The School’s Respect Project has now been running for nearly two years. As I wrote in a previous blog, one of the aims of the Project is to bring girls from Downe House together with the boys of Radley College on a number of mutually beneficial academic, co-curricular and social activities. These activities aim to provide all the students with direct and meaningful experience of working with the opposite sex, preparing them fully for life beyond school while retaining the integrity and value of single-sex education.
However, another important aim of the Respect Project is to help us all build respect for each other within our own school and also for ourselves. The best foundation for our pupils building respectful, positive and happy relationships with others is to feel respectful, positive and happy about themselves.
That is what our first ever UIV Respect Conference was all about. On Friday evening, we gathered all the UIV girls together and gave them the opportunity to get stuck into some really interesting – and occasionally challenging – discussions with each other, assisted by some mentors from the Lower Sixth. It was a tightly organised, yet relaxed and informal event, lubricated by the occasional tasty snack!
As our new Head Senior, Shiloh, and one of the new Respect Team Leaders, Zara, told the girls in their opening address: “We hope that this Conference will get each one of you thinking – thinking about how you can respond positively to some of the challenges and difficulties that we all face while we are at school.”
Shiloh and Zara went on to say: “It’s very likely that tonight you will hear lots of different points of view, and some opinions, which you don’t agree with. That is absolutely fine. The main thing is that you are honest and bold in your discussions and that you listen to each other respectfully and give each other a chance to say what you have to say.”
The UIV girls were organised into 15 different discussion groups, each with 7 or 8 girls. Each group was joined at their table by a LVI former whose role was to help guide the younger girls’ discussions.
As Zara said: “None of us Sixth Formers have any easy answers, but we have at least been through the UIV year ourselves. We can definitely empathise with what it’s like being in the Upper School and how you may be feeling, so we hope we can share with you some of our ideas and experiences.”
Each group was given three specific topics/tasks to discuss. They were given 15 minutes for each discussion and had to write down some of their conclusions. Here are just some of the topics that were covered:
Ms Compton-Illott, our Head of UIV, and I were delighted and impressed by how engaged all the girls were for the duration of the evening. The Lower Sixth were brilliant guides and mentors: they never patronised the UIV girls, but instead they listened, prompted, and encouraged them to speak up. The UIV girls had so many excellent and positive ideas and seemed delighted to be able to air them with older students. We are looking forward to digesting all the excellent ideas that were generated by the discussions, and helping the girls put some of them into practice.
Mr Matt Godfrey