St George's aims to provide an inspiring education for girls to prepare them for taking their place in the global community as women of independent mind. Our school motto, Chaucer's Trouthe and Honour, Fredom and Curteisye still informs our ethos today.
A Big Bang Win for Girls in Science at St George’s
A Big Bang Win for Girls in Science at St George’s - running a range of science-related academic enrichment programmes encouraging girls to participate in STEM competitions is proving extremely successful.
3rd April 2020 — Encouraging more girls to study STEM subjects is high on the list of priorities at St George’s School for Girl in Edinburgh, and running a range of science-related academic enrichment programmes encouraging girls to participate in STEM competitions is proving extremely successful.
Two S5 students, Sophie and Iman, entered the national Big Bang Fair engineering competition where their entry won the 'Runners Up' Award in the 'Intermediate Engineering' category.
Sophie and Iman developed a design for a 'Water-Powered Flood Barrier' in response to the global issues caused by flooding each year. Their entry featured a versatile barrier using recycled materials, such as plastics, creating an eco-friendly solution.
Speaking on behalf of Iman, Sophie commented on their recent win:
“The issue of global flooding has elevated dramatically in recent years due to climate change and this prompted us to design an eco-friendly and locally sustainable solution. We wanted to mitigate the devastating impacts of flooding on surrounding areas and utilise the problem of flooding to power the solution.
“Taking part in the competition has been an amazing journey and has inspired us. I am now thinking of pursuing a career in Engineering.”
The girls qualified for the Big Bang competition through submitting a first-class video entry. You can see their video clip entry here: https://bit.ly/2WW5Szn . Their runners-up award has earned them a trophy and £250 to share.
Sophie and Iman's original concept is also being considered for the UK 'Water Prize', which will be decided over the coming months.
The Big Bang Fair is a national, annual competition which recognises and rewards young peoples’ achievements in all areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), whilst providing them with the opportunity to build their skills and confidence in project-based work.
Alex Hems, Head of St George’s, commented:
“We are absolutely delighted for the girls. It is a real achievement to see how their initial idea has developed throughout the whole process and a great outcome after the many hours of hard work they put into their project.
“We are certainly seeing a national drive to engage more girls in STEM at school, and we are fortunate at St George’s – an all girls’ school - that we can avoid stereotypes, allowing girls to choose subjects that interest them and that they are good at.
“We have a range of academic enrichment programmes available, from science clubs in the primary years, through to a Medical Society in S6. We encourage girls to participate in a wide variety of STEM competitions, and have been successful in design and electronics competitions, as well as having UK winners in Mathematics, Neuroscience, Biology and Chemistry competitions. Recent visits from Medical Research Scotland and the prominent research physicist Dr Helen Czerski have proven extremely successful in getting more girls engaged.
“In recent years science has had the highest uptake of any of the option subjects in our national examinations. We buck the national trends: 25% of our girls take all three sciences at GCSE in S4, STEM subjects take the largest proportion of students in S5 and S6, and well over one third of all our university entrants go on to study STEM based courses.”
We're Better Prepared for Distance Learning Than Ever
4 key lessons we have learned about my eLearning strategy to increase the use of digital technology to support learning amongst students and teachers.
27th March 2020 — It has always been part of my eLearning strategy to increase the use of digital technology to support learning amongst students and teachers, though my timescales have certainly been compressed somewhat by recent events!
In lots of ways, though, we are better prepared for distance learning and teaching than ever before. The level of technology available to students is such that communication, collaboration and sharing resources, assignments and feedback has never been easier. Our school uses Microsoft’s Office 365 – though similar options are available through Google, and other providers, of course. In particular, we have been focusing on using Teams for classes, to support remote learning.
Throughout the process I have been inspired by colleagues and educators around the world: both those at the bleeding edge of using technology in education, and those who are less comfortable with technology, who have nevertheless embraced the challenges and opportunities afforded by digital learning. Every teacher I have spoken to in recent weeks – in St George’s, on #Edutwitter, or friends who teach in schools all around the world – has demonstrated a tremendous passion for our students’ wellbeing and continuing education that is both heartwarming and humbling.
It’s been a steep learning curve for everyone involved, but we’ve certainly learned a few key lessons ourselves:
• It’s OK to find it hard – while some people (myself included) love the tech, and enjoy playing and experimenting with it, many others don’t. And that’s fine!
• It’s OK to be honest with your students – don’t try to pass yourself off as an expert if you’re still finding your feet. Your students will understand that you are figuring things out; some of them will be equally nonplussed, while others may actually be able to help you (and their peers) to figure things out.
