Welcome back! The start of a new school year is always a time of such possibility, even if the sun isn’t always shining quite this brightly. New students and staff, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. New projects, this year more so than ever. We were delighted to open our new Sixth Form centre: a huge airy space, full of light and views, exactly the environment to encourage new thinking and new ideas. And a brand-new dining room, too, to double the space for students in the middle of the day and provide more room to breathe and enjoy activities and each other’s company.

At our first Senior School assembly of the year we shared a key goal for all of us as a school. We want to be a place where people listen; where people make clear that they are interested and that they care; where every student is known, understood and encouraged for the individuals they are. So our goal for the year is to be a school offering the best care and support anywhere to help young people towards their unique futures.

We also discussed the role of girls’ schools in the modern world. There are so many examples in recent news of why girls’ schools matter more than ever. There’s the convulsion taking place in Spain in response to a man in a position of power, Luis Rubiales, forcing a non-consensual kiss on women’s football player Jenni Hermoso, sparking the SeAcabo movement – enough is enough.

There’s amazing research released recently suggesting that patients have a 25% higher survival rate one year after an operation when the surgeon was a woman. Of all the ways the male head of the Royal College of Surgeons could have responded to this news, he chose to do so by questioning whether this was because women do the easy surgeries.

However, the example on which we chose to focus was the gender pay gap. Not among men and women in the workplace: among boys and girls in terms of pocket-money. From the age of eight, boys get more. One reason for this appears to be that they expect it; they ask for it repeatedly; so it happens.

This is what girls’ schools matter. We all know that the world is structured in a way that can exclude women. Crash test dummies being based on male anatomy, so that cars are optimised for male safety, The temperature in offices being set to suit male metabolism. Sports kit and protective equipment being designed originally for men and being uncomfortable and ineffective for women. The list is endless of ways in which women have had to adapt to arrangements and terms set by men. This kind of adaptation happens in most schools, too. Research suggests that teachers in co-educational schools give 30% more teaching time to boys while girls are expected to adapt.

Well: not here. Being a girls-only school is not negative – it is not about the absence of boys. It is about a positive sense of power and expectation: about fostering students with an absolute expectation of equality. Not adapting and fitting around systems that are unfair. Changing them. 

That’s why our focus will always be on individual support and on how young people achieve success as much as the successes themselves. Helping them get wonderful results matters, and we are so proud of all the outcomes achieved over the summer. But in the end it is what they do with them: it is about going on to live lives full of confidence, purpose, and joy. In every space in our school, that is what we are working towards.

Will le Fleming, Head