One striking characteristic of Downe House is how our younger pupils gain so much from our older pupils in terms of mentoring, friendship and guidance. An excellent example of this is the Respect Project, which is a collaboration with Radley College. In his latest blog, Matt Godfrey our Deputy Head explores one aspect of the Project – the role of our Respect Ambassadors – and shares the views of some of the girls involved.
Over the past three years, the Respect Project has gone above and beyond our expectations. Each year, Sixth Form pupils have the opportunity to apply for the role of Respect Ambassador. This year, an impressive 53 students from across the Lower Sixth (Year 12) and Upper Sixth (Year 13) were appointed to this role. So, what does a Respect Ambassador do?
Ambassadors help to lead our collaborative projects with Radley College, but the role – both at Downe and at Radley – involves Sixth Form students engaging with their assigned Houses. At Downe, two or three Sixth Form Ambassadors visit their Upper School House at a designated time and lead an open discussion with the younger girls in each year group.
This approach resonates well with our younger pupils, who have witnessed a boost in their confidence after participating in evening discussions. The Respect Ambassadors cover topics such as friendships with girls and boys, phone usage, and academic and social pressures. This unique setting promotes inter-year bonding and encourages healthy discussions about common challenges faced by girls as they move through the Upper School years (Years 9-11).
It is also an opportunity for our Sixth Form to reflect on their own experiences during the Upper School years and to pass on any lessons learned to the younger pupils. The feedback from pupils regarding their experiences in these evening talks has been overwhelmingly positive. One Upper Fifth (Year 11) pupil shared: “The chance to have informal conversations with the Upper Sixth allowed us to freely discuss topics, fostering a bond over shared problems that we might not have otherwise revealed.” These testimonies have provided valuable insights to the Respect Project Ambassadors, guiding them on topics that students are eager to explore further.
At Downe, the Respect Project plays a pivotal role in creating safe and nurturing environments for our pupils, empowering them to become the young leaders of tomorrow. An Upper Sixth (Year 13) Respect Ambassador emphasised the uniqueness of the project by noting the diverse topics discussed based on the year group, highlighting its contribution to in-house bonding. These discussions will take place once each term, but the Upper School pupils know they can call on their Respect Ambassadors at any time.
Another pupil in the Upper Fifth (Year 11) demonstrated their maturity by stating: “It is crucial to keep talking about these topics as we grow up, acting as reminders.” This demonstrates the awareness our pupils have about the importance of being open to conversations about occasionally challenging subjects.
Mr Matt Godfrey