In assembly last week, Miss Fox spoke about Mental Health Awareness Week and, as part of this, mentioned The Big Ask. Launched last month by Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, and running until Friday 28th May, The Big Ask is the largest ever survey of children and young people in England. The survey aims to capture the collective voice of children and young adults and, coming out of COVID, there is an urgent need for this. The survey encourages participants by offering them chance to have their say on the “things that matter”: “… tell us what your life is like, what you want in the future, and anything you think is holding you back”.

Surveys can be an efficient way of capturing thoughts and feelings, and they have been especially useful to us during periods of lockdown. This week, I spent time with Mr Bashford, who is taking a lead on Equality and Diversity in the school. Tuesday 25th May will mark twelve months since the death of George Floyd and, one year on, we are keen to reflect on the progress we have made. As part of this, Mr Bashford has been analysing the student responses to the GDST’s Undivided survey. While it is heartening to hear that our students are proud to be part of our community, and most feel a great sense of belonging, there is no room for complacency. We have ongoing work to do, and we certainly can’t afford to wait for an annual survey to respond. A priority for me over the coming years is that we give our students every opportunity to voice their opinion – but before this we must give them the confidence to speak out, and to challenge the status quo in a constructive way. 

For many of our students, developing the self-confidence to trust their opinions, and then to voice them, is a much bigger ask. 

This week, our Head Girl Team (comprising Molly, Phoebe and Bev) announced plans to reshape the School Council: next year, there will be three representatives per house (one from Years 7 and 8, one from Years 9 to 11 and one from Year 12) providing a greater number of leadership opportunities and the chance for more senior students to work alongside the Head Girl team. Molly, Phoebe and Bev are determined that future School Council Reps will have the “freedom to decide how to communicate” with their house, a “chance to make a change”. Beyond this, student focus groups will be created, giving everyone a chance to have their say. 

Surveys are useful, therefore, but our student leaders are offering more immediate channels through which to voice an opinion: a Brighton Girls podcast, capturing topical themes, with episodes linked to the Wellbeing curriculum; an Instagram account, providing space for a range of voices; and a dedicated Head Girl Team email address as a less public forum. 

By providing various channels of communication, the hope is that our students will exercise their voices and, in doing so, will develop the skills and the confidence to bring about change.

“The only way to find your voice is to use it”. (Austin Kleon)