It is Saturday 8th of October and I am in school with over eighty girls and a range of speakers and facilitators to help run the International Girls Day. Months ago we were approached to host this event and we did not have to think twice about agreeing to become the venue for such an interesting and informative day for girls, or more precisely young women aged sixteen to eighteen.
Much has been achieved in the past in terms of equality. Women have the same rights as men under the law. However in the world, and in this country, things are not yet equal. We regularly hear that women are under-represented in jobs at the highest levels and there continues to be a pay differential between men and women.
Similar issues are affecting other groups, such as those from ethnic minorities, including those for whom English is not the first language to name a few. There are some examples, but not many, of people who make it “to the top” despite their background. As Principal of a leading grammar school and executive Headteacher of a Trust of schools, I am one of such exceptions. I am a woman, who has to tick the box “white other” in forms, who was educated abroad and has English as a second language. I consider myself very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to reach the top of my career in spite of those factors. Those who recruited me saw beyond those labels and took the time to consider my personal and professional attributes. However I am deeply and painfully aware that my experience is rare and I feel the duty to do something about the inequalities that continue to exist.
Today’s conference is designed to give young women the confidence to aspire high and achieve but we do more. Upton Court Grammar School has secured funding from the National College of Teaching and Leadership and has used it to develop programmes and lead training for aspiring leaders from under-represented groups for the past two years.
We are taking very seriously our moral duty to make this country a place where opportunities are available to talented people based on merit, no matter what their gender, race, religion or background. “Ad Astra” (Reach for the Stars), our motto, and our status as an inclusive grammar school reflect this aspiration which we have chosen to taken beyond our classrooms to make this a better world.