Inviting entrepreneurs to work inside our school will pay dividends for pupils, says Rosie McColl, head of Brighton Girls GDST
When I took the helm of Brighton Girls in early 2020, bringing the school into the heart of the community was my ambition. Just weeks later, the global pandemic hit. People were forced to retreat into their homes, schools closed, clubs and societies were put on pause and human contact was kept to a minimum. How then to fuse school with city, when the world seemed like it had stopped turning?
In fact, the formidable hurdle of Covid turned out to inspire me further. I think it was when I saw how successful our remote learning offering was and we as a school realised that if we could educate children from our own school like this, why not other children in the city, too?
We put this into practice with our previously face-to-face STEM sessions for Year 6 children across the city, delivering it online and seeing we could reach so many more children. We went on to create online lessons in English and science for primary schools across the city, and two of our English teachers ran an online book club for Years 4 and 5 throughout the summer.
But this is just a jigsaw piece in our ambitions to ensure that Brighton Girls gives more to its community. The physical manifestation of this is our current multi-million pound school renovation, which will see our buildings play a bigger part in city life.
Our elegant Thomas Kemp Temple building, named for the Regency city landowner who developed Kemp Town, will be the hub of this plan, welcoming in the public for the first time.
The ground floor is becoming a wellbeing café run by pupils and a catering team. There will also be flexible working space for local entrepreneurs (and we hope to create working relationships between them and our sixth form team to nurture future local talent).
We are also about to transform the landscaping at the front of the Temple and the school’s green spaces, with plans to open this to the community at weekends.
The focus on looking outwards continues through to our admissions and we proudly unveiled our brand-new (and unique, we think!) skateboarding scholarship earlier this year, with the hope that young girls with a wide range of talents will be able to imagine themselves at our school. Skateboarding requires dogged determination, bravery and the ability to shrug off mistakes and keep trying – exactly the sort of characteristics that we try to instil here at Brighton Girls.
We want to open out our sport more, too. So far, we have launched a community netball club, Brighton Bees, which offers training to girls of all ages. Our sponsorship of the Brighton Mini Mile in September 2021 meant little ones from across the city could show their running chops.
The Guild, our school’s charity arm, raises thousands of pounds every year for local organizations and our partnership work extends to local businesses. We enjoy teaming up with local artists, designers and entrepreneurs because our students learn from them and we nourish our local community in the process.
This summer, we collaborated with TV’s Charis Williams, also known as the Salvage Sister, to deliver power-tools and DIY workshops to our students. We hope to send a message to prospective families about our mission. We know academic strengths are hugely important but this school also wants its pupils to think around the angles and work out creative solutions – something that happens just as much in the DT rooms as it does in the lab.
A lesson that we must take away from what we have all been through in the past 18 months is that community matters. A lot. Which means I’m more determined than ever to make sure our school contributes as much as it can to the vibrant, joyful place Brighton is.
Rosie McColl is head of Brighton Girls School GDST.
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