King Edward VI High School for Girls is a beautiful school for pupils aged 11 to 18 with the capacity to transform the lives of the bright, multi-talented girls who come here from an extraordinary range of backgrounds.
Our girls achieve outstanding results but we are about much more than just stellar grades and Oxbridge places. We provide a richly varied and exciting education in a friendly, nurturing environment.
King Edward VI High School for Girls has a total of 567 pupils, with 160 pupils in the Sixth Form.
King Edward VI High School for Girls tops the West Midlands Parent Power table
King Edward VI High School for Girls is West Midlands Independent School of the Year in the Sunday Times Parent Power Schools Guide, for the second time in three years. It also rose from 26th place nationally in 2018 to 10th overall.
King Edward VI High School for Girls has been named the West Midlands Independent School of the Year in the Sunday Times’ prestigious Parent Power Schools Guide, for the second time in three years. It also rose from 26th place nationally in 2018 to 10th overall this year, the only school north of Oxford in Britain’s top 10. Alastair McCall, the Guide’s editor, paid tribute to its outstanding examination results in the summer:
“They were good enough to put the school back at the top of the regional academic rankings,” he said, “but more importantly, they represent a personal triumph for the girls concerned, who have now progressed on to the next stage of life with the wind in their sails thanks to the fantastic education they received”.
"While the school is academically rigorous, success in all areas of life is celebrated and the opportunities afforded to the girls are extensive. Children excel regionally and nationally in everything from poetry to debating, astrophysics to badminton, archery to philanthropy. The end products are well-rounded girls, equipped to make an impact on the world once they leave school, confident in themselves and the possibilities that life will present."
“We’re absolutely delighted that this award recognises not just our School’s superb exam results but its holistic, liberal approach to education,” said KEHS Principal, Ann Clark. “We encourage girls to pursue their interests and develop their talents, both academically and in drama, music, sport and community service. This is a small, close-knit school with a strong emphasis on physical and mental wellbeing, and our charmingly natural, bright, curious girls from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures enjoy inspirational teaching and brilliant extra-curricular activities. There really is something for everyone: from chess to Ultimate Frisbee, from Astronomy to Debating, the girls can learn new skills, make new friends and have a lot of fun at the same time.”
KEHS, which is regularly highlighted as one of the best value-for-money schools in the country, is committed to widening access so that able girls can come to the School regardless of their parents’ financial circumstances. 20% of its students currently receive some form of means-tested assistance and the “Delyvere” campaign is raising money from alumnae to provide five full fee places a year.
“The fact that many Old Edwardians show such loyalty and generosity to the school, often decades after they left, is a great tribute to the life-changing education KEHS offers,” added Ann Clark, “and so too is the national recognition we receive through awards like this one. I’m hugely proud of our students and staff and would like to congratulate them for making KEHS an outstandingly successful school and a very special place.
Many girls go on to study at top Russell Group universities including Oxford and Cambridge, but more importantly, the great variety of courses they pursue reflects the intellectual confidence they develop through being encouraged to pursue their individual passions.”
KEHS celebrated record A level results this year with 75% A* or A and 35% A*. 13 girls won places at Oxford or Cambridge, one was named Birmingham Young Poet Laureate, another became the BBC Young Musician of the Year and several were selected for national Olympiad teams in Maths, Physics and Astronomy. The Sports Department celebrated individual and team success at county, regional and national level in hockey, netball, squash, fencing, athletics, rounders and badminton, while the tennis team won the coveted Fry Cup despite stiff competition from the other King Edward Schools.
Record A Level results for KEHS with a remarkable 35% grades at A*, the highest percentage since the grade was introduced - and stand-out performances from star astronomers, award-winning dancers, sportswomen, musicians and charity campaigners
King Edward VI High School for Girls is celebrating a record set of A Level results with a remarkable 35% grades at A*, the highest percentage since the A* grade was introduced, 75% at A*/A and 96% grades at A*/B.
32% girls achieved 2 A* or more and 88% achieved all A*-B.
