ASGS Leadership Conference 2018

ASGS Conference Report October 5th 2018  – ‘ Walking the tightrope: balancing leadership, creativity and well-being’

The theme of the conference clearly resonated with the current preoccupations of school leaders in our member schools. We have been grappling with external challenges in the form of budgetary pressures and large scale curriculum reform, whilst recognising that attention must be paid to ensuring the essential well-being of our students and staff.  Meanwhile, creating an environment where creative energy and innovation is encouraged in every aspect of the school has never seemed more important.

Sharon Cromie and Elizabeth KitKatt, Joint Presidents introduced the conference, outlining how the conference content was designed to provide motivation, collective support and practical ideas for school leaders striving to achieve poised and positive leadership. They revisited our unique identity as a collective of high performing, girls-only state funded schools and reported on the work and development of the association in the previous year. We have been very successful establishing strategic partnerships which create additional and enriching opportunities for our staff and students. A key international partner as we work to extend our influence and reach as specialists in girls’ education has been the US-based National Coalition of Girls Schools (NCGS) and we were delighted to welcome Megan Murphy,  Executive Director NCGS as a special guest. Megan reminded delegates of the resources, materials and research on girls- only education that have been gathered through the organisation and their two Global Conferences. She also highlighted the vision for launching some global research projects through networks like ASGS. Our Presidents are already involved in the planning discussions for this initiative. Insert NCGS website link?

Delegates overwhelmingly described the keynote speakers as excellent.  They all generously supported the conference, recognising the small scale not- for- profit nature of our organisation. Right Honourable Esther McVey MP ,was our first speaker and she shared her reflections on her personal career journey -working in the media,  running her own business and then becoming a politician. She stressed the importance of resilience for women in forging a successful path.  Esther is the founder of a charity ‘If Chloe Can ‘ and spoke enthusiastically about its work providing career support, inspiration and ambition for school pupils.  ASGS has partnered with the charity to launch a new programme, CAR. See information here

Highlighting opportunities for young women in Technologies Industry was the focus of the inspiring presentation from Cindy Rose, CEO Microsoft UK.  Cindy also shared some relevant elements of her personal career story. She included compelling information about the continuing lack of women employed in Digital Technologies fields and then went on to outline the Microsoft projects like DigiGirlz available for school students which  are aimed at encouraging girls’ confident engagement with coding and other IT developments.  See further information here

Simon Noakes, Founder of Interactive Schools also challenged delegates to exploit the exciting potential of new technologies for schools in his provocative presentation ‘ The #FutureSchool: are we preparing our children for a world we cannot imagine.’ Simon is a  speaker with a Global profile but has generously agreed to make his presentation available on the members site.

Finally Dr. Karen Edge’s presentation ‘Recruiting and retaining leaders for the future: What do gender, work-life balance  and generation have to do with it?’  was a lively and warm exploration of how  leaders in education – especially women – can nourish themselves and encourage other colleagues to take on leadership roles in schools  successfully.  Personal stories illustrated key findings from Karen’s academic research and she gave pithy practical tips – ‘ If you are a headteacher who leaves school with big heavy bags , stop it. You are not encouraging your colleagues to want to follow you into headship…!’  Her detailed presentation will be available on the members site in due course. 

The carousel of workshops offered different insights into the aspects of the conference theme and gave delegates an opportunity for more interactive engagement and discussion. Holly Green, Education Programmes Manager at Stonewall ran a valuable session based on Stonewall’s ‘Training the Trainer’ materials on ‘Supporting LGBT Young People’.  Holly also signposted the range resources and support for schools and teachers available here.   In her presentation Nia Lonergan, Lead Account Manager from MIND, the mental health charity, outlined how it has developed a useful audit tool ‘Workplace Wellbeing Index’.  Further details can be found here ‘Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff.’  Kim MCCabe, founder and director for Rites for Girls,  focussed on steering girls happily through their teens in ‘Becoming the woman your 11 year-old needed’ and shared ideas from her book:  ‘From daughter to woman’  which explores the role of parents.  ASGS members can arrange a free seminar at your school for parents; ’Parenting girls safely through their teens’.  Further information can be found here.  Reflections on leadership from the world of sport were presented by Catherine Spencer, a speaker from ‘Inspiring Women’. Catherine is a former England International Rugby player and captain.  In ‘The Leader in You’ she described the importance of authenticity in leadership, knowing your team as diverse individuals  and finding the leadership emblem/ vision  around which a team can come together.   Her memoir ‘Mud, Maul, Mascara’ will be published soon and provide a lively story on her leadership approaches

We concluded the day with a high quality good practice sharing sessionOne of the highlights of the October Conference was the series of quick-fire case study presentations from a range of member schools  on supporting  students with additional needs. The presentations can all be found on our web-site here.  Presentations were 6 minute stories with minimal text slides so if you want to find out more from the presenters about their work with these students we suggest you contact them directly through their schools.

 Frances Bardsley Academy which manages The Bridge Centre, a specialist provision for students with mental health needs as part of its wider Trust in ’Pains, Trains, Gains and The 3Ps’ outlined a whole school approach to provide students  with some coping mechanisms to protect their positive psychological and emotional health. Contact Julian Dutnall

 Camden School for Girls - ‘Rya’s Story’ provided a compelling case study of supporting a student with  poor mental health including a severe eating disorder.  This anonymised presentation might be powerful to use with students as well as staff as it captures Rya’s  thoughtful personal reflections on what helped her to be a survivor. Contact Philippa Schofield

 Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School in Barnet - ‘MYRIAD - an approach to  addressing Anxiety Disorders’ was a helpful exploration of a school approach to addressing anxiety disorders which are the fastest growing mental health issue with adolescent girls. Contact Lindsay Southwell 

 Two member schools generously shared their learning from supporting two Transgender students. They are very individual stories but indicate what the needs of these students might be and how schools might respond.

 Wycombe High School - ’Max’s story’ was presented by  Sharon Cromie.

 Chelmsford County High School’s case study is ‘Supporting a student with complex needs’. Contact Emma Hiett

 Countering Disadvantage

 The gap between the achievement of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who  do not come from disadvantaged background persists nationally and in many of our schools. In ‘Ensuring disadvantage is not a    barrier to student achievement’, Sue Higgins, former Head of Parliament Hill School, shared Tara’s story, exemplifying how the school’s Pupil Premium strategy  has proved so successful in ensuring disadvantaged students achieve as well as non-disadvantaged peers nationally. Contact Sarah Creasey, Headteacher for more information

 Some feedback from our delegates:

Inspirational thought provoking;

Ideas to being back to the debate on SLT discussion;

Engaging High quality;

Narrative linking the content;

Practical examples to use Relevant Made you think;

The speakers were all very engaging and inspiring. 

Karen and Cindy particularly were also very practical. I enjoyed Simon's speech very much;

Impassioned speakers who knew their stuff and articulated it well;

clarity, relevance, future-focused, thought-provoking and engaging;

Clear, highly relevant;

Clear focus on future needs and what we could be doing to improve education;

Karen and Cindy were engaging and inspirational and came across as very aligned to the mission of girls education;

Cindy's presentation was informative and clear. I think her career path would be of particular interest to our students.