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A Pillar of the Community
What makes somebody ‘a pillar of the community’?  I’d love to say that this is an original thought of mine, but it isn’t.  It’s something that’s stuck with me since I watched the somewhat whimsical film ‘Bank of Dave’ – based on a true story about looking out for your community.

So back to the original question.  Usually a pillar of the community is a particularly active, respected, and influential member of one’s local social sphere.  On International Women’s Day, I’d like to propose that there are other pillars of the community – and very very often, they’re women.  These are some of our community’s pillars:  Ann, Linda and Nasreen, who between them have kept our school clean for years;  Nora and Janina, mainstays of the catering team; Jo and Anne-Marie who keep Finance and Senior School Reception going.  These are just some of the long-standing pillars of our community – utterly reliable, unstinting, key members of the Abbey School.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘Embracing Equity’, as we remember that equity, for many women and girls, is still a long way off.  For instance, did you know natural disasters affect women disproportionately more than men, women making up 80% of those displaced by climate change.

I love this depiction of what equity means:

Twenty-five years ago, somewhat by accident, having been educated in co-educational schools, I found myself working in a girls’ school.  It was a revelation.  Here girls did everything – they ran all the student meetings, they spoke in all the student-led assemblies, they were on the debating team and in all the sports teams.  It was such a good place to be a girl. I’ve worked in two other girls’ schools since, and my experience is that girls’ schools aren’t just like boys’ schools but for girls, they have their own particular way of doing things.  Leadership in girls looks and feels different – girls like to collaborate, to work together in teams, to build each other up.  Girls at their best naturally act compassionately towards their peers; they want everyone to do well.   We’re a couple of weeks away from the Gym and Dance Show in Senior School and everywhere I go at breaks, lunchtimes and after school, there are myriad groups of students working together on their pieces for what promises to be a fantastic show.

But are we preparing our students for the reality of their lives beyond school? Is this just a protective cocoon? In so many ways at school, our girls have the opportunities to become more confident, to move towards discovering their life’s purpose, and to find joy in many many moments.  My wish would be, in this week where we celebrated IWD, that all girls’ the world over, could have the opportunities our girls’ enjoy.  And be given the understanding and skills that will mean that they in their turn become pillars of their communities.

Allison Hadwin, Deputy Head Ethos and Pastoral

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