• It’s OK to make mistakes – indeed, it’s inevitable. Not everything will work perfectly, every time. Don’t panic, don’t obsess over what went wrong. Instead, learn from it, try to figure out a different way. And on that point…
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are lots of places you can seek support. Your school will have staff who are more confident with technology, most of whom will be happy to offer tips and advice. Further afield, there is a lot of help available online. Microsoft have been pushing out tons of videos, wakelets, blog posts and tweets offering support and suggestions; they have been really proactive in sharing useful sites, and also responsive in answering queries and questions. There are lots of inspirational teachers out there, sharing ideas and lessons learned, too: a Twitter search for #Edutwitter is a good place to start.
As to what we’re doing with all of this tech? Well, at its most basic level we can use Teams (for individual classes, or year group cohorts) as a way to communicate. Often that will be by text, but the video-conferencing capacity of Meetings means we can actually teach lessons from home, with relative ease, talking to our students, fielding questions, sharing our screens to model answers and annotations, or demonstrate working. We can set homework assignments, mark and grade online, share links, resources… Of course, this is important for developing their curricular skills and knowledge, but it’s also important for safeguarding their emotional well-being.
Many cynical adults may imagine students are delighted with the idea of staying off school – and no doubt some are. But most of the young people I’ve spoken with are unsettled, fearful of the risk to their health and the lives and livelihoods of their loved ones, concerned about impact on their futures. The chance to see a familiar face, have a little normalcy, a little human contact means a lot to them: we are using Teams with our form classes as frontline pastoral contact. Even something as silly as sharing videos of penguins walking round aquariums, or pictures of drunk elephants, can raise a smile and lift their spirits – and ours, too!
What exactly the future holds for digital learning remains to be seen. How will we maintain long-term engagement and enthusiasm? For ourselves, as much as the students? Ever the optimist, I prefer to consider the opportunities, though. What new ways of engaging with learning will we develop? What interesting strategies will we work out, together, as a profession? And what bold, new creativity will we unleash in our students?
Businesses Need To Support Women Or Risk Losing Out On Tomorrow's Talent
Empowering girls in the workplace by Alex Hems, Head, St George’s School for Girls, Edinburgh.
7th January 2020 — Despite there being almost a million more women in Britain than men, only one in five UK businesses are run by females. For those who feel women have found their voice and that their contributions and skills are now being recognised alongside men, these statistics tell a different story.
The advancement of female entrepreneurs could be worth £250bn to the UK economy, yet often the challenges women face mean that many of us fail to achieve our potential. While some progress has undoubtedly been made, there is still much to be done to empower women to flourish.
As the Head of Scotland’s largest all-through girls’ school, I see the opportunities girls have to thrive in a nurturing environment where they can explore routes that might otherwise be deemed ‘for boys’. Typically, over a third of St George’s girls go on to study STEM-based subjects at university and we offer bursaries for S5 and S6 girls from other schools who can’t access the sixth form subjects they need to go on to study their area of interest.
While important, however, academic performance is not the only measure of a good education. The innovators of the future who will sell ideas, change minds, and move people to action need to first find their own voice and hold the belief that their opinion matters.
A review by the British Government into the barriers faced by women in business found that just 9% of funding for UK start-ups goes to businesses run by women. This is unacceptable, and the Scottish Government has pledged a second year of support to Investing Women, a network that helps female-led businesses access vital funding. This is a step forward - but how do we bring about change so organisations like these are no longer required to fill the gaps left by gender inequality?
I recently spoke at an Empowering Women Causeway business event and what came through loud and clear from the audience of professional women he feeling they had to act in a certain way to be taken seriously in business. Not being able to remain your authentic self can significantly damage your wellbeing, and ultimately your effectiveness as a leader.
It is well documented that women tend to focus more on their failures and are more self-critical than men. At St George’s, we instil a ‘Yes She Can’ mindset and encourage our girls to explore their strengths and grow as individuals, giving them the confidence and structure to follow their own path in life.
Interestingly, this girl-centric approach is not only taking place in education; the field of sport is also championing a tailored approach for girls to encourage participation. British tennis coach Judy Murray has spoken passionately about the need for coaches to adapt their approaches to best engage the next generation of girls in sport.
It is crucial that women support one another, and I believe that we need to look out for one another in the workplace in particular. According to a LinkedIn study, 82% of women believe having a mentor is important, yet one in five reports lacking this support. At St George’s we have set up Network St G’s, which allows current and former students to network and offer mentoring, support and advice.
