June 16 2014
Prize Giving Speech by Paula Burgess, Headmistress June 14th 2014.
The true value of education is an issue debated widely throughout the teaching profession and beyond. For me, I am clear that a key value is in the empowerment of learners to find and reach their potential and as Headmistress of a single sex girl’s school I have a particular passion to ensure girls in the school are empowered and become confident individuals, able to meet the diverse challenges they will face in the years ahead.
Education was not always like this, in fact it was less than a century ago that compulsory education up to the age of 14 was established in this country (brought in under the Fisher Act of 1918). Before this there had been a requirement to attend an elementary school between the ages of five and 10 but, by all accounts, attendance was somewhat haphazard and one can imagine that many girls never got to school even up to the age of 10.
So girls, how lucky you are to have been born in an era and society were education for girls is supported and valued and how lucky we are that through this empowerment of girls women in our society have become leaders in all walks of life
Adelaide Hoodless, a Canadian educational reformer who died in 1910, had foresight when she said ‘educate a girl and you educate a community’. I think it is clear that by this she was pointing to the very important role that females play in the rearing of children and therefore the next generation but to me it means many more things too. Today it is generally accepted that women have strong social and communication skills and an ability to empathise – all aspects of what is now referred to as emotional intelligence. And this helps them to become better team players in a world that is too often fragmented
At the school with pride ourselves on finding and nurturing the talents of every single girl. We seek to unlock their ‘box of treasures’. I believe we subscribe to the kind of education that Iris Murdoch British author and philosopher, talks about when she says that education is most valuable if it ‘opens our eyes, our ears, tells us where delights are lurking, convinces us that there is only one freedom of any importance whatsoever – that of the mind – and gives us the assurance, the confidence, to walk the path of our mind, our educated mind, offers’.
To the girls here today, and especially to the Tops girls, I would like you to remember how fortunate you have been to have had an education so far and to have parents willing to make sacrifices so that you can be educated at this wonderful school. According to United Nations report on the education of girls it is a startling but true statistic that 60 million girls are not in school around the world. Of these 40% live in sub-Saharan Africa and 35% in South Asia. So girls if you had been born in some parts of Nigeria or Pakistan for example you would not be sitting here and you would not be able to read or write. Remember that you are blessed and you have many more blessings to come!
Tops girls on your special prize-giving day my message to you is make sure that you use the gift of your education to open your eyes and ears and find your delights. Use your education to make a difference to others, whether this be as a doctor like Laura, an artist, a community worker or a politician. Let the Bramley spirit inform all that you do and strive to reach your personal and academic potential so that you can become great change makers of the future.