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Our commitment to an honest and diverse curriculum

Isabel Tobias, Headmistress of Redmaids High

 

Thursday 11 June 2020: An open letter from Mrs Tobias to all current and former students, discussing how BAME groups, cultures and histories are an integral part of our teaching and our community. 

Dear Students and former Students of Redmaids’ High, Red Maids’ and Redland High schools,

I wanted to get in touch with you all as a collective body – current students and alumnae - to talk about equality and diversity, at this time when it has quite rightly been pushed back up to the forefront of people’s minds.

Several of you have been in touch about this topic recently and we thank you for your letters and your questions. This is a conversation we welcome and as educators we need to make sure we teach the truth – even if that truth is at times uncomfortable.

Whilst our curriculum is diverse in its content and we are frequently updating it to be more inclusive, now is a time for honesty. In the past, our subject teaching didn’t cover black and minority ethnic (BAME) narratives in the depth needed. As a result, there may be some of you who feel you didn’t learn enough about race relations and the historical context during your school years. But I want you to know that we have worked hard to address this more recently. Please let me tell you about some of the changes we have made for the better.

Over the past few years we have made significant changes to our curriculum. This includes teaching more about BAME histories and how race shapes the political agenda, such as exploring different perspectives and ideologies in Politics A Level, and how race impacts political agendas in IB Global Politics. This is prevalent in the Lower School too - Year 7 are currently studying the untold story of Black Tudor history.

In a cultural and societal context, reggae is part of the music curriculum, our reading lists come from authors of all races and religions, we study artists and plays that tell narratives from diverse backgrounds. These are just a few examples.

Our assemblies often address BAME topics, from the Bristol Bus Boycotts of 1963 to our annual celebration of black history month. A recent WWII remembrance assembly looked at how BAME groups contributed to the war effort, in particular the battles of Kohima and Imphal, whose armies – comprised of pre-partition Indian, Gurkha, African and British troops - were some of the most ethnically diverse in history.

Our external speakers come from a variety of backgrounds. Recently, David Olusoga – the Bristol-based TV presenter and historian – came in to speak to the whole school. He told our Sixth Form historians, “I sense your generation is much less willing to tolerate a sanitised version of the past. You actively search for truth and I sense a real willingness to question orthodoxies, which is very positive.” We couldn’t agree more.

Of course, diversity extends to issues beyond race and skin colour. We discuss gender identity, sexual orientation, faith and religion amongst many other things. Staff training and listening to students also play an important part in our provision and we have worked to remove unconscious bias from teaching and display materials. We need to be flexible in our response and keep our education current, and we are committed to this.

What we teach is central to our commitment but so is having a student body that is reflective of the population. Our most recent census data shows that 18% of our Senior School and Sixth Form students identify as BAME, which is slightly higher than the percentage across the Bristol population (16%). We have an engagement programme with schools across Bristol, offering a number of fully funded scholarships to those who could genuinely benefit from this. However, we could be doing more and we are already discussing what this might look like.

These changes are not an exhaustive list, more a flavour of where we currently are. Nor are we satisfied that we have covered everything that we need to.  We also know it is not just about what is taught but about how those in our community behave. There have been times in recent years where students have been upset and confused about racist language and behaviours in and out of school and we are grateful to the work SARI (Stand Against Racism and Inequality) has done with us over the past two years to work with students and teachers.

There is more to do but this is not an overnight change or a quick fix; we don’t claim to be getting everything right – it is extremely hard to when the topics are so emotive and complex – but we are committed to doing our best.

I have been talking to our incoming Head, Mr Dwyer, about these matters and I know he will be looking at what further changes might be incorporated into the curriculum over the coming years.

Whether you are from a BAME background or not, we are one community with shared values about respect and inclusion. If you are a current student please reach out to us if you need any support. If you are a former student I hope you will be able to come and visit us in the future to see all this for yourself.

With kind regards

Isabel Tobias

 

 

Friday 20 March 2020: A letter from Mrs Tobias to all students regarding lockdown.