Bucking the widely-reported national trend of fewer girls studying STEM subjects, 74% of KEHS’s students took at least one STEM subject (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths); 39.5% of students studied Mathematics, with 93% of these grades at A*/A. Similarly, 24% of students studied at least one Modern Foreign Language (French, Spanish or Russian) and 91% of the grades were at A*/A.
13 students have achieved the grades required to take up their places at Oxford or Cambridge, to study a range of subjects from Philosophy, Spanish and Portuguese to Engineering and Natural Sciences, although one has decided to pursue a different course and has opted to read English at St Andrew’s instead.
Principal Ann Clark said, “ I am delighted with these exceptional results which are a testament to the determination, hard work and commitment of our students, together with the professionalism and dedication of the staff at KEHS. I am extremely proud of our students who excel not only academically, but also in myriad ways: in debating, in Music and Drama, and on the Sports Field, and also involve themselves in Community Service, raising money for a range of different charities and volunteer with the elderly and with local primary school pupils”.
Among the stand-out performances from this multi-talented year-group were:
Jessica Tedd from Stourbridge, who has won a place at Brasenose College, Oxford to read Physics thanks to 4 straight A*s at A level in Physics, Maths, Further Maths and Biology. She was also selected for the UK Astronomy Olympiad team. In her GCSEs in 2017, Jess scored an impressive 12 A*s including Astronomy and is among the top scientists the school has produced. Her father Dr Bernie Tedd is Head of Physics at KEHS and founded the school’s Astronomy Club which has gained a cult following with many girls opting to take Astronomy GCSE. Jessica is also a talented violinist and dancer, playing in the CBSO and Dudley Youth Orchestras, being co-leader of the school’s Symphony Orchestra and excelling in Acrobatics, tap and ballet which she teaches in her spare ttime. She has been awarded KEHS’s prestigious Creak Memorial Prize for service to the School.
“I felt huge relief when I saw my grades,” she said. “I’m so looking forward to going to Oxford and I’ve loved my time at this school as you get so many opportunities here, I think it’s important to pack in as much as you can.”
Aishani Ghosh, an outstanding young dancer from Moseley in Birmingham, who excels in South Asian and Modern Dance and reached the final of the recent BBC Young Dancer Championship has received an unconditional offer to read Politics and Economics at Nottingham University. However she has opted to follow her passion for dance and take up a coveted place at the London School of Contemporary Dance. Aged 11 Aishani was the youngest person to be given a coveted place on the Advanced Dancers Training programme at the Birmingham Hippodrome and the only one ever selected for both South Asian and Modern Dance.
Talented actress Clara Harrison, 18, from Shenstone near Lichfield, achieved the grades she needed to fulfil her offer to read Education and Drama at Cambridge University, after getting 10 A*s at GCSE. However she has chosen to accept a place at St Andrew’s instead because of the strength of its English course. In 2017 Clara’s elder sister Emily achieved top-grade A levels and is currently reading Geography at Keble College, Oxford.
There was belated joy for Kirsten Rachman, 18, from Birmingham, who achieved an A* and 2 As in French, Russian and Maths, but at first feared that she might have lost out by a few marks on a place at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge to read Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. However after some frantic phone calls to the college and the submission of her detailed A level scores, she was delighted to hear that she was indeed being offered the coveted place.
There were no such worries for Saffron Pougher, 18, from Rubery whose 4 straight A*s in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Religious Studies guaranteed her a place to read Maths at Keble College, Oxford.
“I feel really lucky to have been at KEHS,” she said. “The teaching here is outstanding and the Maths staff always kept us interested with lots of extra activities and problem-solving above and beyond the A level syllabus. I specially enjoyed Mr Kavanagh’s Maths Club because it extends your knowledge and prepares you for the challenging areas you need to tackle when you do Maths at university. I’ve also really loved the music here – I played the flute in the school Symphony Orchestra and sang in the Chamber Choir, which was a real joy.”
