infiltrated not just into the school community but elsewhere as well. 

The morning left us feeling enthusiastic about the future of this project, and we look forward to running a similar session with our Year 9s at BGS, ensuring our message is delivered consistently across our communities. Delivering this project together, as two united schools, was really powerful and something we will remember for a very long time. We are honoured to be the ones delivering this message, it feels like the start of a truly positive change. 

We are thankful to all of the Sixth Form students who gave up their time to help us. We are excited for this to be a continuous link between our two schools, so we can keep shining light on these issues and spreading this awareness. Alice Swallow, Head of Citizenship at Bedford School, who greatly supported us alongside our pastoral staff at BGS, pointed something out to us recently; that, by September 2024, the students leading this project will be the first year group that we brought this project to, when they were in Year 9. From then on, everyone across our schools will have the opportunity to both listen and lead this campaign. This is exciting and  we cannot wait to see the positive impact this project continues to have.

Sixth Form – Follow your passions

This week, Mrs Woolley (Director of Sixth Form) guest writes on the Headmistress blog about seizing every opportunity during your Sixth Form years. 

In the Sixth Form we have spent a large amount of time over the last few weeks reading Upper Sixth references and personal statements as the UCAS applications process starts to kick in with the early applications for Medicine, Dentistry, Vet Med and Oxbridge deadline looming. It is an exciting time for these students and I always enjoy reference reading. It gives me a chance to reflect. I am always blown away by the intellect, sophistication and the confidence that shines through in the description of each student. I think back to when these same students put on their new Sixth Form suits and slightly tentatively entered the Common Room for the first time just over a year ago. I am amazed by the rapid transformation from teenagers to bold, accomplished young women ready to take on greater challenges. 

Sixth Form goes fast, really fast. I stress time and time again to our Lower Sixth students that they should really grasp all of the opportunities we have on offer. They are so lucky at BGS, they really can turn their hands to anything and my advice is get stuck in, have a go, move out of comfort zones. They all find new passions, further hone great employability skills and together, with a deep understanding of their academic studies, form the basis for a great UCAS statement. 

None of this can be achieved without hard work and commitment; whether they study A Levels or the IB Diploma programme, our Sixth Formers have to learn to study continually and that is not always easy to do around the many distractions that life throws. Sixth Form is all about learning to juggle, prioritise and asking for help when you need it. Our role as the Sixth Form Pastoral Team is to ensure our students make sensible choices about the Sixth Form subjects. We are here to mentor, coach and advise them as they develop aspirations and research the  next steps beyond Sixth Form. 

Throughout Sixth Form, our Pastoral Team helps students to develop self-reliance and strategies. We want our students to be able to balance academic deadlines alongside their wider interests, as they prepare to maximise the opportunities on offer to achieve their very best. We gently direct them how to do this for themselves going forwards, in order to prepare them for the increasing independence that those next steps allow.

Within this environment are students achieve incredible things, and I am reminded of these as I read their references; of the campaigns they have launched, the national level awards for science that they have won; the teams they have represented and the incredible research undertaken for an EPQ or Extended Essay that has ignited a passion which has shaped their higher education choices. Our Sixth Form students are impressive, they are ready to take the next steps and make a difference to the world around them. Our Sixth Formers are also fantastic company, engaging, interesting and have great hearts. They make me very proud!    

Resetting of Time 

I always love this time of the year in schools: our new students have begun to settle into the flow of their new environment; everyone is still energised from the summer break filled with new ambitions for the year ahead; and we get to welcome in current parents and prospective parents to Information Evenings and Open Days. In schools we are so conditioned by the rhythms of the calendar in our day to day lives with key set pieces such as holidays, exams and highly anticipated traditions and social events; I can imagine it could seem quite peculiar to the uninitiated. 

The Gregorian Calendar, which virtually all countries use today was introduced to Great Britain this week in 1752, though throughout the Catholic countries of Europe it had been introduced two centuries earlier in 1582. There was a difference of 10 days to the Julian calendar that preceded it, so in its first year countries had to decide which 10 days it had to remove from the calendar, some choosing October and others December. How discombobulating that must have been to suddenly lose such a substantial amount of time from a month; and can you imagine if your birthday fell in that time? Thankfully during my time in South Korea I didn’t have to learn a new calendar as the Gregorian calendar is used, but they do look at age in a different way. For Koreans you age a year every time New Year has passed regardless of whether you have had your birthday or not. It can be quite complicated and sometimes will mean their Korean age is two years more than their international age – quite complex in international schools as you can imagine! 

This passing of time and growing in maturity is never better defined than during a child’s education. The difference between our students in Year 3, with their bubbly enthusiasm, to our confident and committed Upper Sixth students, almost ready to fly off to their new lives, is a wonderful privilege our teachers witness first hand. It is particularly noticeable for some of our specialist teachers, such as sport and languages, who still vividly remember some of our Sixth Formers when they were in the Junior School. 