Dear Students,

It has been a time of intense emotion for us all today. I am so pleased that I was able to come and speak to you in person in your year groups and to feel your strong attachment to each other and to your school.

In these extraordinary times, and just before we move away from regular school for a while, I want to convey to you my absolute pride in how you have all conducted yourselves over the past few weeks, amid an ever changing and increasingly difficult situation. It is in times of adversity that the strength of a community can shine through, and I am so proud of the spirit that I am witnessing here at Redmaids’ High.

I know that many of you may be confused or even scared as you watch the news and read stories online, and I want to reassure you that this is normal. Please don’t let these feelings build up or try to deal with them on your own; you can still talk to us at school, to your tutors, Heads of Year, school nurses, the counsellor or any trusted member of staff. Even when we are off site, you can reach us via email. We might not have all the answers, but we are – as always – here for you.

It has been a great shock to learn that those of you in Years 11 and 13, will not be sitting your exams as planned this summer. However, I want to remind you all – in every year group - that at Redmaids’ High you grow as a whole person, not just someone who is able to pass exams. The hard work that you have put into preparation for these exams has not been wasted. You are a strong, resilient, intellectual group of young women, with integrity, values and skills for learning. And it is these qualities that mean you are ready for the next steps in life. We must also have faith in our government that they will find a fair resolution to the exam situation and look within ourselves for the patience to wait calmly until we know what that may be.

From next week, you will all be learning from home with the help, as always, of your teachers. They, like you, display the wonderful ‘can-do’ attitude that I have come to expect from everyone at Redmaids’ High. As you embark on this home learning, I know you will be inquisitive, independent and resourceful. As I have said to you today, be creative too; try to learn something new, practise something you want to be better at, help people around you. This way you will look back on this time and be proud of the way you responded to upheaval and uncertainty.

Finally, I want to wish you all good health and remind you to continue to follow public health advice. Look after yourselves, wash your hands, maintain social distancing where possible and be in positive spirits. In what are challenging times up and down the country, I know you will dig deep and maintain our Redmaids’ High pioneering ethos! I have no doubt that we will get through to the other side and emerge ever stronger.

I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

With my very best wishes

Yours sincerely

Isabel Tobias

 

 

Blog: Why teaching is the best job in the world: Tuesday 24 September, 2019  

Having spent 31 years working in education, with almost 20 of those as Headmistress at Redmaids' High School, I firmly believe that the responsibility we have to innovate and respond to present day issues has never been greater.

Those of us who teach, do so because we love our subject (in my case English and Drama) and because we want to share this with young people and inspire them to find in it things which will capture and sustain them – for life.

At the same time, what we offer must be relevant: it must reflect enduring truths, ideas which are meaningful in the present and useful for the future.

And if that sounds onerous, then teaching is probably not for you. Because it's adapting to these new challenges that makes this job so intellectually stimulating. 

Just this year, at Redmaids' High School we have launched a major new initiative to raise the profile of climate change, the impact we are having and the actions we can take to address it. Students here have already done some award-winning work in this field - but the issue is more pressing than ever. Our students care about the future of this planet and it is our job as educators to ensure they are properly and reliably informed, and to help them ‘be heard’.

The classroom chalk and board and the office ‘bander’ I first used as a teacher in 1988, were quite quickly replaced by a black marker pen, white board and photocopier. Since then, technology has presented dynamic and interactive new teaching and learning opportunities, but also some serious challenges. As educators, we cannot be indifferent to the pressures and the level of distraction that digital devices expose young people to, nor the pitfalls of the internet. At a time in their lives when social interaction is hard in the conventional sense, let alone when channelled through a screen, we need to set boundaries and help them understand the risks so they can also enjoy the huge benefits of the digital age.

