31 October 2020
At St Helen and St Katharine, nothing is more rewarding than seeing our students harnessing their curiosity, energy and talent to shape their future on their own terms, being liberated from thoughts of what is typical or atypical for a girl. At our last Open Day, Upper Sixth student Lucy expressed perfectly what success looks like for St Helen’s: “St Helen’s isn’t successful because all the girls work non-stop and don’t do anything but maths in their spare time. It is successful because boundaries are removed, we break expectations, we go above and beyond and we never set limits on what we can achieve.”
A truly enriching girls’ education must help each student find and develop her individual voice. We encourage public speaking in all years to show every girl that she can speak up. Coached by teachers and supported by their peers, our students develop these skills with courage and growing ease, gleefully discarding the idea that young women who speak out are pushy or bossy.
Debating follows naturally from this, giving students the opportunity to enjoy good-humoured competition, work together in different year groups and learn from each other. For younger students we believe this is equally important – it makes the all-important process of analysing, giving opinions and listening to others a natural part of learning, skills which students hone and nurture as they move through the School, from Junior Department all the way to Sixth Form.
Our students’ ambitions and their voices are our driving force and the covid-19 lockdown did not put a brake on this. Remote St Helen’s brought out inventive and creative ideas across our community with both students and staff embracing all the opportunities it brought. Even our extensive extracurricular programme moved online and saw myriad activities across music, sport, drama and art continue to thrive. Online learning placed much greater responsibility on the students to inspire, educate, entertain and stretch themselves, and their resilience grew as they learned how to do all this in an environment in which they never expected to find themselves. We are all very proud of the way our community has responded.
We are proud to offer means tested bursaries from 20–100% of fees, allowing us to welcome girls into our community whose families would not otherwise be able to afford the fees. This has always been central to our ethos and we are excited to soon welcome the first recipients of our new subject-specific bursaries for Sixth Form. These are open to girls from a state funded school who wish to study STEM subjects at A-level. With our huge strength in these subjects and proud tradition of high numbers of students going on to study STEM subjects at university, the opportunity to support and empower the next generation of doctors, scientists, engineers, mathematicians, astronauts and economists is there to be grasped.
Going above and beyond is a natural state of play at St Helen’s but we know also that our students discover their voice and show their courage in as many different ways as there are individuals in the School. How we empower is to celebrate each difference and each success, to learn from setbacks and to show, by example, that there are many, many ways of taking on the world.