Responsibility, Learning, Recognition & Joy

In my role as a Head, I am fortunate enough to meet and share information and ideas with a variety of business leaders. Kevin Roberts, Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi recently told me that in life, whatever you do, whatever you choose, you should always seek out four things: responsibility, learning, recognition and joy. Four important words and ones that resonate with everyday life at BGS. Our Open Morning was no exception.

First our Head Girls, in the Junior and Senior School, took on the responsibility of speaking to a large audience of prospective parents and girls, explaining why they chose this school and what it meant to them. Harriet Clough, BGS Head Girl said “An important part of coming to Bedford Girls’ School is that it helps us flourish, and grow into the women of the future in this complicated and fast-moving world”. Anna Sherwin, Head Girl of the Junior School, felt that “the best thing about BGS is the opportunity you get to do the things you love. I also like that you get the chance to know lots of different girls throughout other year groups and the feeling that you belong to the school”. It was Anna’s maiden speech, but listening to her speak with such confidence you would never guess.  I know an all girls’ environment has helped give them the confidence to be who they are and take on the responsibility of leading the school.

The value of learning at our school was also very evident at our Open Morning. James Potter, our Director of ICT, demonstrated the power of teaching and learning with new and emergent technology. He demonstrated how iPads and apps can add a new dimension to teaching strategies and to what girls gain, holistically, from being in our classrooms. In doing so, he showcased The 13th Legacy, a book our current Year 9s have collaboratively written and is now selling on Amazon, with its own website built by the authors. Most of all he showed how teaching is changing in the 21st century and how BGS is in the vanguard of these changes.

Open Morning also affords an opportunity for our girls to receive the public recognition of their hard work and talent they so richly deserve. Our musicians played beautifully, our sportswomen showed why BGS is so successful in sport and our drama students performed confidently their parts for the next school play, the RSC production of the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It is also an opportunity for girls to act as our guides showing the many different features that make up our school, answering questions honestly and sincerely. The parents were impressed by their genuine pride in the school, their willingness to give up a Saturday, and speak so positively about BGS. They were a credit to us.

Unsurprisingly then, that there was a palpable sense of joy in the building. People were really enjoying what they were doing, whether it was performing, touring, demonstrating or answering questions; it was all done with enthusiasm, good will and most of all joy. As Nicole Chapman, Head of Chelmsford County High School for Girls, said last week in The Daily Telegraph: “Girls in a single-sex environment can totally be themselves. They don’t have to pander to anything to do with being a girl. If they love to do really sporty things, if they love their Maths, Science or IT, no boy will push them out of the way.” No one is pushing our girls out of the way, they are seizing every opportunity and that is what gives me the most joy!

Preparing for Open Morning

Tis the season of Open Mornings! Schools across the country, over the next few weeks, are opening their doors to prospective parents.  Last Saturday I attended Bedford School’s Open Morning and this weekend it is with great pleasure that we will be holding the first Open Morning of the school year at Bedford Girls’ School.

Open Mornings are an important time for a school and for parents and pupils. It is a time for prospective parents to get a real sense of the school and a feel of what it would be like if their daughter were a part of it. 

At Bedford Girls’ School we run our open morning slightly differently from many schools. We want to give the girls a real experience of what it is like to be a pupil here: how it feels to be part of a lesson in our classrooms, interacting with other girls and having an opportunity to meet the teachers, just as they would while studying here. We set them off, with specially chosen guides, on a treasure hunt round the school where they visit different departments and classrooms and have to engage in a series of special activities to solve a puzzle and claim their prize. As well as being a terrific experience for visiting girls, this is also of real benefit to our existing pupils. They are able to feel pride in sharing their knowledge of the school and respond very positively towards showcasing their environment to our guests.

Whilst the girls are taking part in a treasure hunt, we take the opportunity to speak to the parents and give them a sense of the educational practices we adopt at BGS. I am very conscious that our fresh, bold model of teaching and learning differs greatly to what most parents experienced when they went to school and it is a pleasure to share with parents what is going on in the classrooms and why we embrace these new approaches.

Choosing the right school for your daughter is immensely important. The decision is based on as many tangible as intangible factors. For us, bringing those factors together in one morning and sharing them openly and with pride is what our open events are all about.  I have been lucky enough to catch a sneak preview of our Head Girl’s speech for this coming Saturday and I feel she sums this up very well when she says: “You can measure the length of the swimming pool, and of course you can look at the examination results, and you’ll look at which languages are taught and not taught, and there will be important factors in there.  But the most important thing of all is how you feel as you walk in the door, and how you feel as you walk out.”

I hope that when you walk through our door you feel the warmth and spirit that is Bedford Girls’ School. I know that when you leave, you will do so with a true flavor of what it means to be part of our school community and assured that there is a place within it for you and your daughter.

The value of education

I am conscious that like us, in the Autumn Term schools and universities across the country open their doors to prospective students, encouraging people to visit and see the fantastic features they have to offer and what makes them special.

At our Open Morning on Saturday I was reminded by our Head Girl, who is currently applying for universities, that we are all promoting similar educational values. We all want to provide the best for our students, we want them to engage with their learning and we want them to enjoy the experience. No educational institution should promise anything different. But the experience enjoyed will be dependent on the individual and what she is looking for.

Our Head Girl, Lucy Charatan, articulated four aspects that she wanted from a university which were the same criteria she applied to choosing schools. She wanted it to be strong academically, to provide co-curricular opportunities, the students to have a voice and for the institution to have a sense of community. Her ultimate question was whether she would be happy there?

Lucy is proud to be part of BGS. In her Open Morning speech, she felt that there was no one mould for a student at BGS but opportunities existed for anyone and everyone. It was important that her voice was valued and she and her team are leading the campaign “Culture of Kindness”, as part of Anti-bullying Week in November, with a “High Five” day. She feels strongly that there is a sense of belonging in the school and she and her peers want to contribute something to the school and to the wider society.

I am proud that Lucy and her peers want to make a difference and reminded that as educators what we have in common – the collective promotion of the value of education and how it leads to better opportunities – is greater than the features that uniquely define us.