The new Head Girl team has been appointed and there is a mixture of emotions running through me. Sadness that my time at Portsmouth High is coming to an end, excitement at the prospect of new opportunities ahead of me. But I also have a feeling of great gratitude to the school that has taught me so much.
Last year, in the Head Girl hustings, I stood before the whole school not knowing what the year ahead of me would bring. I based my speech on the qualities that Harry Potter had; Harry was brave, treated everyone fairly and when called upon to lead others, he took on the responsibility and he didn’t wait for others to take care of things that needed to be taken care of sooner. He went to places that others were afraid of and did what was necessary, including taking chances and giving up his own life for the greater good.
I hope that I have demonstrated those qualities of bravery, responsibility and altruism and, with the support of the rest of the Head Girl team, senior prefects and the entire Sixth Form, hope we have been great role models for the younger girls here.
I joined Portsmouth High School in Year 7. It was an exciting time. So much seemed to be possible. In fact, one of the things that Portsmouth High School has taught me is that anything is possible. I, and all the other girls here, have uninhibited freedom – the freedom to develop, to learn, and to grow in capacity, courage and character.
I never for one moment believed that I would be trekking in 40 degree heat across the Atlas Mountains in Morocco to achieve my Gold Duke of Edinburgh, or that I would be abseiling down the Mercantile building in Portsmouth. I have been privileged to meet the alumnae from school who were evacuated to Hinton Ampner during World War II
and to meet Malala Yousafzai at a GDST event in London. I’ve learned to play chess with the current Year 7s, cultivate my drama skills by playing the Donkey in our House play, Shrek, and to visit Krakow and Gibraltar on different occasions.
I’ve managed to achieve all of these and more with no stereotyping. Being at and all girls’ school provides opportunities to explore and succeed in every subject and activity. Our achievements are celebrated and we don’t have to struggle to get our voices heard. In an all-female environment there has been no reason to think that subjects have gender: our computing and science classes are all full and we are taught in collaborative and co-operative ways. We are all encouraged to participate in lessons, increasing our confidence, and there are no pressures, fears or anxieties about how to appear in front of members of the opposite sex. It’s not unusual for the girls to go to medical school, read politics or physics at university or other, traditionally thought of as male, subjects. We have been encouraged not to view any career as being closed off to us and to keep all our options open including looking at roles traditionally held by men.
I also have developed a strong sense of ‘self’; the school is immeasurably a happy place to be and we are encouraged and looked after at the same time as being persuaded to take risks and grow at our own pace.
This is the school that has taught me to believe in myself, be committed, courageous, confident and composed. I believe I leave here with the capability to make a difference.