16 March 2021
At BGS, one of our key values is being bold, as defined in the Cambridge dictionary as “not frightened of danger”. We believe this is an essential characteristic for our students in this uncertain world.
We are able to help them foster this courageousness in a safe and secure environment. Our students know their views are valued and we encourage them to question the world around them and stand up for what they believe in.
However, we are fully cognisant that unfortunately for our young people they may at times have to confront danger. It is up to us as educators, in conjunction with parents, to not only help protect them, but also instil in them guiding principles around how we should behave towards one another. Growing up is a learning curve and no matter how well we guide them, young people will inevitably have errors of judgment. It is important that we call out when a young person falls below these standards whilst also supporting them in moving forward positively from their mistakes.
I suspect many of us have read with horror the news about the killing of Sarah Everard and what it exemplifies about the treatment of women in our society. Concurrently, alarming stories about peer-on-peer abuse and misogyny in schools has been highlighted by many students across the UK and Australia. As a school that encourages young women to have a strong voice, we are impressed to see so many speak out about the issues that are affecting their daily lives; we know this takes great courage. But these young people must also seek help and support. We need to ensure our students not only have the strategies to protect themselves, but that they have the confidence to speak out to a trusted adult, either at home or at School, if any of these issues are affecting them.
Without those brave enough to step forward the issues will remain. I fervently hope that the world our students go out into will be fairer, kinder and safer. I want to see our alumnae continue to achieve successes in their chosen professional lives, free from gender stereotypes and able to take on any challenges that come their way. I want them to always feel safe and secure in their day-to-day lives; this should be a right, not a privilege.
Just over 100 years ago, Nancy Astor, the first female MP, said in her maiden speech “I do not want you to look on your lady member as a fanatic or a lunatic. I am simply trying to speak for hundreds of women and children throughout the country who cannot speak for themselves.” Her words still resonate today and are echoed by the number of female MPs who have spoken recently about the current issues facing women. Jess Phillips said, last week, before reading out the names of the 120 women who have been murdered by men in the past 12 months; “In this place, we count what we care about. We count the vaccines…We love to count data of our own popularity….However, we don’t currently count dead women…Dead women is a thing we’ve all just accepted as part of our daily lives. Dead women is just one of those things.” Powerful words indeed.
I urge our students to continue being bold: to speak out if they see injustice; to come forward when they need support; to strive to take on leadership roles in all areas of society so they can make a difference; and most importantly, to always support one another as we are, without doubt, stronger together.
Gemma Gibson, Headmistress, Bedford Girls’ School