Aaliyah Wallace, 18, a West Midlands hockey star from King’s Norton has won a place at Merton College, Oxford to study Spanish and Portugese after adding 3 A* A levels in French, Spanish and Economics to the full house of 11 A*s which she scored at GCSE. She hopes to follow her elder sister Chanelle into investment banking. Aaliyah who also excels at Netball and Drama, is a gifted pianist and a top ballroom dancer with a particular talent for Latin and jive, competing in national level contests.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw my grades,” she said. “School has been amazing in helping me fit in all my sport and dance commitments alongside the academic work. The teachers were always there to talk to me and whenever I needed an extension – say during big dance championships – they always helped me and allowed me extra time to get my work in. The hockey teaching here is amazing and I specially loved going on the KEHS hockey tour to Sri Lanka. I’m just so happy.”
Sinali Gunarathne, 17, from Sutton Coldfield achieved 2 A*s in Biology and Psychology and 2 As in Chemistry and Maths but managed to combine her studies with an ambitious project to raise funds and collect thousands of books for poor communities in Sri Lanka where she was born. The daughter of two medics – her mother is a GP, her father a cardiologist – she was thrilled with her grades and as she is a year younger than the rest of her cohort, she intends to take a year off and then study Medicine at Oxford University. Long-term she hopes to become a psychiatrist because of her deep interest in mental health.
“When I went back to Sri Lanka and visited my parents’ old school, it hit me how privileged I am and how much that whole area needs. The school is short of books, equipment and money, so I began my ‘Books for Sri Lanka’ campaign via my Instagram page, raising hundreds of pounds and collecting thousands of books which are being sent out to the area. It’s great to see so many books being donated and thinking of the good they will do. I’ve really loved my time at KEHS – it’s a very academic school of course but the people here are what really make it special. They are such great characters – very kind, caring and funny.”
By contrast, Indu Appanna, 18, from Moseley in Birmngham is the only one of her extended family NOT to become a doctor. Her grades of A*s in Chemistry and French plus an A in Maths have secured her place at New College, Oxford to read French and Italian. 8 of her family members are all medics, among them her mother, a consultant endocrinologist, her father, a GP and her brother Nathan, 20, who went to King Edward's, the brother school of KEHS and is just entering his final year at Hertford College, Oxford, reading Medicine. Indu, a sporting and musical all-rounder was vice-captain of the KEHS 1st hockey XI, a talented swimmer as well as a gifted pianist, viola player and a keen member of the school Symphony Orchestra. Long-term, she is considering studying Law and going into business.
"The best part of my school was the environment and the people in it," she smiled. "It's a unique place, a small school that feels like family with a great sense of community and close links between the different years. I couldn't have had a better time."
Shivanii wins National Debating Contest drawing on Black Country Roots
15-year-old Shivanii scoops prestigious national History Debating Competition after researching the Industrial Revolution's continuing impact on the mental and physical health of Birmingham and Black Country people
A 15-year-old pupil from King Edward VI High School for Girls, Birmingham, has won a prestigious national history debating competition by drawing on her interest in the Black Country where she spent part of her childhood.
Shivanii Arun reached the final of the Historical Association Great Debate contest in the spectacular setting of the Vicars’ Hall in St George’s House at Windsor Castle after winning the Birmingham regional heat, despite being one of the youngest contestants. The 22 finalists, mainly Sixth-formers and drawn from all over the UK and Ireland, had to devise a 5-minute speech answering the question “What was the greatest failure of the Age of Revolutions.”
While most of her rivals chose either the French or the Haitian Revolutions as their example, Shivanii opted to focus on the Industrial Revolution in Britain and its continuing effects on the population of the West Midlands.
“I was born at Oldbury in the Black Country,” she explained. “Both my parents are doctors and that helped me to find the angle for my speech. I argued that the Industrial Revolution was a great failure because of the dreadful impact it had on the mental and physical health of the people involved. Living conditions were very bad for the factory workers. Many trades like weaving were deskilled by the invention of machinery such as water-frames which made many of the old skilled jobs redundant. Lots of people in the Black Country suffered from mental illness due to the deskilling of their trade. I found out that this psychological legacy still lives on today, as life satisfaction is on average 29% lower in intensive industrial areas like Birmingham and the Black Country'?
