Head Mistress' View: A Passion for Politics
Mrs Hewitt is inspired by a generation of politically aware young women.
Britain is experiencing an unprecedented level of political turmoil; it feels as though a nationwide game of Deal or No Deal is taking place, unfathomable acronyms make up the Brexit dialogue and politicians are taking crucial decisions, not by the day, but by the hour.
With a situation so tangled and twisted, where the fundamentals of the British constitution have been called into account, I could understand why young people (indeed people of any age!) may switch off and disengage.
My experience, as Head Mistress of Manchester High School for Girls, has, however shown me the exact opposite. Girls here are far from apathetic; they are interested, eager to understand and determined to play a meaningful role in society.
Last year, we introduced Politics as an A-level option and, while it has proved an incredibly popular choice, it’s not just students of Politics who are interested in gaining the knowledge and skills to enable them to be responsible global citizens.
Our Model United Nations experience, open to girls from Year 10 upwards, is an authentic simulation of UN meetings and enables pupils to put into practice their own diplomacy skills. Every year, in January, we welcome over 300 students from schools and colleges across the country as we host our own Model UN conference where delegates spend two days debating global issues such as hunger and poverty, justice and education, gender inequality and cyber crime.
Just as the Model UN conference assists girls in seeing the world from different viewpoints, so does studying Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) and, our vibrant MFL department continues to thrive. Opening up to other cultures encourages girls to be increasingly flexible and appreciative of the opinions and actions of others. Not only are our language students enhancing their communication skills for the globally connected world, they are also demonstrating to future employers they can see situations from a variety of angles.
Political astuteness is part of the DNA of Manchester High girls. We are, after all, the school that suffragette leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, chose for her three pioneering daughters. That said, I never fail to be impressed by the level of political understanding demonstrated by girls in our Preparatory Department. We have pupils here that, at just four years old, know exactly who Hillary Clinton is and can chat with you about the outcome of the American election. I was recently very proud of two Year Six pupils that wrote directly to the Prime Minister to convey their concerns about global warming.
Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has said that, whatever the outcome of Brexit, the current generation of school children will need to be, “…the best educated and productive generation we have ever known…”. This may be true, but I also think they will need to be the most passionate in order to become real agents of change. At Manchester High School for Girls we believe it is our job to support girls in keeping their passion alive by teaching them to debate, influence and act safely. From what I see on a daily basis there is no danger of apathy here.