I am so proud to be able to show prospective families what we offer here at BGS on our Open Morning this week. I know what a fantastic school we have. We are so lucky to work with such inquisitive and hardworking students; I thoroughly enjoy the opportunities I have to teach them mini-topics in history in the younger years of the Senior School. Their capacity of thought, their creativity, their digital adeptness and their passion for learning is wonderful to behold. I recognise every day what a privilege it is to be part of this amazing community. I cannot think of anything I would rather be doing than providing opportunities for young people to grow and develop, and I know this view is shared across the school. 

At BGS I believe we all subscribe to the belief “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” (Plutarch). I look forward to seeing what ideas are being ignited all across the school this year and the impact these will have on the future. 

Being Imaginative

As the year draws to a close Mrs Gibson, Headmistress, reflects on the BGS values, in particular, the importance of always being imaginative. 

Whenever I think about imagination my mind immediately leaps to one thing in particular…see if you can recognise it from this quote: 

If you want to view paradise

Simply look around and view it

Anything you want to, do it

Want to change the world?

There’s nothing to it

There is no life I know

To compare with pure imagination

Living there, you’ll be free

If you truly wish to be

It is the song Pure Imagination from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate factory. And who in here has not at one time imagined themselves in that wonderful factory room that has a chocolate river running through it and every flower, plant and blade of grass is made of something edible and sweet. Roald Dahl created such an immersive world in that book with eccentric characters, vivid scenes and that little touch of magic.

The act of writing a story is the epitome of imagination from Alice in Wonderland to the terrifying and tragic character of Count Dracula, and the dystopian futures depicted in books like the Handmaid’s Tale we learn to see the world through different eyes, to understand different viewpoints;  they stimulate our own creativity and help us question what we see around us.  

Being confident to use our creativity and imagination is something we highly value at BGS. I witness how wonderfully articulate, creative and intelligent our students are every day; how they are capable of questioning and challenging accepted norms and of engaging in debate with all the passion and acumen we could expect and hope for. These are some of the attributes we encourage you to develop so that our students  enter the world with critical curiosity, a love of learning and a desire to change things for the better. We can only conceive new solutions by looking at issues through different and new perspectives. We want to encourage our students to use their intellect to link thoughts and ideas to find new solutions; to always be questioning and stepping out of comfort zones to explore something from a different angle and not to always accept the status-quo.  

We live in a highly volatile world;  there are so many huge issues that need creative, innovative and imaginative thought to address them; we cannot solve them with our current thinking and whilst technology may help provide a solution, that bright spark of an idea will originate from someone’s imagination. From the issues of climate change, poverty, war, famine, gender inequality and greater political division, we need great thinkers to make a difference.  

And of course, imagination is also essential for all the creative arts, which enrich our lives so much. School has felt so much more vibrant and alive this year as we have been able to watch incredible drama and dance, listen to concerts and visit art exhibitions and work in collaboration to use the collective power of creativity to create joy and harness the sense of possibility.  

So as we finish another school year I would like to ask us to remember to  never dismiss a thought or an idea, however small or unconnecting it may at first appear; remember just how important imagination is, revel in it, let it run wild and always put it to good use. 

Everyone’s Invited – a year on

By Mrs Gibson, Headmistress

I was very honoured to speak at the recent GSA Conference about the impact of Everyone’s Invited on our school community and what we have been doing to try to improve the situation for our students. Stamping out misogynistic behaviour and rape culture is such an important issue for our young women, They must be able to go out into the world feeling safe and believing that their opinions will be heard and valued. I have been incredibly proud of how our students reacted to the horrific stories that were shared through this website; they immediately realised that action needed to be taken and that they had an important role to play, despite this being such an emotionally charged issue. 

Not only did our Sixth Formers want to work within BGS, they understood that to make a real difference in this area they needed to work in tandem with their male counterparts at Bedford School. They were pleased to discover that the boys were equally keen to collaborate to address these issues. By tackling this together in a safe and non-judgemental way, the Sixth Formers have started a partnership which we hope will be long-lasting in delivering a culture of respect between our young people. For this to be successful it is crucial that: they have empathy for one another; they understand how to interact with each other both socially and intellectually; and that if things go wrong, they know who to turn to and that they will always be listened to. 

There is indisputable evidence that girls thrive in single-sex education: they develop greater mental toughness; the freedom from gender stereotype leads to girls being two and a half  times more likely to take further Maths and Physics at A Level; they achieve academic excellence shown by a disproportionately large share of top grades in public examinations; and they have access to greater leadership opportunities. Nevertheless, we must equip our students to have positive relationships with both sexes, so they can flourish in the world beyond BGS. 

