On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, I was delighted to welcome Dr Helen Wright back to Gillespie's.
Dr Wright was born in Scotland, educated at James Gillespie's High School and went on to Oxford to study Modern and Medieval Languages. After training as a teacher, she experienced a rapid rise in the education world, teaching at co-educational and boys’ schools and was appointed to the headship of her first girls’ school, Heathfield in Ascot, at the age of just 30, making her one of the youngest ever appointed public school heads.Currently, Dr Wright is Head of St Mary’s Calne in Wiltshire, which she has led for nearly a decade. She will shortly be moving to Australia to head Ascham School in Sydney, one of the country’s top girls’ schools, from January 2013.
On Tuesday morning Dr Wright gave an address to around 50 of our S5 and S6 students on 'How to maximise your chances of gaining a place at the university of your choice'.
In the course of her presentation and follow up Q and A session the following key points came through.
- We should all be ambitious
- Choose the best university and not just any university
- Hard work is required to be successful and generates choices
- Be prepared to take risks
- Read widely and explore your thoughts in a critical forum
- When completing application forms pay attention to detail. (No spelling or grammatical mistakes).
- Life is a long term project - look to the future
- Aim to be a global citizen
- Remember your wider responsibility and purpose
- Be resilient and relentlessly optimistic
- Gap years must be productive. Some courses, e.g. Maths do not like you to defer entry
- Drop out rates are higher for students who stay at home
- Learning must challenge - don't always play safe
- Universities want more women to study maths and engineering; Maths is one of the best core subjects
- Be prepared to take a loan out to finance your education - think of this as an investment
After the presentation to our senior students Dr Wright was taken on a tour of the school by two of our senior girls. After the tour I had the opportunity to spend an absorbing, informative and stimulating 2 hours with her discussing various educational matters.We talked at length about leadership, values in education, moral leadership, developing our staff, boarding versus day schools and single sex education. Although the types of school we both lead are quite different it became very clear that we had so much in common. For example, both of our schools are high performing with a culture of high expectations. In both of our schools we enjoy the support of parents. We agreed that the support and engagement of parents is key if our pupils are to achieve their potential.
On Wednesday Dr Wright returned and delivered a presentation to an audience of invited staff from various local schools on 'Inspiring Leadership for the 21 Century'. This was very well received and gave all of us some food for thought as we return to our various schools.
We wish Dr Wright and her family every success and happiness in her new post in Sydney and look forward to welcoming her to Gillespie's again in the not too distant future.