How Brighton Girls is preparing pupils for the futures they deserve, writes Prep School Head Laura Comerford
Brighton Girls has lived many lives since its beginnings in 1876. The first iteration of our school was as the seventh school in the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST). When the school was first established, it had just 17 students on roll. Numbers swiftly grew and, in 1888, it moved to take up residence in The Temple and the Junior School was housed in the Old Vicarage. The Prep School was later situated on another site in Hove, until we gladly re-joined the Senior School on one site on Montpelier Road last September.
We are proud to be part of the GDST, an organisation whose mission is to empower girls through education, to enable them to thrive and excel in their own particular way. The Trust’s commitment to creating learning environments which are best suited to girls was recently demonstrated in its 150th anniversary Girls’ Futures Report; a piece of research commissioned to look at the barriers girls face in terms of confidence, skills, leadership, future of work, and misinformation. As an all-through school for girls from the age of 4 to 18, we were interested to see how the findings of the research could be translated into our Brighton Girls ‘Kind and Bold’ ethos, which permeates the fabric of our school.
The report found that GDST students are passionate about taking leadership roles and don’t shy away from risk and challenge; they believe that it is up to them to shape the world around them and to be the leaders of tomorrow. Pupils who have benefitted from an education at one of our 25 GDST schools country-wide are more likely to take their first steps into the world feeling better prepared to face their future, whatever that journey might be.
At Brighton Girls, we strive to nurture our girls’ pragmatic views about their future by ensuring that they are well-rounded and able to look past the academic side of school. We do have an excellent academic track record from the Early Years up to A-level; however, we are also immensely proud of our pastoral care system, which holds the pupil at the heart of all we do. We encourage our girls to explore how they can make a difference in their worlds. Last year, our pupil fundraising efforts, entitled ‘Guild’, raised significant sums for local and national charities. We believe that giving young people opportunities to shape the immediate world around them taps into and nurtures their desire to affect change and make a positive impact. It shows them that they can make a difference.
In girls-only environments, like our school, there are no stereotypes or limits around what is and is not possible. This is why it is so heartening to hear that the girls who took part in the research are ready to be the leaders of tomorrow. We strive to achieve and embody equality in our school; a concept and experience that does not consistently exist in life outside school. For us, everything is on the table for every one of our students. There is no gendering of school life and nothing like the drop-off in STEM subjects that can sometimes be seen in co-educational settings.
Whilst the importance of engaging more girls and young women in STEM subjects is an ongoing priority, the importance of creativity and using high quality children’s literature as windows and mirrors into our students’ lives cannot be underestimated. We ensure that all the subjects in the curriculum are valued and enjoyed – nothing is squeezed or marginalised at the expense of tests and assessments. Drama, music, languages and the arts are as crucial as English and maths.
Our teachers also actively encourage pupils to be more open to new challenges and not to shy away from risks. They firmly believe that for young people, especially girls, to work out who they are and what their particular strengths or areas of interest might be, they must try different things, embrace challenges and expand their horizons as much as possible. Because of this, our array of clubs and activities include more than the traditional options of netball and ballet; we run a skateboarding club, karate, STEM, coding and boxing clubs. Our pupils can choose from a vast array of extra-curricular activities, which include trips, sporting fixtures, drama, charity endeavours and music.
By offering opportunities at Brighton Girls that fully focus on what our pupils need and how they learn, backed up by extensive research and surveys, such as The Girls’ Futures Report, I believe that we are truly enabling our students to be empowered and to embrace the futures they deserve.