The Industrial Revolution had a big impact on climate change and pollution levels too. During that time the proportion of carbon dioxide in the air went up from 0.03% to 0.04% which doesn’t sound much but it was actually very serious and the increased pollution and cramped conditions meant that many people suffered respiratory infections and diseases.”
The judges praised Shivanii for choosing and thoroughly resarching a local subject which meant so much to her and they highlighted her self-confidence in choosing not to stand at the podium but to deliver her speech without notes. Her composure while answering questions on her speech from the distinguished judging panel helped her scoop the title plus an engraved shield and winner’s cheque for £175.
“It was surreal; I just couldn’t believe I’d won,” she said. “I think speaking from memory helped me stand out. Mrs Hargraves who runs our debating club organised a panel of History teachers beforehand to ask me different questions for practice and it was really useful. We do lots of presentations in all our lessons and I’ve learned a lot at debating club which builds your confidence.
From when Shivanii first applied for the competition, I saw her transform her speech through her own hard work,” explained Gemma Hargraves. “ She’s always been very articulate and was in the KEHS side which reached the finals of the English-Speaking Union public speaking contest. She became our Poet Laureate last year, too and it’s all boosted her confidence and self-belief. Lots of our girls enter debating competitions and learning to produce logical arguments and clear explanations helps with their academic work.”
“I hope to study Law at Oxford and maybe become a barrister,” added Shivanii, “so debating is a valuable skill for me. The prize-money? I’ll donate some to my school, some to charity – and then spend a bit on myself.”
KEHS Maths star Naomi Bazlov wins first international call-up for UK Maths side
Star mathematician and pianist Naomi Bazlov celebrates her first international call-up for the UK side competing in the prestigious Romanian Master of Mathematics competition. She is the only girl and the youngest member on the six-strong team.
Gifted mathematician and pianist Naomi Bazlov, 16, a Year 12 student at King Edward VI High School for Girls, Edgbaston, is celebrating her first international call-up as the only girl on the six-strong UK team for the Romanian Master of Mathematics contest in Bucharest. The event in late February, one of the highest-level international Maths competitions, attracts national teams from all over the world.
Naomi was selected thanks to an outstanding showing at a week-long Maths Camp in Hungary in December, designed to prepare gifted British and Hungarian students for international maths competitions. She and her fellow participants worked together on high-level problem-solving and sat two challenging exams in the style of International Mathematical Olympiads.
"Over the past year, I’ve trained really hard to be selected for an international team,” said Naomi, “and I’m very honoured to be taking part in such a prestigious international maths competition. It’ll be great to meet other people who like solving the toughest mathematical puzzles. There are hardly any girls in these high level competitions – not sure why not, maybe because some of the boys are simply focused on their maths while most girls are more rounded and take part in a range of activities. Everyone’s been very encouraging though and the boys accept me as an equal. KEHS is a very academic school with lots of good mathematicians and really supportive maths staff who’ve always willingly given up their time to discuss mathematical problems whenever I’ve needed help and advice."
Naomi's maths successes started early. Aged 12 she excelled in the British Mathematical Olympiad, a competition normally aimed at advanced sixth-form students, and she was picked for the Senior Mentoring Scheme run by the UK Mathematics Trust (UKMT). After graduating from this, she joined the UKMT's most selective Advanced scheme, mentored by former International Mathematical Olympiad gold medallist Neel Nanda, of Trinity College, Cambridge.
Naomi is certainly following in the family tradition. Her Russian-born parents are both Maths lecturers, her mother Olga at Birmingham University and her father Yuri at Manchester. "Naomi's interest in mathematics has been obvious from a very young age” explained Mr Bazlov, “ and now she’s added the focus and determination which maths competitions are helping her to develop. All the family takes pride in her success."
Naomi is also an outstanding pianist and has won scores of music competitions including the 2018 Bromsgrove Platform, a contest for gifted young players founded by the Bromsgrove International Musicians' Competition. At 12, she even took her Piano Licenciate diploma, which is normally only achieved by adults.
