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2017 review: what a year!

Julie Keller, Head at Nottingham Girls' High School GDST, reveals her 2017 highlights

Posted by Julian Owen | November 23, 2017 | School life

2017 has been my first full year as Head at Nottingham Girls’ High School GDST and it has seen some of the biggest changes in education for some considerable time. It has also seen significant changes at the school itself, which have provided me with some very memorable highlights. Having come from a mixed academy in the state sector to an all girls’ independent school within the Girls’ Day School Trust, it has been interesting to experience the teaching and learning opportunities and outcomes at both. A year in to my new tenure, I have to say, I think we’re doing a remarkable job of educating  the girls. 

The changes to the grading in some GCSE subjects this year to a numerical system were navigated very successfully. In fact, more of our Year 11 girls gained top grades this year than last. However, the switch from modular to linear exams at A-level has undoubtedly had an impact. Studying a course over two years without intervening external assessment points demands a more joined-up approach to both teaching and learning.

I like to see this discarding of AS levels as a ‘liberation’ of Year 12, freeing the girls and their teachers from constant testing, to focus on deep teaching and learning. This will give them a chance to enjoy learning over a longer period of time, a chance to explore, reflect and make links. As an independent school we do have the luxury of more of an influence over our sixth form, being able to offer greater personalisation and flexibility beyond the exam specifications.

 Education is not just about academic progress, however, but also about taking opportunities. This year I had the huge privilege of travelling to New York with two of our Year 13 girls who had been handpicked to represent the National Council of Young Women Great Britain at the United Nations as part of the Commission on the Status of Women, CSW61.

 A significant highlight has been the strengthening of our home/school partnership and one of the great successes of the year has been the introduction of our parental seminars on ‘Raising Girls in the Twenty-First Century’. These have been very well attended as we tackle, together, the issues that face girls and young women in the world at school and beyond. Our parents are so supportive of everything we do and really go the extra mile, recently having raised money through fundraising events to buy and build a pizza oven in our fantastic outdoor learning area.

Julie Keller

 Our continuing commitment to the arts has had a huge boost with the opening of our £9m performing arts centre, ‘the space’. Likewise, we are delighted to share this space as part of our commitment to supporting the local community, and to see lots of bookings already filling up the calendar.

 I have to sign off with a four-legged highlight – the addition of Saffy the miniature Labradoodle to the school family this year has brought a lot of joy and a huge boost to the wellbeing of girls and staff alike. The benefits of dogs in schools are well documented, and we have recently begun to take part in the GDST Positive School’s programme, an initiative to support wellbeing across the whole-school community, further strengthening the work we do in recognising the need for resilient mental health.

 With the curriculum changes at all key stages now in full flow, I look forward to 2018 and focusing on being even more innovative with our teaching in this modern, forward-thinking and dynamic school. 

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