The Heads' Blog

The Heads' Blog

Please read on for the latest essays and thought pieces from Mrs Helen F Jeys (Head Mistress) and Mrs Samantha Gibbons (Head of Preparatory Department).

To jump to a particular entry, please click on the links below:

The Vital Importance of Girls' Education: Manchester High School for Girls at 150 - Mrs Helen Jeys

Preparing Your Child for Reception: The Importance of Early Communication and Engagement - Mrs Samantha Gibbons

The Vital Importance of Girls' Education: Manchester High School for Girls at 150 - Mrs Helen Jeys

In my first September assembly, I share my summer reading with our pupils. The summer break provides me with the chance to read, reflect, and consider how the thoughts of leaders, educators, and peers impact our school's future strategy.

This year, I returned to my Deputy Head (Teaching & Learning) who excited recommended 'The Authority Gap' by Mary Ann Sieghart. Having heard Sieghart speak at a conference, I was captivated by her research-based insights and her dedication to empowering girls to reach their potential. Sieghart delves into the "authority gap," which highlights how women continue to face undermining and lack of recognition in public and professional spheres, often due to unconscious biases.

Sieghart's research reveals unsettling findings, including a study from the US showing that boys in elementary and middle schools receive eight times more attention from teachers. Boys are rewarded for assertiveness, while girls are praised for being orderly and quiet. This pattern contributes to girls losing their voices, confidence, and ambition.

Despite these challenges, Sieghart remains optimistic, advocating for greater representation and careful language use around young people to drive change. Her insights on the classroom reinforced my belief in the value of girls' and single-sex education.

Parents often ask me about the benefits of girls' education, a topic I discuss frequently. I share my classroom anecdotes, as well as statistics from the Girls' Schools Association (GSA), of which we are a proud member. The GSA emphasizes that girls' schools eliminate gender-biased expectations, allowing intellectual and physical confidence to flourish. Every girl can become a leader, develop resilience, and build self-confidence, positioning them well for university, work, and life.

Research, such as that by the Institute of Physics, shows that girls in girls' schools are more likely to study subjects like Physics and excel academically. For instance, in 2019, GSA students achieved over twice the national average of the top A-Level grades.

I am a strong advocate for single-sex girls' schools, which is why I'm deeply concerned about the proposed 20% VAT increase on independent school fees by the Labour Party. This could force girls out of independent girls' schools and into state co-educational environments, which may set back the feminist cause and exacerbate gender inequalities.

Independent schools, like ours, rely primarily on parental fees; since they are lacking the historic endowments that some boys' schools enjoy. Manchester High was founded to provide for Manchester's daughters what was long provided without stint for its sons, but girls' schools like ours have fewer resources and often fewer established connections with alumnae.

While we are fortunate to have supportive alumnae, not all girls' schools are in the same position. Over the last 150 years, brilliant women have emerged from Manchester High, making a significant impact in various fields. I worry that the proposed policy could hinder girls from reaching their true potential.

Helen Wright urges us to move past stereotypes of girls' schools and recognize their positive impact. A walk through our school's corridors reveals engaged, ambitious pupils who are excited about their future. My hope is that Manchester High School for Girls continues to thrive and offer opportunities to girls for the next 150 years and beyond. I also hope that all girls across the country can access schools that empower them to thrive.

Preparing Your Child for Reception: The Importance of Early Communication & Engagement - Mrs Samantha Gibbons

As your child embarks on their educational journey, in Reception, it is crucial to understand the importance of early communication and engagement in their development. From birth, children are primed to learn and absorb information from their surroundings, and parents play a pivotal role in shaping those early experiences.

Communication is the cornerstone of learning. From the moment children are born they learn to communicate through eye contact. This simple interaction is a powerful tool that helps them understand emotions, build relationships and develop empathy. It is through our eyes that we first connect with our children, and it is through our eyes that they begin to understand the world.

The first 5 years of a child’s life are the most important in securing a foundation upon which all future learning stands firm. From the moment your child is born, the relationship you build is the most profound relationship you will have. Following the simple tips below will help you ensure they get the very best start in life..


Talking to your child, even when they are too young to respond, is the most important aspect of their development at birth. Those of you with children will know that the moment you set eyes on your newborn, you are innately programmed to speak to them.  It helps them to understand language, learn vocabulary and develop listening skills. Engaging in conversations with your child, asking them questions, and encouraging them to express their thoughts and feelings, can significantly enhance their communication skills.

Sharing Books

Reading to your child from an early age can instil a love for books and learning. it can enhance their language skills, stimulate their imagination, and provide them with valuable knowledge. Sharing a book with your child is not just about teaching them to read; it's about spending quality time together, fostering a love for learning and encouraging curiosity. From birth, and with increasing interest, your child will enjoy listening to you read to them. As they grow, they will take more interest in the pictures and words, building early language and literacy skills. Children who have had rich diet of ‘talk’ around books are much more likely to become successful readers at school. Learning nursery rhymes too is very important. They are not just fun to sing, they are instrumental in teaching children speech sounds and language rhythm, enhancing their memory and developing their listening skills. They also introduce children to storytelling, fostering their imagination and creativity.

Practical Activities

Practical activities, such as playing with blocks, drawing or helping around the house, can teach children important skills such as: problem solving, coordination, and cooperation. Activities also provide opportunities for children to learn about the world around them in a hands-on, engaging way. It is also important that children begin to develop strength in their hands and fingers, so that they have the dexterity to handle a pencil for early mark making. Fine motor skills are not just important for pencil grip and handwriting but also for brain development. A recent study in the Journal of Hand Therapy reports that young adults have surprisingly less hand strength and grip than older generations. Possibly the result of using technology more than traditional writing materials.

More importantly, the act of handwriting is linked to brain transitions from right-brained learning (creative and emotions) to left-brained learning logical and creative thinking).  If the brain fails to make these connections, children may become more emotional than logical as they get older, resulting in attention issues, sensory struggles and anxiety.

Screen Time

In today's digital age, it's easy for children to spend a lot of time in front of screens. While technology can, in moderation, be a valuable learning tool later on, it is important to consider whether it is important at all in the early lives of our children. Excessive screen time can impact a child's physical health, sleep, attention and social skills. Harvard Medical School reports that, “Much of what happens on screen provides “impoverished” stimulation of the developing brain compared to reality.”

They go on to say: “Children need the chance to let their minds wander as well. Children are becoming increasingly used to the immediate gratification that the on-line world provides and this too can impact their ability to be patient or to persevere at something. There can be no doubt that encouraging children to engage in physical play, the reading books, or participating in creative activities can provide them with not just a well-rounded learning experience but also the brain development required to become well-balanced individuals.

In summary, preparing your child for reception involves more than just teaching them to count or knowing their alphabet it's about fostering their communication skills encourage in their curiosity, and providing them with a variety of learning experiences. Parents are their child’s first educators and have the unique opportunity to shape their children's early learning experiences, setting the foundation for their life-long learning journey.