News Room

Head’s Blog, May 2018


As we approach the half term holiday, the corridors of Senior School are in silence as girls from Years 7 to Upper Sixth sit internal and external examinations. Our thoughts are with Year 11 and Upper Sixth students taking GCSE and A Level examinations. We wish them well in these public examinations and look forward to celebrating their success in August.


Last Friday we said a sad “farewell” to our Upper Sixth students as it was their last formal day in school. Some members of the year group have been part of the Saint Martin’s community since the age of three. Girls in Junior School joined Senior School girls and parents of Upper Sixth girls to watch the assembly, during which the girls shared their fondest memories of Saint Martin’s and their aspirations for the future. Mrs Speirs, Mr Delaney and Mr Swift paid tribute to the class of 2018. At end of the assembly Mrs Speirs read the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou. This powerful piece of writing was a perfect choice which embodies the spirit of this year’s Upper Sixth.

As we wish the “Class of 2018” well I would like to thank our Head Girl Team – Elizabeth, Anya and Sophie and the Senior Prefect Team for their hard work, loyalty and contribution to school life. I have no doubt that these girls will become successful leaders in the future. We have just appointed our Head Girl Team and Senior Prefects for next year. Our Head Girl for 2018/2019 is Josie Parry who will be assisted by her Deputies, Lily Mann and Emily Ratchford. Many congratulations to these young women especially as the field of applicants very strong indeed. All candidates had to write a letter of application and lead an assembly before the staff and sixth form vote. I was so impressed with every candidate and commend their resilience and confidence in applying for these positions. Those appointed act as role models and leaders of Saint Martin’s and I am looking forward to working with them next year.

It seems fitting that the theme of my blog this half term is about leadership and empowering future women leaders. This year we have continued to see the ascent of strong female figures in public life taking a stand against inequality and being resilient in the face of adversity. In fact, the campaign theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was #PressforProgress. Earlier in the year the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report stated that gender parity is over 200 years away. With this in mind, there has never been a more important time to think about our future leaders and to #PressforProgress, and with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.

According to data gleaned from more than 2,400 organizations around the globe, women currently occupy less than one third (29%) of all leadership roles, with the large majority being in first-level management positions. At a senior level, less than 20% of leadership roles are occupied by women.

At Saint Martin’s we are committed to developing the next generation of women leaders. This commitment includes professional development opportunities for staff as well as developing leadership opportunities for girls throughout school.  At the start of May I was invited to attend the inaugural conference for future women leaders organised by Bright Field Consulting. Bright Field have teamed up with the Girls’ School Association and the Association of State Girls’ Schools to run a mentoring programme for Future Women Leaders in Girls’ Schools. I am delighted that Mrs Speirs, our Assistant Head (Head of Sixth Form) is taking part in the programme. The conference was held in the splendid surroundings of The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. It seemed incongruous that a conference promoting future women leaders should be held in an environment which may seem to be dominated by men. However it was heartening to learn that the intake at Sandhurst is much more diverse that you may think as 12% of the current officer cadets are women and from September 2018 all branches of the army, including infantry, will be open to women. The theme of the conference was “Leadership & Identity” and the keynote speakers, which included David Laws, Helen Browning, Susan Ferrier and Lt Col Jane Hunter were truly inspirational.

Following the conference I had time to reflect on leadership opportunities for the girls at Saint Martin’s. One of the benefits of single sex education for girls is that they have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills from an early age in a safe and nurturing environment. Girls in all Key Stages take on positions of leadership and responsibility, and are able to speak out freely and with confidence. We teach the life-skills of understanding consent, healthy relationships, online safety and facing challenges – all essential for surviving and thriving in a society that has not yet caught up with our progressive mind-set. Here at Saint Martin’s, girls become resilient, independent and expect to be heard. I have never been more proud to head up a girls’ school and to continue to encourage our young women to become the leaders and influencers of tomorrow.

I would like to finish my half term blog with Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” which challenges convention and stereotypes and encourages girls and young women to believe that empowerment comes from being confident in your own female skin.

Phenomenal Woman – Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

As we approach the end of a busy half term, I wish you all a restful and peaceful holiday.


Best wishes

Nicola Smillie, Head


School Calendar

  • 26 Apr
    History GCSE Revision Day
  • 30 Apr
    Summer Term Begins
  • 30 Apr
    Year 7 and 8 Junior Maths Challenge
  • 1 May
    Year 7 Progress Evening
  • 3 May
    Year 9 and 10 – Big Brum Theatre Production of Jekyll and Hyde