Big news to start the summer


This is a special edition of our regular Heads Connected series focusing on three hugely exciting developments to mark the start of this summer term. These projects really do span the range from Nursery to Sixth Form and, we hope, will enhance the experience for every member of our community.

Yesterday we announced the start of our Sixth Form development. In a single academic year we intend to create a brand new Sixth Form centre, new learning spaces, enhanced seminar and teaching rooms, and an additional dining room. One way to summarise the scheme is room to breathe, room to grow and room to develop. Improved facilities, more light, more air, more space: all to provide room for study, activity, living and thinking to flourish.

Today our focus turns to the other end of the school experience as we launch Little Knellies, a new name and a renewed focus for our wonderful nursery facilities in Knell House. It is always such a joy to visit Knell: it is awash with enthusiasm and eagerness – the curiosity and inquisitiveness of all our students is so visible on the surface.

Little Knellies is a way to celebrate that delightful energy and promote a learning environment that starts students on the wonderful Abbey journey. As you know we are passionate advocates of girls’ only education: not as a retreat from the co-educational world beyond, but as an arena of complete freedom. Freedom from narrow gendered expectations; freedom to develop and grow as a whole person; freedom to fulfil each individual’s potential and to go out into the (co-ed) world with conviction, assurance and the sure knowledge of the right to be heard and to lead.

From the first day of Nursery we are nurturing that freedom and that confidence for girls. Many of our Little Knellies today will be our Sixth Formers before we know it, ready for a world that will have changed so much in a decade and a half. What they learn now will be the foundation of the skills and talent and joy they bring to that future.

Finally, a sneak preview of a scheme launching next week: The Abbey’s Big Conversation. One of the highest priorities for us will always be dialogue, discussion and communication across the school: the active involvement of student voice and parental insight; the development of a community where we harness all our talents towards our common goal – the most brilliant experience and opportunities for our students.

The Big Conversation is intended to take this sense of shared purpose and dialogue to the next level. It is an umbrella for a host of linked initiatives. We’ll be opening up our doors for regular breakfast chats, giving parents an opportunity to drop in to school to mingle, ask questions relevant to their daughters’ stage in school, and share ideas. We’re re-launching our Parent Talk series: a set of webinars and live events featuring everything from talks about the issues young people are facing to events of wider and general interest, with speakers drawn from within and beyond our community.

We’ll also launch a parent and student survey. The core of it will be an annual exercise, designed to get feedback on crucial areas of school life. We’ll use the information from these regular surveys to build up a picture of key issues for our community and guide our forward progress. Alongside that, in this first annual survey, we’ll have additional questions about the direction of the school to give all members of our community a formal opportunity to contribute to ongoing strategic thinking.

So – look out for more on the Big Conversation next week. In the meantime this is a lovely time of year to look to the future: there are signs of growth and life everywhere. We wish all students well for the summer term ahead, and of course special thoughts for those getting their exams done. Exams themselves are steps on the great journey. Our task is to plan the way forward for the school in a way that supports and nurtures the way forward for each of the individuals within it. We are always aware that the school is precisely the total of all the people within and connected to it: coming together to become more than the sum of our parts. That is, in the end, what makes this such a special and delightful place.

Will le Fleming, Head

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