Apart from classical piano, Naomi enjoys chamber music and recently led a piano quintet in a successful Lunchtime Concert at the Barber Institute. She also plays piano in a school jazzband, and has already tried her hand at composing jazz music.
“I love my music and realise how important it is as a way to express myself,” she explained, “but I now know I’d like to concentrate on mathematics, if possible studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. I’m very much enjoying serious competitive maths and would love to perform well in Romania, which I know would also help in my future career.”
This is just the latest in a string of individual successes for KEHS pupils over the last few months. Naomi’s classmate Lauren Zhang, 17, herself a nationally-acclaimed mathematician and concert pianist was recently selected as BBC Young Musician of the Year. Meanwhile Upper Sixth-former Aishani Ghosh, 17, an award-winning performer specialising in South Asian and Contemporary Dance is through to the latter stages of the prestigious BBC Young Dancer competition.
Record haul of Oxbridge offers for King Edward VI High School for Girls
King Edward VI High School for Girls celebrates a record haul of Oxbridge offers and predicts a bumper year for places to study Medicine. Over a dozen girls have also received unconditional offers from top Russell Group universities.
King Edward VI High School for Girls is celebrating a record haul of Oxbridge offers in subjects including Law, Engineering, Physics, Philosophy and Modern and Medieval Languages. 17 students – the School’s highest total ever and almost one in four of its Upper Sixth form - have received conditional offers of a highly-competitive place at Oxford or Cambridge University. These offers will provide a major incentive to achieve the necessary A level grades. Last year, 15 girls secured Oxbridge places in subjects ranging PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics), to Law, to Natural Science to Modern Languages, to Classics.
This looks set to be a bumper year for KEHS’s aspiring medics too. Over half the 18 girls applying to study Medicine at universities including King's College, London, Birmingham and Cambridge have already received three or more interviews at their chosen destinations. Traditionally, KEHS’s strength in STEM subjects has given numerous students the chance to become doctors, dentists, vets, scientists and engineers. In 2018, 1twelve girls gained places to read Medicine with two studying dentistry and four being accepted for engineering.
Last year the School’s outstanding A level results – with 73% of grades at A*/A - topped the Birmingham league tables and placed it in 21st place in the Daily Telegraph league tables, for all independent schools nationally, while 71% of the students aiming to go straight to university gained places at their first choice institution.
“I am delighted that so many students are being given the life-changing opportunity to follow their dreams and study at top universities,” said Principal, Ann Clark. “They combine talent with a positive work ethic and determination to succeed and will, I am sure go on to be hugely successful in whatever domain they choose. Most of our girls are real all-rounders too, often excelling in several different areas – academically of course but also in Sport, Music, Art, Debating or Drama.
Our volume of Oxbridge offers has been very encouraging and we’re also pleased that 13 students from this year-group of 75 have so far received unconditional offers from other top Russell Group universities such as Nottingham, York and Royal Holloway to study courses including PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics), French and Russian and Music.
There’s been some scathing coverage about the increase of unconditional offers and the impact on students, who then may become complacent and under-achieve. However, I’m convinced these offers should be seen as a tribute to some of our talented, hard-working girls. These accolades acknowledge their huge potential and therefore their desirability, while removing the pressure of conditional grades and at the same time improving their wellbeing. At King Edward’s we have never found that our students take their foot off the pedal and under-perform after being awarded unconditional offers.”
King Edward VI High School for Girls staging sleep-themed ‘Salus Wellbeing Week’
KEHS is launching ‘Salus’, a week of activities designed to promote healthy sleep. This is increasingly recognised as central to mental and emotional wellbeing.
Amid growing concerns over the way poor and disrupted sleep damages children’s mental and physical health, King Edward VI High School for Girls, Edgbaston is launching a sleep-themed wellbeing week. Named ‘Salus’ from the Latin word for health, welfare and safety, the week provides numerous activities to help girls and staff at the high-performing school take charge of their own welfare in an increasingly frantic, stressful world.
