When I arrived at Brighton Girls in January, I wrote about two simple words that have long been associated with the school, and expressed my intention to find out whether these two words truly reflected the community of Brighton Girls.

The words, as you will remember, are KIND and BOLD.

Over the last two terms, I have talked to various members of the Brighton Girls community – parents, pupils, teachers, support staff – and have asked them to share their thoughts about the school. The interesting part of this process has been that, regardless of age or experience, the words people use to describe Brighton Girls fall largely into two categories. For example, during a staff values session, the teaching and support staff used words like “nurturing”, “family”, “caring” and “kind” to describe the school, but also suggested words like “quirky”, “wacky”, “energetic” and “vibrant” – and the top five words from Years 5 to 10, who have recently completed a values survey, are the words “friendly”, “caring”, “kind”, “confident” and “different”. So far, no matter to whom I have spoken, many of the words connect either to being kind or to being bold. These two ideas seem to be a consistent element of the Brighton Girls experience.

Even when students were asked to capture their thoughts through analogies (If Brighton Girls were an animal, it would be a…) the same two themes emerged. Some chose unusual animals with distinctive qualities: tardigrades (for their “resilience and uniqueness”; koi fish (for their “perseverance in adversity”); pangolin (“because we are rare”). Others chose animals suggestive of power and confidence, like the osprey (“strong yet elegant”), and the lion (“brave and adventurous”). But the largest category by far were animals connected with loyalty and companionship: poodles (“because they are playful and loving”); capybara (“because they are the friendliest animals in the world”); dolphins (“because they are kind, confident, they always look like they are having fun, and they swim in families looking out for each other”); and wolves (because they “care for their injured, protect their family, and instinctively need to be part of something bigger than themselves”).

So, if the school were a stick of rock, would it have the words ‘kind’ and ‘bold’ running through the middle?

Well, the good news is that, as well as creating a strong, coherent community in the present, these values could provide our students with the foundations for future success. Earlier this term, we hosted a Future Skills Forum, which brought together parents from a number of professions. We asked them which skills and attributes they valued most in the workplace. Almost without exception, the competencies and characteristics described fell again into the same two categories. On the one hand, many felt that to succeed in the world of tomorrow, our students will need exceptional people skills (empathy, emotional intelligence, the ability to work in a team) and I would place kindness at the very heart of this. On the other hand, it was felt that bravery, creativity, courage and resilience were equally prized – all of which link to a kind of inner strength and to being bold. So, it seems that whoever first linked Brighton Girls to these two simple words was on to something; the school has been developing skills for the future since way back in its past.

One of the last questions in my values survey required students to compare the school to a song or a piece of music. Here the individual choices were suitably eclectic but, nevertheless, the results were the same. A common choice was ‘This is Me’ from The Greatest Showman which captures the sense of self-belief and the determination to be bold (“because our school embraces lots of different people and shows the fact that nobody is perfect”). ‘Confident’ by Demi Lovato was chosen for similar reasons, as was ‘Stronger’ by Kelly Clarkson. Again, however, a significant proportion of song choices expressed the notion of kindness and friendship: ‘All You Need is Love’ by The Beatles; the ‘Friends’ theme tune (“because it’s all about being there for you and that’s how I feel about school”); and ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ from ‘Toy Story’.

At the end of a momentous year, and on the day on which Dame Vera Lynn’s funeral is taking place in Brighton, a fitting choice of soundtrack for Brighton Girlsl would perhaps be ‘We’ll Meet Again’. However, I rather like this student’s suggestion and their matter-of-fact explanation, which I think say it all:

‘We Go Together’ from ‘Grease’.

“…because, as I said before, we’re a community”.