Now that the clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in it is easy to feel oppressed by darkness but, thankfully, sparks of joy have been easy to find in school this week.


Partly, this was down to members of the Faith Council who festooned our classrooms with fairy lights to mark Diwali, the festival of light. Celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhists, Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness, goodness over evil, knowledge over ignorance. In return for the gift of fairy lights, members of the Faith Council encouraged us to do two things: firstly, to consider one negative thought we have about ourselves or about life and commit to rejecting that thought; secondly, to consider one positive thought about ourselves and commit to focusing on that, “illuminating ourselves and the world around us”. When darkness descends, switching on our inner light bulbs can be challenging, but having this reminder from students was a very powerful way to start the half term.


During assembly on Monday, we reflected on the events taking place in Glasgow over the last two weeks. We listened to parts of Sir David Attenborough’s COP26 speech as he told delegates that “we are already in trouble” and to the words of Greta Thunburg with her view that the COP is a failure” – “a two-week-long celebration of business as usual and bla bla bla”. When listening to the experts and looking at the statistics, it can sometimes feel that we are one step away from being plunged into darkness. The fear of the lights going out is real. However, there are so many reasons to be optimistic – for one thing, the fact that the next generation is angry and energised makes me hopeful. A recent edition of the GDST’s new podcast series, ‘Raise Her Up’, explores turning eco anxiety into eco agency and features a highly articulate student from Wimbledon High, one of our sister schools, talking about the collective power we have as an organisation to effect real change. Listen HERE.


While reflecting on COP26, I reminded students of some of the things we are doing to make Brighton Girls more sustainable. Among many smaller initiatives, there are two significant ones: reuniting two halves of the school onto one site has drastically reduced our carbon footprint and, with the work planned to the external envelope, we will increase the biodiversity of our local area. When I glance at the list of plants destined for the borders around the Vicarage and Temple, such names as Vision in White, Spring Dawn, the butterfly-loving Peach-leaved Bellflower sit alongside mighty Holm Oaks and blossoming Juneberry trees, providing future flashes of light and colour.


On a more metaphorical note, throughout the week, red poppies have provided button-holes of brightness as we remembered servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms; connoting both bloodshed and resilience, poppies are powerful symbols of the triumph of light over darkness.


Last night’s pastoral talk by Nadia Finer from ‘Shy and Mighty’ also tapped into the spirit of Diwali, in terms of turning negatives into positives. Anyone who has ever experienced shyness or is the parent of a shy child, will know that being shy can often leave us in a dark place. As Nadia put it, “being shy can make us feel like we are living our lives under a big, heavy blanket”. Nadia is on a mission to help shy individuals “step out of the shadows and find their voice”. With some practical strategies (from what she calls her ‘Shycology’), Nadia’s inspiring talk gave those with small voices something to shout about. The recording of this session can be accessed here. It is well worth a listen.


If none of these things bring light to your dark, something that never fails is a good-old school musical. A sneak peek of last night’s ‘Bugsy Malone’ rehearsal was enough to put a smile on my face for the next few months at least. Book your tickets now and I guarantee you’ll be beaming (and toe-tapping) through the winter.