News Room

Head’s Blog, July 2019

I can hardly believe that another academic year has come to an end. 2018-2019 has been another fantastic year for our school. This last half term has been particularly busy. Girls of all key stages have taken part in end of year enrichment trips and activities. We have celebrated success in our prize giving ceremonies and end of year celebrations. The energy and dynamism of our staff never ceases to amaze me. I would like to thank all of our members of staff – academic and support staff – who are so generous with their time to make Saint Martin’s such an amazing school.

It is with great sadness that we say farewell to several members of staff at the end of this year, some of whom have had a long association with the school. Mrs King joined the Maths department in September 2015. She is leaving Saint Martin’s to relocate to the Lake District. Mrs Franklin is leaving the Learning Support Department after 12 years’ service to work in another setting. Mrs Waters, Mr Allen, Mrs Thompson and Mrs Inns have all made the decision to retire from teaching this summer. Between them they have been at Saint Martin’s for over 61 years! I would like to thank these members of staff for their loyalty, hard work and commitment to the school. We will miss them, but wish them all a long, happy and healthy retirement.

The theme for my blog this half term is facing up to challenge. I recently read an article written by JoAnn Deak, an eminent psychologist who has spent much time studying the neurological patterns of the brain, understanding how girls learn most effectively and deal with challenge. I first heard JoAnn speak at the GSA Heads’ conference in London in 2014. She spoke eloquently about the brain and how it changed its wiring through adolescence.

In this article JoAnn’s focus was on the seven core characteristics that were crucial to the development of the individual, which gave girls the armour to meet the challenges of the world. The characteristics were not surprising (temperament, grit, resilience, confidence, competence, introvert/extrovert, sympathy/empathy), but the power of her writing was in reminding us that girls hated struggling. When girls make mistakes, these mistakes are stored in the embarrassed and shame part of the brain, the left part of the amygdala. She reminded us that our role as educators was to encourage girls to make mistakes – it should be prized by the school, because the more mistakes they made the more robust their brains became. We should encourage them to “hug the monster” and do things they do not like, over and over again.

When reading the article, what struck me was the language she used. She said the level of panic the girls felt, when asked to do things they were not confident in, was associated with pain, the equivalent of being stabbed by a knife. It was not surprising then how girls avoided it at all costs. Despite this, we needed girls to face these challenges early on, and the more we can do it in a safe, all girls’ environment, the better suited the girls will be to the modern world. Grit was the best predictor of success in life and we needed to ensure that girls were given every opportunity to practise it.

JoAnn felt that grit and resilience were developed by girls doing something meaningful outside their own skins. Her message was loud and clear, allow girls to fail, do not be judgemental and give the girls the confidence to be leaders of change. JoAnn Deak’s written piece and speech at the GSA Head’s Conference were very powerful in understanding the teenage brain, but for me it again helped reinforce the view that it is our duty as educators to provide challenge and opportunities for the girls at Saint Martin’s.



As the Summer holidays approach, I wish you and your families a happy and restful break.

Best wishes

Nicola Smillie


School Calendar

  • 15 Aug
    A Level Results
  • 22 Aug
    GCSE Results
  • 26 Aug
    Gold Duke of Edinburgh Expedition Departs
  • 5 Sep
    Autumn Term Starts (Nursery to Year 6, Year 7 and Sixth Form)
  • 6 Sep
    Autumn Term Starts (Year 8 to Year 11)