I have just come from the farewell assembly for Y11,12 and 13 who all go on exam leave today; this assembly is a really special event for us all. It is wonderful to see how much the big girls love the little girls’ songs exhorting them to work hard, not to mention the Reception girls’ enthusiastic dancing; they stole the show!
Claudia Spencer’s poem and Anais Hamilton’s prayer were lovely moments in the assembly. After this the girls poked lots of fun at their teachers – the staff loved it as the jokes, memes and videos were warm and good humoured. After the traditional dousing of younger sisters and willing Middle School students, the Y13s turned right around and quickly cleaned up. I really value the fact that we can trust the girls to have fun while being respectful and not getting carried away. The leadership our prefects and Head Girl Olivia Mann showed in this was absolutely critical in creating a happy, positive atmosphere on the girls’ last day.
Leadership Roles 2014
Over the course of this week I have talked to Y11 and Y12 about the voting process we use to elect prefects for 2014. Every year I ask them to put their hands up if in the past they have heard people saying things like “She’s a prefect because her mother is on the Board” or “She was only chosen because her parents are on the P+F” or similar. Over the last few years, there have been fewer and fewer hands up; this year (to my delight) there were none. So, I pushed the girls a little further and asked them if they were just being polite; both Y12 and Y11 told me in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t politeness or consideration for my feelings, it was that they hadn’t heard any conversations like that.
To me, this is a really important moment. When I tell the girls that I trust their judgment, that they know their year group better than any of us, warts and all, that they make great choices, it is great to know that they have absorbed this message. So what is the process? Y11 students’ votes are worth 1 point; Y12 and staff votes are worth 2 points. The first 18 students in the voting list become prefects; I reserve the right to remove a student from the list as on the odd occasion I am aware of a serious barrier to her being a prefect – I haven’t had to do this since 2002! No-one is ever added to the list. The top 8 candidates are then invited to Head Girl interviews and the same voting process is used. The result of this system is that year after year we have strong, balanced and reliable Head Girls and great teams of prefects. The House Captain role this year has grown in terms of responsibilities and impact; to reflect this in 2014 Houses will vote for House Captains and the candidates’ total votes will be added to their prefect votes to capture both their House and College responsibilities.
In the Junior and Middle Schools a lot of work has been done, using parent focus groups, to develop a clearer leadership experience progression and to reflect the need for students to be scaffolded into using the democratic process wisely and thoughtfully; it is important at all stages, but especially in the early years, for all students to experience leadership opportunities and we hope that the programmes the Junior and Middle Schools follow next year demonstrate an awareness of the girls’ growing capacity, as they move through the College, to handle the right to vote with maturity.