A recent paper in The British Medical Journal suggests that sleep has greater impact on an adolescent’s mental wellbeing than bullying, physical activity and screen time. Its co-author Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:
“More and more evidence is showing that lack of sleep has a major impact on children’s mental and physical health, as well as learning…. At a time where there is so much competition with sleep thanks to technology and lifestyles, any education on the importance of sleep will benefit today’s young people.”
During Salus Week, KEHS girls will learn a range of strategies to promote healthy sleep, such as making their own lavender pillow drops, reviewing their “sleep tanks” to see if they are running low and trying the Tibetan Five Rites. These yoga-style movements were originally used by Tibetan monks to help them live calm, vibrant lives, boosting sound sleep, memory and emotional and mental health. Other de-stressing activities include aqua-fit, knitting, workshops on emotional intelligence and making nourishing smoothes.
“We have many high-achieving girls here,” said Salus Week organiser Sarah Shore-Nye, Head of the Lower School. “They are unusually talented in different areas and set themselves high standards, but their active minds and packed schedules mean they sometimes miss out on vital sleep, which can impact on their emotional and mental health. Some have perfectionist tendencies, some worry about being anxious, not recognising that a certain degree of anxiety is a natural reaction to life’s stresses.
Salus has become an annual event here. It’s about looking after the ‘whole you’, providing strategies to handle that stress – and I know this year’s focus on improving sleep will be really useful to all of us, girls and staff alike.”
The teachers are certainly not forgotten. Fruit will be provided in the staffroom at recess, as well as toast and biscuits, as a Salus Week treat The staff and Sixth Form are also holding a pyjama day with teachers even staying in their pjs for Parents Evening, though negligees or birthday suits are banned! Staff will have a stretching session before School each day in the multi gym and the girls will play live music at lunchtime in the Dining Hall.
Lower Sixth-former Nikita Jain, 17, who is studying English Literature, French, Physics, Maths and Further Maths is one of the main organisers on the Sixth Form Salus Week Committee.
"In a School as academic as KEHS, I feel it’s important to find the balance between studying and relaxing,” she said. “As someone who does 5 A Levels, with a considerable workload, I try to look after my own wellbeing. Sleep is a really crucial part of this and that is why it's a perfect theme for this year's Salus Week".
King Edward VI High School for Girls staging sleep-themed ‘Salus Wellbeing Week’ KEHS is launching ‘Salus’, a week of activities designed to promote healthy sleep. This is increasingly recognised as central to mental and emotional wellbeing. Amid growing concerns over the way poor and disrupted sleep damages children’s mental and physical health, King Edward VI High School for Girls, Edgbaston is launching a sleep-themed wellbeing week. Named ‘Salus’ from the Latin word for health, welfare and safety, the week provides numerous activities to help girls and staff at the high-performing school take charge of their own welfare in an increasingly frantic, stressful world. A recent paper in The British Medical Journal suggests that sleep has greater impact on an adolescent’s mental wellbeing than bullying, physical activity and screen time. Its co-author Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: “More and more evidence is showing that lack of sleep has a major impact on children’s mental and physical health, as well as learning…. At a time where there is so much competition with sleep thanks to technology and lifestyles, any education on the importance of sleep will benefit today’s young people.” During Salus Week, KEHS girls will learn a range of strategies to promote healthy sleep, such as making their own lavender pillow drops, reviewing their “sleep tanks” to see if they are running low and trying the Tibetan Five Rites. These yoga-style movements were originally used by Tibetan monks to help them live calm, vibrant lives, boosting sound sleep, memory and emotional and mental health. Other de-stressing activities include aqua-fit, knitting, workshops on emotional intelligence and making nourishing smoothes. “We have many high-achieving girls here,” said Salus Week organiser Sarah Shore-Nye, Head of the Lower School. “They are unusually talented in different areas and set themselves high standards, but their active minds and packed schedules mean they sometimes miss out on vital sleep, which can impact on their emotional and mental health. Some have perfectionist tendencies, some worry about being anxious, not recognising that a certain degree of anxiety is a natural reaction to life’s stresses. Salus has become an annual event here. It’s about looking after the ‘whole you’, providing strategies to handle that stress – and I know this year’s focus on improving sleep will be really useful to all of us, girls and staff alike.” The teachers are certainly not forgotten. Fruit will be provided in the staffroom at recess, as well as toast and biscuits, as a Salus Week treat The staff and Sixth Form are also holding a pyjama day with teachers even staying in their pjs for Parents Evening, though negligees or birthday suits are banned! Staff will have a stretching session before School each day in the multi gym and the girls will play live music at lunchtime in the Dining Hall. Lower Sixth-former Nikita Jain, 17, who is studying English Literature, French, Physics, Maths and Further Maths is one of the main organisers on the Sixth Form Salus Week Committee. "In a School as academic as KEHS, I feel it’s important to find the balance between studying and relaxing,” she said. “As someone who does 5 A Levels, with a considerable workload, I try to look after my own wellbeing. Sleep is a really crucial part of this and that is why it's a perfect theme for this year's Salus Week".