Finally, in my first teaching year the only school trip available to my students was to a field study centre in Gloucester. Today our students travel all over the world, learning as they do that human beings are the same the world over and that by necessity we need to find ways to work together. There is no doubt that education has also become international in outlook, so we study the finest artists, mathematicians, writers, scientists and performers from around the globe to give our students the broad perspective they will need to really thrive and make a difference in the 21st century.

It is always an exciting and an important time to be in education and I am never more proud than when our students take the route to become teachers themselves. It is the best job in the world and it was never so important as it is today.

Published 24 September 2019

 

Blog: Our commitment to climate change: Friday 20 September, 2019  

As a school we are making serious commitments in response to the climate change crisis because we see it as our responsibility, not only to educate the next generation, but also to take action ourselves, as an organisation.

Today, to mark global ‘climate strike’ day, we asked staff and students to walk to school, to use public transport, or to at least reduce their driving time by meeting us in locations a short distance from the school and walk the rest of the way in groups. Ultimately, we hope this will encourage everyone to consider forming new habits.  

We welcomed Zoe Jones, who works in international development with the ‘Send a Cow’ charity and is also a member of Extinction Rebellion to our morning assembly. She outlined some of the scientific facts behind climate change and shared positive and practical suggestions about some of the action we ourselves can take, to help save the planet.

New initiatives launched this academic year include helping students to calculate their own carbon footprint, and showing them ways to reduce it, increasing our vegetarian lunch options, reducing food waste and hosting regular clothes swaps to counteract the damage being done through fast fashion.

This all builds on the sterling work completed last year by our Sixth Form Environmental Captains which saw the school receive a Bronze Eco-Schools Award.

As we now work towards our Silver Eco-Schools Award, and aim for a 10% reduction in emissions, we will need to measure the impact of our actions.

But we know that if each and every one of our students spreads the word about making the planet more sustainable, these initiatives will have a far greater impact.

 

Blog: Never under-estimate young people: Thursday 9 May, 2019

Greta Thunberg is speaking and the world is listening. Addressing one of the most complex and potentially catastrophic issues of our time, her message about climate change is hitting home. She has become a figurehead for an environmental revolution. And she is just 16 years old.

Malala Yousafzai is another extraordinary young person who fought for her right to an education, but was shot by the Taliban at the age of 15. As one of the world’s most powerful voices on female education she has since been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

These young people are driven by a conviction that they can make a difference – and they do! They clearly show the ‘power of one’ and the selfless determination and perseverance it takes to see something through.

I find the altruistic endeavours of the next generation extremely heartening, and something which makes my profession so rewarding. 

At the age of 12, one of our students, Hannah Killick has recently cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats, while raising almost £4,500 for two charities that are close to her heart. 

Just this weekend, a number of staff and students ran the Bristol 10K to raise much-needed funds for the school they will teach at in rural Cambodia this summer, while working with United World Schools.

Last term, our two student Environmental Captains received an Eco-Schools Bronze Award in recognition of their efforts to create a more environmentally sustainable school. 

These girls aren’t thinking about themselves when they take on these challenges, and for that I truly applaud them.

We know that doing something for others, can transform our own lives. It’s not about recognition, it’s about service and the positive effect good actions can have on our own mental and physical well-being. As Ghandi so famously said, it’s also about “being the change we want to see in the world.”

At Redmaids’ High School we never under-estimate our students. We encourage them to speak up, to effect positive change and to lead purposeful lives, and they are never slow to respond.

 

Blog: The importance of learning foreign languages: Monday 18 March, 2019 

In today’s multi-cultural world, where industry extends across borders and worldwide trends impact us all, teaching foreign languages to young people has never been more vital. So to read in the news that, “Foreign language learning is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium” concerns me.

As educators, we should instil an international perspective in our students, to prepare them for the working world they will enter. We must equip them with the skills they need to break down barriers, be they cultural, linguistic or technological, to give them the confidence and ability to play their part.  

Even within our own school community, we speak 24 different languages between us including Urdu, Mandarin, Bengali, Korean, Romanian, Greek and Burmese and have lived in 30 different countries. This cultural and linguistic diversity is reflected in our society at large and we actively celebrate it.