It is important that we start building these links from a young age. We have a termly programme of joint events between the Junior School and Bedford Prep School, which provide exciting opportunities for pupils from both schools to explore collaborative learning across a range of themes: Performance Workshops, STEM activities, E-Safety Awareness Days and Practical Problem Solving. Last week, I had the great pleasure of watching Year 5 students from both schools join forces to face the challenges set by the teachers. Working as a cohesive team and forming positive bonds in the process, they tackled a blind-folded obstacle course, a pass the hula hoop task and a treasure hunt!

By the time they are in Sixth Form, the students are role models for their younger peers. It is why setting the tone in this age group is so important. The academic joint ventures between Bedford School and BGS encourage them to value each other as intellectual equals. Through joint IB Diploma trips and presentations, societies such as the Pythagoreans Society and Lovelace Society, and performing arts opportunities, our young adults collaborate and work side by side. Along with opportunities for light hearted socialising our students get to know each other better so that mutual respect and understanding can grow. This year, I have been greatly impressed by the Sixth Formers working jointly to facilitate  peer training for Year 9 students in both schools on relationships, consent and being active bystanders. 

We will continue to ensure that our students have a strong voice in all aspects of their life, whilst giving them the ability to empathise with others and learn how to find solutions to complex issues as a team, safe in the knowledge that we are here to support them every step of the way. 

We hope that our students live by the adage of American Suffrage activist, Carrie Chapman Catt: “To the wrongs that need resistance, To the right that needs assistance, To the future in the distance, Give yourselves.” but they should also be inspired by the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, who said “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” I know that our students have high aspirations for their futures in a world that they expect to be free from gender bias and inequality. They have made a great start in making this dream a reality and I look forward to seeing what they achieve next.

Put on your Dancing Shoes

By Mrs Gibson, Headmistress

One of my earliest memories is watching my grandparents dance at a family wedding. I was so envious of how they glided round the room and my grandfather took pity on me and tried to teach me the waltz. Dancing was so important to them: they first met at a dance after World War II; they celebrated many major family milestones with a dance together; and in their twilight years they enjoyed nothing more than going on cruises and attending dinner dances. It is a shame how the generations that followed them did not always place such importance on dancing together. 

When travelling around Cuba, this was clearly not the case. Salsa dancing was everywhere: in bars and cafes; in the streets; and at family celebrations. All generations of the family would dance together and it was always so lovely to see grandparents and grandchildren spinning and twirling together at speed to the energising salsa beat. I spent many happy hours dancing there too and the joy it brings you cannot be matched in my opinion. 

That is why it was so special to see so many of our students participating in our dance shows, All Kinds of Legends, last week from our Year 3 right up to our Upper Sixth. It was clear that they found so much joy in what they were doing too. There were looks of concentration and ecstatic smiles at the end, safe in the knowledge they had performed well. The audience too, were brought along with the emotion of the performances, some were happy and upbeat, whilst others were more pensive and drew us on an emotional journey. The students were able to articulate their thoughts and emotions so vividly through their dance. We have certainly felt the lack of opportunity to perform over the past few years of covid. And I am sure like most of us I am very glad that we are back to being able to bring our community together through dance again once more.

Dancing is such a natural thing for humans; we have all seen babies and toddlers swaying to the beat of music. Students here are able to foster their love of dancing through exploring different types of dance and the progression they make from their first performances in Year 3 to the accomplished ballerinas and tap dancers we see in the Sixth Form is phenomenal. Perhaps, we adults need to take a leaf out of their books? We may not all dance like our grandparents did, but we should still try to find opportunities to dance and remember the joy it brings us. Whether it is dancing round your kitchen, going to Zumba or dance classes or throwing some moves at a family gathering or wedding, let’s show our children that we understand the importance of dance and what a great effect it can have on our wellbeing. 

As the dancer, Agnes de Mille said: “To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.”

Celebrating our Heritage

By Mrs Gibson, Headmistress

It has been absolutely fascinating to research the history of BGS’s heritage schools as part of our 10 year anniversary celebrations. Both Bedford High School and Dame Alice Harpur School (Bedford Girls’ Modern as it was then called) opened in May 1882, meaning that we have 140 years of girls’ education to draw upon. A lot of campaigning took place to get these two girls’ schools to open and possibly some reluctance too, with girls’ education still being seen as a bit of a new-fangled idea!

Initially, they were both housed in the same building  with BHS starting with 43 pupils and DAHS with 58. That’s about the size of our Year 4 nowadays. As a historian, I love the circular nature of history and being able to see the patterns. There are so many similarities between all three of the schools and gaining a greater understanding of how our heritage schools navigated their paths before coming together as BGS in 2012 has been fascinating.