Building a supportive network of generous leaders is vital if we are to encourage the next generation of young women into leadership. Their ideas about what makes for a fulfilling life may be rather different from ours. I think that some of my own peers’ daughters will look at their parent’s lives and wonder whether that is really for them. But it is essential that young women see leadership as something that is not only open to them, but is an appealing and sustainable position for the long term.
Entrance exams for autumn term entry into P1 and S1 at St George’s School for Girls take place in January 2020. For further information about entrance assessments for all year groups, contact admissions on 0131 311 8008.
All-through Schools are an Education in Getting it Right for Kids
An article about the merits of an all-through education by Alex Hems, Head of St George's School for Girls, Edinburgh
7th January 2020 — Many of us will remember the summer before we moved into ‘big school’. The excitement of a new school mixed with trepidation as we worried about ‘fitting in’. For some it is a chance to reinvent themselves, for others it presents an unsettling experience.
Adjusting to a new environment and social group takes time and as Head of St George’s, Scotland largest all-through girls’ school, I appreciate the rich opportunities our structure presents.
Transitions, whether from pre-school into primary 1 or from primary to secondary education, can be very challenging for students. The transition to secondary school in particular can have a detrimental impact on children’s wellbeing at such a key stage in their development. This coincides with significant social, emotional and physiological changes in the lives of young people, which often results in a shift in focus away from learning and can have a significant effect.
The all-through school structure offers a way of minimising this disruption and allows a school to plan their curriculum seamlessly, from nursery to S6. This sense of coherent progression makes a great difference to students’ confidence.
In my experience, the all-through model enables schools to offer a more holistic response to the changing needs of learning and teaching and allows them to provide specialist instruction across the school. Teaching can be tailored to a pupil’s needs with a significant level of attention for every student, as well as offering more flexible approaches, including teaching by stage as opposed to age. For example, nursery children can receive specialist teaching in PE, and in junior school, children can receive specialist teaching delivered by upper school staff in languages, drama and art as well as gaining access to the facilities of a secondary school.
Additionally, having the opportunity to make informed decisions that are right for the pupils at the various stages of their development is a key opportunity that all-through schools present. At St George’s for example, we have chosen to group our primary 6 through to S1 girls together in the Lower School to allow us to focus on the emotional and social development of girls when they are aged 10-13 - it’s such an important life stage.
One of the key advantages of an all-through education is the ability to forge longer-term relationships with the girls and their families which is less easy in other school structures. Teachers take a great deal of care in planning the composition of class groups and teaching sets for the following year by employing their deep knowledge of their students. This has often accumulated over many years of working with them, taking into account friendship groups which may or may not be working well together. Another significant advantage in running an all-through school is the opportunity for very detailed handovers between different school stages, ensuring that key information about a child is fully passed on when they progress from primary to secondary education, for example.
By participating in co-curricular activities, such as sport and music, at an all-through school pupils get to play and compete with their peers over several years. This continuity can be hugely beneficial when it comes to building successful close-knit sports teams and musical groups.
The sense of family is very strong within St George’s and this is achieved through activities such as paired reading and numeracy programmes with the primary and secondary girls. For the younger students, the senior girls are fantastic role-models; the whole school benefits from their ambition, leadership skills, aspirations and successes. For the older ones the presence of the youngest reminds them of their responsibilities across the community and provides immensely rewarding opportunities for cross-year collaboration.
In an all-through school, pastoral teams can work as one across the whole school. This can be of great benefit where there are several members of the same family in the school, enabling school leaders to ensure appropriate support is in place for families or individual siblings that may be facing particular challenges.
For teachers, the opportunity to work across stages can be immensely rewarding, offering variety over the course of a career and a teaching day as well as providing a sense of warmth and community amongst pupils and parents. My colleagues and I can build strong and lasting relationships with families over several years, allowing trust and understanding to grow, which is fundamental in the three-way partnership between parents, teachers and child that lies at the heart of education.
Without doubt, the transition between schools can be unsettling and present the chance for a potential performance dip or stumbling-block in a student’s education. However, the shared educational ethos of an all-through school supports children from age 4 (or younger when there is a nursery) right through to 18, bringing with it wide-ranging advantages for students, staff and parents alike.
Why not find out about an all-through education at St George's by contacting our admissions department, T: 0131 311 8008, E: firstname.lastname@example.org. Entrance exams take place in January 2020 for autumn 2020 entry.