Speaking additional languages will prepare our students to access a global range of professional opportunities, and we delight in seeing our alumna take advantage of these. One of our talented linguists, who went on to study Arabic at university, is currently working in Cairo on behalf of the EU delegation. Another more recent leaver is travelling to South America, using her Spanish language skills for charity and interpretation work, as part of her gap year. This would not be possible without the languages skills leaned, developed and honed at school.  

So at Redmaids’ High School, languages will continue to form a key part of our curriculum, with the majority of students in Years 7 to 9 studying two modern foreign languages. The future success of this country relies on the next generation being able to understand and connect with people, and an ability to speak different languages sits at the very heart of this.

 

Blog: Attacking independent schools is not the answer: Thursday 6 December 2018 

I found Karin Smyth MP’s opinions expressed on Bristol Live on Tuesday this week really disappointing. She claims that private schools are damaging to individuals and wider society. Reading the original article on fabiens.org.uk, Smyth refers to her longstanding belief that independent schools ‘deprive young people’ and that their ‘very existence actively encourages the underfunding of our state schools’.

I fervently disagree with her comments. As you know, Redmaids’ High was founded by John Whitson in 1634, Lord Mayor and MP of Bristol. His vision was to provide educational opportunities for the underprivileged young women of Bristol. In recent years we combined with Redland High, whose founders shared a similar vision. Today, 384 years later, girls still benefit from his vision as the school is able to offer generous scholarships and bursaries to academically able girls from all backgrounds throughout the school.

We also offer a number of 100 percent means-tested scholarships to students from the maintained sector. We have a special partnership with Oasis Academy Brightstowe in which we grant up to two fully-funded Sixth Form places to girls every year, plus we have more places open to girls entering Sixth Form from any other maintained school.

And we run inclusive opportunities at the school. For example, students from local state schools are invited to our annual free Women in Careers Conference every May.

I would argue that Ms Smyth’s opinions of the independent sector are somewhat outdated and misguided. Her belief that parents send their children to private schools ‘for the list of contacts they’ll leave with’ is hugely short-sighted. Yes – networking is a key part of any school community, state or otherwise. But if she were to come in and meet with our students, I think she would agree that the school’s real legacy is that students leave us as well-rounded and adjusted young women, confident to be themselves and make a positive impact on the world.

She also claims that private schools are ‘exclusively for the rich,’ which again, is not true. The parents that send their children to Redmaids’ High come from all kinds of backgrounds and situations. Many make big sacrifices to ensure that their children receive the education that they believe is right for them.

In my opinion an attack of independent schools is not the way to address any shortcomings in the country’s maintained education system. In fact, it would be far more likely to actually make this situation worse. Independent Schools Council (ISC) data suggests that the nearly 2500 independent schools in the UK contributed £13.7 billion to the UK economy in 2017, generating £4.1 billion of annual tax revenues (equivalent to £129 per UK household) and supporting 257,000 jobs. Furthermore, independent schools save the taxpayer £3.5 billion every year by providing places for pupils who would otherwise be expected to take up a place in the state-funded sector.

I would be delighted to welcome Karin Smyth to visit our school as several of her colleagues such as Thangam Debbonaire and Darren Jones have already done. I believe she would gain a better understanding of what it is that we offer the community rather than assuming our impact is a negative one.

 

Blog: Much Ado About What?: Friday 9 November, 2018

I’m very excited about our next school production, Much Ado about Nothing, as I absolutely love this play. 

It’s lively and fun with lots of clever word play and humour about gender – but it also has a dark and worrying undercurrent about man’s mistreatment of women and male double standards – particularly when it comes to sexual relationships. Sadly, because of the #metoo campaign we know how relevant these issues still are today. 

I’ll be interested to see how our performers handle the Hero/Claudio debacle. It’s always disturbing to see Hero humiliated so horribly in front of her family, only to cheerfully connect again with the man who publically denounced her. That never quite works for me.