Moving Armistice Centenary Commemoration on Women in Birmingham
KEHS unveils a striking Art mural featuring the role of women and schoolgirls in World War I as a permanent memorial during their moving Armistice Centenary Commemoration.
King Edward VI High School for Girls, Edgbaston has staged a moving Armistice Centenary Commemoration, focussing on the role of women and schoolgirls, particularly from the Birmingham area, in World War I. Most of the staff and pupils dressed in contemporary costume and experienced typical school activities of the period. Some did Swedish drill in place of PE and danced to ragtime music or sang the stirring songs of the time, including ‘Tipperary’ and ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’. Others recreated the Western Front in a drama session with authentic-looking trenches, barbed wire, flares, darkness and ‘the fog of war’.
Groups studied the History and Literature of the War and its aftermath, from the patriotic poetry of the day to the bleak disillusion of the War poets such as Siegried Sassoon and Wilfrid Owen. The school’s Poet Laureate Nandini Bulchandani performed a thought-provoking poem specially commissioned for the occasion and groups of girls wrote their own sonnets reflecting their own impressions of the War. The high point of the morning was an Armistice ceremony at which staff member Gemma Hargraves, a former captain in the Royal Artillery, shared her experiences as an officer on the front line in Iraq and Afghanistan and linked these to the actions and emotions of her predecessors serving in the Great War.
Lunch took the form of a street party at long tables in the dining hall with poppy bunting and typical posters of the period, urging women ‘Waste not Want not’ and ‘Make do and Mend’. Even the menu was drawn from recipes developed by the renowned King Edward’s cookery teacher Florence George who in 1917 wrote an influential wartime cookery book, amending her original recipes because of food shortages caused by the blockades.
“It’s been a fascinating day,” said Lower Sixth former Scarlett Brunning, 16, “sombre, naturally but acknowledging how the War and its immediate aftermath and remembrance shaped modern times and affected future generations. I hope this sort of commemoration happens in another hundred years as if a cataclysmic event like this is not remembered, it becomes futile.”
“This has been a haunting but wonderful experience,” added KEHS Principal Ann Clark. “Everyone joined in whole-heartedly and the day provided extraordinary moments of reflection about what the War meant to all sections of society particularly on the home front and in Birmingham.” As a poignant reminder, a large commemorative mural was unveiled, painted by recent school leavers and showing the different roles undertaken by women in Birmingham, from bus drivers to scientists, while most of the men of fighting age were away at the Front. Among the local landmarks represented were the Birmingham University clock tower, Steelhouse Lane and the imposing building which 100 years ago housed the school in New Street at the heart of the city.
“I wanted this day to be a landmark in the school’s history, representing the past, present and future,” said historian Cas Britton, the event’s organiser. “It’s the culmination of four years of commemorative events and I feel it’s beholden on us as a prestigious girls’ school to mark this extraordinary event in a truly striking way. In place of the roll of honour that so many boys’ schools have, our extraordinary Art mural will be a permanent memorial that we can view and reflect on for decades to come.”
