Celebrating and inspiring female pioneers
I first entered the teaching profession because I loved the vitality, curiosity and passion of young people. I could think of no better vocation than helping and influencing them to discover and achieve their dreams – regardless of their gender. Twenty years later as a Head, I feel exactly the same and feel incredibly privileged being able to lead this vision at Blackheath High School.
Blackheath High School was the first purpose-built school of the Girls’ Day School Trust, which itself was founded by four pioneering women who fearlessly pursued their vision of providing opportunities for girls.
As we mark Vote 100, I am proud to be able to say that feminism is ingrained within the ethos of Blackheath High School. We encourage our students to ignore gender stereotypes and our girls relish Science, Art, football or ballet with equal passion. The focus is on cultivating our girls’ courage in an open-minded and forward-thinking atmosphere in which they learn the social skills and attitudes of mind that will serve them well when they leave us.
Against a backdrop of positive female role models, we support and inspire our girls to achieve and excel. Our Wollstonecraft enrichment programme, named after an early advocate of women’s rights, is designed specifically for our students and aims to present fresh ways of looking at the world. Through a series of bespoke, elective courses, this unique programme encourages our girls to question knowledge claims, and formulate and articulate their own rational views about the world around them. A series of fortnightly lectures also provide the opportunity for girls to hear about complex ideas, challenging opinions and inspiring vocations. From Blackheath alumna and ITV newsreader Charlene White, to former Olympic Waterpolo player and parent, Mrs Greer; there has been no shortage of strong female role models to share their experiences and inspiration.
Our Feminist Society are not shy in taking the lead in gender equality and were key speakers at ‘Gender Equality: Next Steps’, a student-led conference at City of London School for Girls in October. The following month, the Feminist Society took to the stage again for the inaugural ‘Girls to the Front: Inspiring a Generation of Women Leaders’ conference at Deptford Green School with over 350 young people from across the UK. Alongside Labour MP Vicky Foxcroft, Guardian journalist Zoe Williams and Malia Bouattia from the National Union of Students, our Feminist Society confidently spoke about some of the issues facing gender equality in schools and led a session advising other schools on setting up feminism societies. Keen to press for progress around gender parity, the Feminist Society will be hosting a ‘Feminism in School: #PressforProgress’ in March. Activists, teachers and students alike will address issues around gender inequality in schools and focus on how we can make our schools fairer places for all.
I am proud of the fact that our girls feel motivated and confident enough to (politely) challenge the things we do in school and I regularly enjoy lively discussion with girls about whether trousers should form part of our uniform (they do) or whether our toilets should be gender neutral (not yet). This is all part of a proud tradition of appreciating a diversity of views and valuing a questioning evidence-based approach.
With Vote 100, we are rightfully celebrating a significant milestone in the history of women’s suffrage but at Blackheath High School, we are also looking forward to the next 100 years and our role in inspiring the next generation of female pioneers. It is the #GDSTspirit. It is the #BlackheathHigh spirit.