I’m also looking forward to the duping of Benedict and then Beatrice in the garden. Done well it can be hysterical and I hope I will laugh out loud at their antics. 

How will the girls present Beatrice, I wonder? She’s a spirited, independent character, and a real extrovert, but I hope they capture her vulnerability too. Fundamentally, she is sensitive and truthful, and the same can be said of Benedict. Like most people, they both long for company and companionship in a close meaningful relationship and I hope this production shows that side.  

The Drama Department tell me there is a strong social media dimension to this play. How interesting! It’s not something Shakespeare would have known about – except that ‘messaging’ has always taken place and often been the cause of misunderstanding. 

These weeks before the performance are always tense and exciting. There is a palpable buzz around school, with people rushing off to rehearsals and coming together to make the usual last-minute arrangements. 

Last year’s Wizard of Oz was quite magical and brought the whole school community in a fantastic, creative endeavour. Which is one reason why a whole-school play is so important. It’s a chance for staff and students to work together on a project that really matters. One that enables us to showcase the immense creative, technical and performance talent we have here.

There is no better experience. Book your tickets soon!

 

Blog:  The reason we do the job we do: Monday 3 September, 2018 

On Thursday 23 August, something quite wonderful happened. Yes, it was GCSE results day and Yes, our students’ results were outstanding, but the thing that made my day even more special was an email from a student.

This student joined the School a couple of years ago and I have checked with her that she doesn’t mind me sharing this more widely. As she said in her email:

“I am writing this little note to you because I would like to say a big thank you to you and your team for making my years as a student at Redmaids’ High pretty incredible. I know I struggled at the start to settle in, however, since then I have felt very comfortable and made some great friends who I will never forget. I loved the Redmaids’ vibe and will miss it very much. 

"You made sure we all stuck together as a school community and empowered independent women as much as you could. I have made lots of memories and it has definitely, without a doubt, been the best school I have been to and I believe will always be the best! I would like to think that I made the most out of my time at Redmaids’ High. All my teachers were so supportive and brilliant. I felt that I had made great bonds with them.

"I think there is a lot of negativity in the world and people can forget to appreciate and be happy more often. I believe the positivity needs to be spread! Thank you for giving me the chance as from the age of 11 I always wished to go to Redmaids’ and I was lucky enough to get that opportunity through you.”

I have been thinking about her positive words ever since. As I say, it made my day and encapsulates the reasons why I, and all my colleagues, come to school to do the job we do.

 

Blog: Supporting the next generation of women in STEM: Monday 12 March, 2018

In a recent Sunday Times Magazine, Lorraine Candy, editor-in-chief of the paper’s Style magazine, noted the vast expanse of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) jobs that the UK struggles to fill each year – 40,000 of them in fact - and that by 2030 there will be a further 1.3 million “high-spec, well paid jobs up for grabs in this fast growing sector”.

The jobs she had in mind were those such as ‘virtual habitat designer,’ ‘autonomous vehicles engineer’ and ‘Internet of Things Data Creative’ -  titles many of us aren’t yet familiar with, in fields that are ever-growing. She asked, “how do we prepare our children to choose their subjects for jobs that may not have been invented yet?”

How indeed?! It is a good and fair question, especially when it comes to women. The issue of gender bias in STEM careers has been a hot topic in the news for a long time now. Nationally, the percentage of female STEM graduates is 24 percent according to the WISE campaign, and ibtimes.co.uk suggests that women make up only 14.4 percent of the UK’s STEM workforce.

At Redmaids’ High, as a girls’ school we buck this trend with nearly half of our 2018 Year 13 cohort applying for STEM subjects at university, but in general, women are hugely under-represented, in what is the fastest growing sector in the world. 

With this in mind, I would go a step further than Candy’s original question, and ask, “How can parents encourage their daughters to engage with the dynamic - and sometimes confusing - plethora of STEM careers?”