Aliyah Begum from KEHS is crowned Birmingham's Young Poet Laureate
Award-winning teenage writer Aliyah Begum is named Birmingham's Young Poet Laureate soon after being shortlisted for the Foyle's Young Poet of the Year
Award-winning poet and writer Aliyah Begum, 15, from Acocks Green has been crowned Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate, during the Birmingham Literature Festival and said she was “overwhelmed and incredibly proud”. Aliyah, a pupil at King Edward VI High School for Girls, Edgbaston was among hundreds of talented youngsters who applied for the honour which, along with the adult Laureateship, is awarded every two years by the Birmingham Library and Writing West Midlands. As Young Laureate, she will write and perform at important occasions and workshops across the region, designed to inspire and encourage thousands of young people to become creative writers themselves. Previous Young Laureates have appeared on radio and TV, met politicians and royalty and written on a range of subjects, including sport, romance, gaming and what it's like to be young today. The role also involves producing poems for special events like Holocaust Memorial Day, Black History Month and International Women's Day.
“When I heard I’d been selected as Young Laureate, I was incredibly happy as I genuinely wasn’t expecting it,” Aliyah explained. “Everyone had to submit two poems and write 300 words about themselves and what they’d hope to do in the role. Three of us were shortlisted for the final interviews at Birmingham Library and I had to perform one of my poems and a poem by someone else. I chose one called “For the victims of the Real Dead Seas”, which I wrote about the victims of the refugee crisis. It was in front of a panel of four who were really nice – but it was pretty nerve-wracking. I didn’t come out feeling ‘Yeah I nailed it!’ so I’m thrilled to get such an exciting opportunity.”
Aliyah has always loved writing poems and stories and was recently shortlisted for the prestigious international award ‘Foyle’s Young Poet of the Year.’ She also excels at Maths and won a place at KEHS aged 11 after attending Cottesbrooke Junior School (now Cedars Academy) in Acocks Green. She admits that she used to be cripplingly shy but that taking part in performance poetry through her school’s Spoken Word Club, run by Old Edwardian poet Jasmine Gardosi, helped her to overcome it and boosted her confidence.
“I wasn’t very confident in Year 7,” she said, “but joining the Spoken Word Club helped make me more outgoing. I recently performed at Poetry Jam, an open mic night in different coffee shops in the city centre, which was scary but exciting. I love Birmingham and I just feel great to be representing the city. I’m the middle one of three sisters and it’s wonderful to have made my whole family proud of me. My school have been really supportive and I’m so glad Jasmine and my English teacher Mrs Shore-Nye both encouraged me to apply.”
“We’re hugely proud of Aliyah,” said Ann Clark, Principal of KEHS. "She is a remarkably talented young woman who richly deserves the prestigious award of Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate."
Aliyah was crowned Young Laureate at a ceremony this week, during the Birmingham Literature Festival. Below are two of her award-winning poems.]
Some infinities are bigger than others
My mum says she doesn’t understand Maths but she teaches me
how to make her smile through the parabola of her frown,
how to decrease the height of her raised eyebrow through the angle of its jilt,
and how to give the best hugs through the curve of her arms.
When she replies to my ‘I Love You’s with ‘I Love You More’ she teaches me that some infinities are bigger than others, when I ask her ‘What About My Sisters?’ she tells me that infinity divided by three is still infinity, when I open my mouth to ask something else, she tells me that ‘Often The Most Complicated Things In Life Are Simpler Than People Think’,
which doesn’t answer my question but I stay silent as I can tell from the semi-circles under her eyes that she is tired.
-------- Mind the Gap
Step over the yellow line because at this point in time the lines that once divided and defined (between you and me) we have learnt to colour outside of.
Between old and young, we laugh that times never really change, between different mother tongues, a smile can always be exchanged, and between now and then, us and them, we also see that things never really stay the same.
From the corn markets to coal mining, from concrete buildings to aluminium disks, the past inches further away, and the only way to evolve is to take certain risks. But the gap between now and then is not as wide as it seems;
Trains are still delayed at Moor Street and Dairy Milk still tastes just as sweet. You wait ages for an 11 bus, to finally be greeted by a fleet.
Step over the yellow line, notice how the paint has worn away, because change is a constant that will always stay the same, so watch your step but don't mind the gap between past times and today.
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