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From the Headmistress

From the Headmistress
in Senior

Welcome to St Swithun's

The product of a girls’ school, I have always argued for equal opportunities and believed that girls are as capable as boys.

Having discovered at an early age that I was too self-conscious to make a convincing ballet dancer, I tried every other available sport and am an ardent believer in the power of exercise to lift spirits. Although my singing voice can best be described as ‘occasionally tuneful’ I also advocate communal singing for its physical and mental benefits and we begin each day at St Swithun’s with a hymn.

During my education, I enjoyed a range of subjects, am interested in all areas of the curriculum and was, and am, a compulsive reader. I discovered Radio 4 at university and encourage all pupils to listen although I recognise that some of the more recondite programmes are of specialised interest. I understand that humans are creatures of habit, and I am no exception, but I am always alive to the possibility of breaking out of my rut and trying something different. You would never find me in the same chair in the staffroom for example. I like to surprise, and be surprised, and am no stranger to change.

Over the years I have been in education, I have refined my philosophy which can be summed up as believing ardently in every pupil’s potential to make improvements and in the importance of teachers being explicit about the characteristics and skills required to achieve success in all areas of life.

Incredible exam results, up in the dizzying thin air at the top of the league tables. How a relatively unselective school like this one manages it must drive the London hothouses around the bend.

The Good Schools Guide

At St Swithun’s we are genuinely kind, we work hard to equip our pupils to be independent thinkers and we encourage and celebrate individual interests and talents. An example of this is encouraging pupils to lead assembly. Although the subject matter can sometimes be a little on the edgy side, we try to avoid censorship because when a pupil delivers an assembly of her choosing she is living out our ethos of encouraging individuality.

We see ourselves as ‘appropriately academic’ which means that we have extremely high standards, but we are not academic to the exclusion of all else. Our aim is for our pupils to achieve outstanding results in a low-pressure environment in which everyone has a strong sense of proportion.

Thus, our prevailing ethos is one of every girl striving to break her own personal best rather than competing with her classmates. We want our girls to understand that their ability is not fixed but will change over time when they receive good teaching and when they respond to feedback. They will not do everything perfectly straight away and they will make mistakes, but that is often when the best learning takes place. In the words of Samuel Beckett “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Being a pupil at St Swithun’s means being part of a vibrant community, one in which I expect girls to question, to take on responsibility, to plough their own furrow, but also to care for others and one that I hope they will seek to improve for the good of all.

Jane Gandee
MA Cantab

Read the Headmistress's Blog, which includes the latest research showing how a St Swithun's education adds value. Follow Jane Gandee on Twitter @StSwithunsHead.
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