With Year 7 away in France, and Year 11 and 13 still in serious study mode, the school could have felt very quiet this week. Instead the Senior school has been bursting with big sisters and little sisters: some looking back, some looking ahead, some looking far into the future. 

This was a week in which we welcomed back recent leavers, who brought tales of university life; the week in which Year 10s got a taste of life in the Sixth Form; and the week that Year 3s dreamt of being astronauts and peacekeepers. Meanwhile, I have been reading ‘Playing Big’ by Tara Mohr, a book loaned to me by a parent which offers insights into why women often “play small” in their lives and careers and gives practical tips on how we can “play bigger”.

On Monday, I was delighted to host Mrs Bates’s Year 3 class for a special lesson on the Temple building, part of their local history topic. Together, we explored the origins of the building and marvelled at contemporary paintings which show it standing proudly on a hill, surrounded by fields, with panoramic views of the Channel. We learnt about Thomas Reed Kemp’s grand designs, and questioned why he had placed a dome on the top, concluding perhaps this was due to his sizeable ego and his desire to compete with the Royal Pavilion; or as one Year 3 put it, “he probably wanted it to look fancy”. As the founder of Kemptown, Thomas Reed Kemp was clearly used to playing big. 

Thanks to a prompt from a current Year 7 parent and alumna, I reinstated a tradition established by a  former headmistress, by giving Year 3 the challenge of locating the famous spiral staircase that once rose from the Temple’s ground floor. The search took them all over the building, right to the very top and into the Sixth Form space, where they jumped up and down to “see the sea”. Some expressed an early interest in joining the Sixth Form (although this may have had something to do with the Smurf figures that are to be found perched on bookshelves and sitting on beams, a legacy of last year’s leavers). Whatever the motivation, it was heartening to hear pupils as young as eight expressing an interest in A Level Law and History, as one pupil did as we descended the stairs. These Year 3s were thinking big.

A further exploration of the Temple and Senior school buildings took us to the alumna portraits that adorn the science corridor and, here, the thoughts became even bigger. As I said to the Year 3s at the start of our history lesson: our learning objective may have been to find out about the Temple building, but the real magic is to be found in the stories of the people who have passed through its doors. 

Seeing the colourful display of former students was a source of inspiration to the Year 3s. Having looked along the line and noted the various paths each had taken, I asked the pupils to stand in front of the person they most wanted to be and to explain why. Alexandra stood next to Her Honour Judge Rosa Dean and declared that she wanted to be a lawyer to “help the world”; Alis placed herself next to coder and programmer, Jennie Lees, “because with technology when you make mistakes it’s okay… you can fix it”; Chloe opted for Dr Rosemary Coogan, career astronaut, “because it would be really cool to go up to space and see all the wonderful things in our atmosphere”.  

As part of the Year 10 Brighton Futures event this week, we welcomed nine recent leavers back to Brighton Girls to talk about their journeys through Sixth Form and beyond. Phoebe had finished her second year Engineering exams at Cambridge the day before; Cluny was heading into an internship and talked of plans for the businesses (plural) she is on the verge of founding; Tallulah explained how she had taken one path and quickly realised it wasn’t for her. All talked affectionately about the support they had received in the Sixth Form at Brighton Girls and how the confidence they had gained here unlocked so much of what was to come. 

What came across loud and clear was that, somewhere along the way, they had all learnt to “play bigger”.