And what about those patterns? The most obvious one is about rising to challenges and the girls in all the schools have done this admirably over the years. The first of these was during World War I where we can see parallels to our own modern history. 1914, started quite auspiciously with electricity being brought to the building (like BGS’s wonderful ISI inspection in early 2020) with no sign of the impending crisis. However, as the world around them fell apart, the girls rose to the challenge fully supporting the war effort by knitting for the soldiers and supporting refugees from Belgium. 

During the Depression, a number of the fathers lost their jobs and families struggled financially, with the schools using a hardship fund to keep the girls in school. Another strife the girls of DAHS had to contend with was the flooding of the school in 1939, a very short time after the new building had been opened. Despite all the disruption, the girls were back in school within two days! The girls’ education was not to be interrupted. And then of course the dark days of World War II with evacuees, questions around school uniform due to rationing and the cancellation of much of the competitive sport. Both schools also had alumnae involved in the war effort, with some sadly losing their lives. 

It was delightful hearing the voices of some of these previous students through their quotes in the histories of the schools. I found this one in particular to be poignant “The windows were always open, so we were very cold in winter”; reading this, one would immediately think it was a student today writing about living through the pandemic, but actually it was from 1914 (and this refrain is often repeated throughout the many crises of the 20th century)! 

So what will the history books say about BGS? There are a huge amount of positive things to say about our future forward outlook and focus on technology, but no doubt there will be a chapter dedicated to living through Covid-19. And just like the girls before them, our students have risen to the challenges, this time of remote learning, the limitations of the co-curricular activities they love, missing friends, the cancellations of public examinations and coping with the fear of something happening to their loved ones. And like many headmistresses before me, I have been exceptionally proud of how they have coped whilst simultaneously trying to keep their lives as normal as possible. 

Whilst celebrating the students who have gone before us, I think it is apt to finish with this quote from poet, Rupi Kaur, which we have recently put up on display as inspiration to our current students: 

i stand

on the sacrifices

of a million women before me


what can i do

to make this mountain taller

so the women after me

can see farther

Spring Term Reflection

As I sit and write this blog, the sun is shining, the daffodils and blossom are out and the temperature feels balmy and pleasant. I feel an enormous sense of wellbeing, albeit somewhat tired after a long and busy term. I am sure many of the students feel the same way. The longer days bring an air of positivity to all. There have been so many exciting events recently: from fantastic sports matches to fabulous concerts; innovative drama pieces to enthralling school trips; success in competitions and the awarding of colours; and the election of the new GLG to the CCF AGI, it has been a busy term. There have been so many opportunities for our students to find their passions and they have risen to the opportunities. 

They do this on top of the wonderful learning that takes place each and every day: I have seen students give presentations in pecha kucha style in computer science; Sixth Formers intellectually struggling through challenging science and maths problems by collaborating on their responses by writing on their desks (certainly not something encouraged at school in my day!); I have observed students work creatively together using their ipads to design theatre sets and costumes; whilst others have shown their high level thinking analysing poetry in socratic circles. It has been wonderful to see students excitedly playing games confidently using their newfound language skills in Spanish; and our youngest students thriving in their enquiry based learning in the IB PYP creating non-chronological accounts. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing how emphatically our students throw themselves into their learning; they are happy to share their ideas with me, even trying to explain the most complicated scientific theories to a historian! They are an absolute credit to the school and, of course, to their families. 

However, a recent survey undertaken by the University of Manchester found that girls are feeling more pressure to be a “perfect teenager” than their male counterparts. It also reported they get less sleep and exercise than boys. Girls were also more likely to use social media spending an average of 4.8 hours a day online. Although it can be a source of support for girls, it can lead to greater pressure on them in areas such as body confidence. It saddens me that our young women are putting so much pressure on themselves; clearly from all I have seen this past term both in their lessons and co-curricular activities, our students have so much going for them. It is important that they realise they are all unique individuals who have a lot to offer in their own ways and that here at BGS they can discover and celebrate their passions and interests in a safe environment. They need to understand that no-one is perfect; we all make mistakes and that this is how we learn and grow. As educators and parents, we have a responsibility to support them as they learn to see their value and embrace their individualism. Speaking with the outgoing GLG and other Sixth Form students who have delivered sessions on gender inequality and LBGTQ+ awareness, I can see what confident young adults they grow into. They know their own minds and are ready to tackle the challenges they may face. 

I also took to heart from this survey the importance of sleep, particularly as we come to the end of a frenetic term. I know that some of our older students will be revising for examinations over the holidays, but I hope that everyone ensures they have some relaxation and plenty of sleep over the break. I think this quote from Homer’s The Odyssey is an apt way to end the Spring Term “There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.”