Caroline Dask chats to Amanda Hardie, acting head of Newcastle High School For Girls, about building a new generation of leaders
Newcastle High School For Girls is a school that goes the extra mile to prepare young girls for the future ahead. Caroline Dask sits down to have a chat with Amanda Hardie, acting head of the school, about its values, welcoming new students and endless leadership opportunities…
What are some of the core values of Newcastle High School For Girls?
Our school encourages girls to be the best possible versions of themselves. We focus on developing their individual potential through our eight ‘C’ characteristics model.
The first one is Care – placing great importance on self-acceptance and self-love. Collaboration- encouraging them to ask questions and stay curious. Composure – to be poised and composed, to be able to deal with various situations that they encounter.
Courage and Confidence – to possess these qualities in their approach to life; Creativity – in knowing how to think outside the box, and Communication. We centre all of our rewards policies around these, all in the hope of preparing them well for life beyond school.
How does Newcastle High School For Girls ensure that new students have a smooth transition and feel welcomed into the school community?
Our school is extremely welcoming and we are a very strong community. We have systems and staff in place, to make sure new students settle well into school.
There is a clear transition programme in place, in the run-up to a girl joining us, that includes various activities and events prior to them starting. Back in June, we had an exciting Shakespeare-themed day to welcome Year Seven girls.
They did some Elizabethan dancing, we had a banquet, read some poetry, and it helped new girls to make friends, get to know each other, and feel confident within the environment of the school.
We also hold information evenings for parents because it’s as much of a transition for a parent as it is for a child.
What measures does the school take to address any potential challenges that new students might face during their initial days or weeks?
We have a lot of girls joining the school at different times. Whether it’s a big cohort joining in September, or girls joining a variety of Year Groups within the academic year, we make sure every girl has an appointed teacher, Head of Year or a Phase Leader, who will keep a close eye on them in those early days.
All of our girls are extremely welcoming and supportive, so they often fall over each other trying to welcome and support new girls, and we make sure they have a buddy, who will show them around the school, meet them for lunch, and check in on them. It’s always lovely to see this big-sister relationship developing.
We communicate with parents too, so that if a girl seems to be having a lovely time at school but is a little bit unsettled at home, we can work together to make sure their daughter is fully happy and supported.
I check in on them as well, just to see how they feel, if they are settled, and if there is anything that is worrying them.
Could you provide an overview of the range of extracurricular activities available to students at Newcastle High School for Girls?
There is a huge range of extra-curricular activities that we offer before school, during school and after school. We have sporting clubs such as netball, hockey, football, trampolining, athletics, gymnastics, and cricket.
There are musical activities, such as choirs and orchestras and creative clubs, such as dance, drama, art clubs, robotics and computing. We also have extracurricular activities that include academic stretch, exploring beyond the curriculum in areas like science or maths.
Our aim with all of these activities is to encourage girls to be curious and understand that learning is not just about following a specification, it’s about asking further questions and fully embracing this learning adventure, in whatever subject it might be.
In addition, we have a wide range of societies for students, for example for those who are interested in medicine, law or history. These societies are often run by girls themselves, which encourages leadership skills and empowerment.
For girls that can’t find a society or an after activity to join that appeals to them, we strongly encourage them to create their own clubs. An example of this is the new anime club.
Newcastle High School For Girls is lucky to be a part of the Girls’ Day School Trust, which means students have an extended range of opportunities to get involved in competitions, debates and sporting rallies, building connections far beyond the Newcastle area.
An initiative that we’re extremely proud of is Life 360, which prepares Sixth Form students for life beyond school, and teaches them financial literacy, political understanding, social responsibility and citizenship.
How does the school encourage students to participate in these activities and balance them with their academic commitments?
We have a timetable in place that allows girls to identify where they are going to attend clubs, and their form teacher will look at it with them to make sure there is the right balance between these two.
With girls that have a lot of in and out- of-school commitments, such as sport, we go as far as personalising their timetable, so they have the time they need during the school day, to make sure they are keeping on top of their academic work.
Are there any leadership opportunities for girls that go beyond organising extra-curricular activities?
Yes! Besides encouraging girls to form their own clubs and lead societies, we provide support in how to become the best leader they can be. We talk to them about things such as, how to be a good leader, what makes a good leader, what they hope to achieve as a leader, etc.
We also have an assembly programme called See It to Be It, that runs across junior and senior school, where we bring in female leaders from across a huge range of careers and who talk to girls about the role they have, any challenges that they faced, and encourage them to have that aspiration of being a leader.
What are your aspirations for Newcastle High School For Girls in the coming years, and how do you plan to continue enhancing the school’s reputation and impact?
Newcastle High School For Girls is an outstanding school. I want us to continue being the school where academic excellence is at the forefront of what we do, the school where we continue building the next generation of female leaders, and where we continue equipping girls with all the necessary skills they will need in the future.
We want our girls to be trail-blazers and future world shapers, and we work hard on building that aspiration through our various leadership and extra-curricular activities.
I always say to girls, you can’t all be the best at everything, but you can always do your best and be the best version of yourself, and that is what Newcastle High School For Girls is all about.