The answer, as with most things in life, is multi-faceted.

Firstly, seek out opportunities to broaden their - and your – understanding of STEM. For example, Futurelearn.com, which partners with a number of international universities, offers a whole host of free, short online courses in everything from Data Mining to Thermodynamics in Energy Engineering.

Secondly, check out apps such as Futurefinder.yourlife.org.uk. These help to match your daughter’s interests and personality to a number of new and emerging STEM based careers.

Thirdly, be aware of other local educational opportunities. For example, at Redmaids’ High we are hosting a free #WomenInSTEM Careers Conference, open to all Year 10 girls across Bristol and beyond. With workshops on everything from broadcast electronics and avionics to cyber security and wearable technology, plus a keynote address from science broadcaster, genetics expert and STEM ambassador, Dr Emily Grossman, girls get the chance to think bravely and imaginatively about their futures.

And finally, don’t forget to speak to us. As educational professionals, we are here to help ensure your children get the best possible start in life, but we are also a resource to you as parents. If you want to know what our IB Diploma course in Environmental Systems and Societies entails, then just ask our IB Coordinator. Or to get a handle on how best to support your child in their medical application for higher education, chat to our Head of Sixth Form (Academic). Not only can she offer detailed interview prep, UCAS support and networking opportunities, but she got a first in Microbiology at university herself.

Whilst there is undoubtedly still a gender gap in STEM subjects in the world beyond Redmaids’ High, I believe that we are well ahead of the game. Between you as parents, and us as educators, we can and will gradually chip away at the imbalance, making it a natural step for the next generation of young women to choose and flourish in STEM.

 

Blog: The resilience of womankind: Thursday 18 January, 2018

Since the bells of Big Ben chimed in the new year, we have continued to see the ascent of strong female figures in public life taking a stand against inequality and being resilient in the face of adversity.

Carrie Gracie, the China editor for the BBC, took the bold step of resigning over the “secretive and illegal” pay culture at the corporation which allegedly sees men gain far bigger incomes. Iceland became the first country in the world to make companies prove they are not paying women less than men for the same work. Oprah Winfrey gave a rousing speech at the Golden Globes, noting the generations of women who have lived, “in a culture broken by brutally powerful men” (#Winfrey2020).

We also saw the launch of the Time’s Up campaign from women who work in the entertainment industry. The objective: a unified call for change for women everywhere.  “From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live.” 

Just this week, our local MP, Darren Jones, was featured in the Bristol Post, publically calling out local companies who have large gender pay gaps, telling them there is “no excuse” for unequal wages.

All of this is very encouraging, but for me, the changes must start at the beginning. We need to educate our children about sexism and discrimination; raise them to understand gender equality. Sadly, as a nation, I don’t believe we are there yet.

At the end of last year, research from the National Education Union working with UK Feminista, found that two thirds of female Sixth Form students at co-ed schools have witnessed or experienced sexist language. The same report stated students educated at all-boys’ schools are significantly more likely to express strongly negative attitudes towards learning about sexism than their peers. 

We cannot and should not sit back and accept this.

At Redmaids’ High, female students take all the positions of leadership and responsibility, and are able to speak out freely and with confidence, away from outdated chauvinistic views. In our girls’ school, students are taught to challenge sexist attitudes and negative stereotypes.

We teach the life-skills of understanding consent, healthy relationships, online safety and facing challenges – all essential for surviving and thriving in a society that hasn’t yet caught up with our progressive mind-set.

Here, girls become resilient, independent and expect to be heard. I’m proud to say that our students have refused to take a back seat and have broken through glass ceilings. Our alumnae include the first woman to be a member of the British Paediatric Association, the first female president of the Royal Aeronautical Society and the first woman in Bristol to become an architect. More recent leavers have become senior advisors in Downing Street, partners in international law firms, founders of charities, surgeons, lecturers, engineers: the list goes on.