Impressive Exam Results Reveal Diversity in Subjects and Careers
The girls' impressive performance has secured entry to a real diversity of courses and careers: Girls are heading off to 34 different universities to study 75 different courses
9th August 2019 — The students and teachers of St George's School for Girls, Edinburgh, have been celebrating another year of exceptional achievement, having just received their SQA examination results.
Alex Hems, Head at St George's, says:
"We're incredibly proud of all of our girls today. The level of achievement across all subjects at Higher and Advanced Higher is, once again, very impressive. All of this year's excellent results are a testament to the girls' hard work and commitment and the dedication of our fantastic teaching staff.
"In particular, I believe that the work ethic the girls had already developed when doing their GCSEs last year has contributed to the overall strength of the Higher results."
In Advanced Higher St George's results show outstanding success, with a 98% pass rate (A-C grade), and with 89% of grades awarded at A or B grade. 15 students achieved A grades in 3 or more subjects.
The school attained an impressive 94% pass rate (A-C grade) at Higher Level for L6 (S5) pupils with 82% achieving A or B grades. 26 students received A grades in 5 or more Higher examinations.
"At Advanced Higher, the girls' performance has secured entry to a real diversity of courses and careers," Mrs Alex Hems says. "At the last count, we have girls heading off to 34 different universities to study 75 different courses, based on the strength of their Advanced Higher results.
"We have girls who have opted to study abroad in Paris and Amsterdam to do Art and Economic Business, while others are choosing Biological Sciences and International Tourism Management which include a year in industry as part of their degrees; and some are delaying university and taking a gap year. This is the result of St George's high level of support and guidance, which allows us to genuinely cater for our girls' individual needs.
"Our ethos means that we always encourage our girls to choose courses and careers that they are passionate about and fit their ambitions.
"The range of university courses and the strength of our results benefit from being a girls' school without any influence from gender stereotypes. We remain a relatively small school compared to some, with smaller class sizes, which means more individual attention. But St George's is big enough to help us provide flexibility in our academic curriculum so we can offer more subject choices and combinations in public exams.
"We wish all of our Sixth Year leavers the very best, confident that we have equipped them with the skills, knowledge and adaptability to exceed in their academic and professional careers, in a world which is characterized by rapid change."
A high percentage of leavers achieved their first choice of university reading subjects from Medical Sciences, Physics with Astrophysics, Mathematics, Civil and Software Engineering, Zoology, Psychology, Art, Musical Theatre, Music, Politics, History, International Relations, Languages, Law, Finance and Business.
Many St George's girls will be going onto the premier league Russell group of universities including Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, University College London, as well as St Andrews.
The magic of orchestral music brings young and old together
The magic of orchestral music brings young and old together: St George’s Nursery joins forces with Murrayfield House Care Home and Scotland’s National Orchestra in an inter-generational music project to improve the wellbeing of local care home residents
28th May 2019 — The magic of orchestral music brings young and old together: St George’s Nursery joins forces with Murrayfield House Care Home and Scotland’s National Orchestra in an inter-generational music project to improve the wellbeing of local care home residents
Girls from the Nursery at St George’s School for Girls in Edinburgh have been learning songs and rhymes to participate in an inter-generational music initiative, RSNO Generations, run by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
As regular visitors to Murrayfield House Care Home, the Nursery were delighted to be invited by the Care Home to join their residents as a pilot group of nursery-aged children and the elderly working together in a series of interactive orchestral music workshops.
The project pilot, which has been funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery through Postcode Community Trust and by the Lendrum Charitable Trust, aims to use orchestral music to improve the social and emotional health of the elderly by encouraging social interactions between the generations when they spend time together singing and playing games.
Lisa Nettleton, Head of St George’s Nursery, commented:
“Introducing our nursery children to the joy of music is an important part of our preschool curriculum. Our girls have loved getting to know residents, spending more time with the older generation, and by singing and playing musical instruments with them. It has enhanced the girls’ social and personal development as well as introducing them to some of the musical instruments used in an orchestra. A truly enriching experience for all of us.”
A spokesperson from Murrayfield House said:
“The combination of live music, well-known songs and young children transformed the room. Lots of toe-tapping and smiles all around. Our residents were highly engaged and communicative with the children. They looked forward to the sessions every week, and having the children on site helps make the residents feel more at home. It does wonders for them overall.”
“The music gets everyone involved”, says Samantha Campbell, Head of Learning and Engagement at RSNO. “It’s designed to appeal to everyone from the youngest to the oldest. Participants enjoy the music sessions with both parties benefiting from the interactions across the ages. There is a feeling of enthusiasm and rejuvenation enjoyed by everyone.”
The RSNO is hoping to secure more funding to extend the programme.