I have never been more proud to head up a girls’ school and to continue to encourage our young women to become the leaders and influencers of tomorrow.
In the words of Oprah, “a new day is on the horizon”. And at Redmaids’ High, we are ready for it. 

 

Blog: What a Term: Friday 15 December, 2017 

The last two weeks have seen a buzz of excitement and creativity in the school. Lots of special events have taken place and in many areas preparations which have been underway for months and months have reached a thrilling climax.

Last week saw the stupendous production of the Wizard of Oz which was truly a whole school effort; we were also thrilled to see the U13 squad clinch a hard-fought win (38-35) against Surbiton High to move into the January quarter finals of the Independent Schools' Netball Cup; while our Oxbridge candidates travelled in different directions for their interviews. 

By Tuesday the classroom decorations were underway and Wednesday saw us all in our Christmas jumpers, enjoying a festive Christmas lunch. Yesterday’s House Dance competition was another sparkling whole school success with over a hundred girls – and staff – taking part.

This morning we held a very special end of term assembly; we enjoyed lots of merry musical numbers and much singing between which scores of girls received prizes and recognition for their efforts this term in a wide range of subjects and activities. We finished the term with our Carol Service, enjoying the traditional readings and carols and the singing and performance of Close Encounters and Senior Choir.

And in this fashion, we have reached the end of a very busy, a very successful and very significant term: our first term together as Redmaids' High School.

As I have attended our trio of special autumn term events (Autumn Concert, Wizard of Oz and House Dance Competition) plus today's Carol Service, I have thought constantly about how we started out. The 3rd March 2016 is a date I will never forget; the date our plans to create a great and stronger school for girls were announced to the general astonishment of everyone. 

Since that point we have travelled together down our own Yellow Brick Road, inspired on our journey by the goal of a united and well-resourced community dedicated to the education of exceptional young women. 

We have brought with us many cherished and significant treasures from the past: symbols and artefacts that remind us from where we came, and which symbolise the values we hold dear. 

But, just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, we have reached the point where we realise that the goal is not a distant destination but something within us. It is the building of friendship, collaboration and capability in our girls and young women - and the staff who have their best interests at heart.

I have been so proud and moved this term to see how our community has embraced the new opportunities that being together bring. Recent events in Hollywood, in Westminster and across the world everyday show us that more than ever before young women need to develop the inner belief and resilience that bring success in the world. Our young women deserve schools dedicated entirely to their development. Redmaids' High School is such a school, filled with the spirit of times past, and an energy and ambition committed to today and tomorrow.

I congratulate all our students and staff on making this term such a happy and successful period and would like to thank our parents for their tremendous support.

We are all part of a special, strong and thriving community where we share a commitment to the lives of our young women.

I wish you all a very happy and restful time with your friends and families and look forward to continuing our story together next term. 

 

Blog: Like a Girl: Friday 24 November, 2017

At the start of the week I had the pleasure of attending the Girls’ Schools Association Annual Conference in Manchester. We had many interesting and insightful presentations over the course of the two days, and one that was particularly notable was from Natasha Devon, the former Mental Health Champion for the Department for Education. Her comments about using gender neutral terms when speaking to students have caught the attention of many news outlets including the Telegraph, the Guardian and Good Morning Britain.

Natasha feels that the terms ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ are loaded with implications that may put pressure on children and adolescents to adopt certain behaviours, and as such, we should use the terms students or pupils instead.

Whilst I think this point of view is valid, I wonder if modifying our language is only treating the symptom and not the cause. Shouldn’t we be trying to change people's mind-sets about what it is to be a 'girl' and what it is to be a 'boy' rather than shying away from using these factual terms?

At Redmaids’ High we address our student body as girls, young women, pupils and students as and when appropriate, whilst being respectful of those who may not identify with one of these and the implications that a gender specific term may hold for them. 

But ultimately, I would rather change the connotations of what it is to be a girl rather than stop using this word altogether.

Here, to behave like a girl, means to experiment in the science lab or get stuck in on the playing field. It means to have ambitions and aspirations and to be kind to your peers. It means to lead, to achieve, to laugh, to build, to speak, to analyse and to understand. To us, being a girl means being whatever you want to be – even if you don’t know what that is yet - without fear of judgement or stereotypes getting in the way.

 

Blog: Mind the Gap: Thursday 9 November, 2017

 “The gender pay gap is persisting, but so must we,” say The Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights.

The evidence of this gap can be seen in the media on a weekly, if not daily basis. Last month we learned that senior women at the BBC are getting legal advice after learning that the top on-air earners are all male, with the highest paid, Chris Evans, earning a sizable £1.5million more than the top female, Claudia Winkleman.

Furthermore, research published last week found that in some UK cities the gender pay gap is more than 50% in favour of men! And despite the median gap for hourly earnings falling to 9.1% (according to the Office for National Statistics) the Trade Union Congress still believes we are decades away from equal pay for men and women.

As a school which raises girls to go out into the world with real confidence and ambition how can I stand back and accept this reality?  Our girls go on to achieve amazing things, breaking through glass-ceilings and pushing the boundaries, so why should they do so on a smaller salary?

Would you expect Georgia (class of 2012) who graduated from Oxford University and who currently works in the Foreign Office on the Brexit Negotiation Team to earn less than her male counterparts? Or for Lizzie (class of 2012) who uses Computational Neuroscience in her role as a Machine Learning Engineer at Dyson to start on a lower wage package – simply because she is a woman? I wonder what Beryl Corner (class of 1928), the first paediatrician in the south-west and one of the British founders of neonatology, would feel about us still being in this position?

As The Fawcett Society explain on their website, “The current gender pay gap means women effectively stop earning relative to men on a day in November.” This day is referred to as Equal Pay Day and this year, it falls today; Friday 10th November.

With this in mind, I urge you not to be dismayed and downtrodden, but to see this as our chance to push on, to make a difference, inch-by-inch if we must. Today, The Fawcett Society are urging us all to make a #PayGapPledge in support of our shared goal of equality.  So I proudly make my pledge to continue to give young women the best start in life, arming them with the self-belief, ambition, motivation and opportunity to succeed.

 

Blog: A Woman's Place: Thursday 19 October, 2017

What an outrage to learn last week that the film industry is still plagued by misogyny and sexual exploitation of women.

What a frustration to realise that over a hundred years since women like our own Agnes Beddoe and Emily Sturge, former school governors and members of the Bristol and West of England Society for Women’s Suffrage, campaigned for a female political voice and gender equality, women in the developed world are still facing oppression. They are not represented equally in leadership roles in industry, science, business, medicine, politics, or the media and they cannot assume equal pay with their male counterparts for the same work.

How is it that in 2017, the proportion of senior business roles held by women in the UK fell from 21 per cent to just 19 per cent? How is it that the Financial Times reported, just this week, that the median gender pay gap in the financial services industry is a massive 31 per cent? How is it that in societies that have promoted the equal education of girls for over a hundred years, and seen an increase of coeducational schools, some men continue to exercise a disproportionate and negative influence on outcomes for girls and young women, and still treat them as objects?

Too often we hear that young women are frightened to report the abuse and injustice they experience at the hands of powerful men, highlighted by the #metoo hashtag that has taken over social media this week. All of this leaves me wondering whether coeducation has done anything for our young women?

In The Times on Monday, Amanda Spielman, the Ofsted Chief Inspector said, “If women are to take their full place in a world which is, to some degree, loaded against them, then it is reasonable for parents to choose single-sex education.” This is a belief that I very much share. I know that at Redmaids’ High our young women believe that they can do anything, because there is no one to tell them otherwise; all the leadership opportunities are theirs, all the honours, all the challenges; and so they enter the world beyond school believing that they can do it all, ready to challenge and expose prejudice and exploitation when and if they are faced with it.

Date Posted: 11 June 2020
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