By Amanda Hardie, NHSG Acting Head
The transition from school to university life is huge – a monumental shift in independence for girls as they leave our Sixth Form to embark on degree level study. But what about life beyond higher education? How can we prepare girls for that?
I remember when I was studying at Oxford University, a fellow student confided that she didn’t know how to write a cheque and it caused quite a challenge for her. It seems strange, doesn’t it, that an obviously bright, academic achiever wouldn’t know how to make this basic financial transaction.
However, that’s where the problem lies – if we assume that everyone knows how to do these day-to-day tasks, nobody will ever show them. And if nobody shows them, when these tasks present themselves, they can quickly become significant barriers.
In fact, this need for wider support was raised in a recent major study conducted by the GDST, The Girls’ Futures Report 2022, where over 1300 nationally representative girls from a range of schools (state, private, co-ed and single sex) were surveyed. Results showed that girls are demanding an education in more practical and hard skills; 70% of senior school aged girls saying they want more financial education, and they also highlighted how they wanted to know more about how the real world works.
That’s where NHSG’s Life 360 programme comes into its own.
Life 360 is an enrichment programme that we launched in September 2023 to provide sixth form girls with a holistic suite of learning activities that will empower them to make the most of the opportunities life brings their way. We consulted with pupils to ensure that we were designing the most responsive and relevant programme for them, and we run the sessions every week during Year 13.
The programme incorporates four key strands: financial literacy, global political understanding, UK citizenship and social responsibility.
We know that many NHSG girls are socially and politically aware, and they may often be tuned into news and politics, but that doesn’t mean that they know the fundamentals of how our political systems work, or that they understand the history of the international conflicts that are sadly affecting many countries today. Equally, while some may have a basic understanding of budget management, including university finance, they might not understand the tax system or how pensions, interest rates or mortgages work – and why they’re needed. This is something I discovered as a parent of a graduate who recently headed into the world of work – when faced with taxation and the need to make decisions about pensions she felt she needed more understanding, despite her otherwise comprehensive academic journey.
The social literacy strand helps pupils become proactive, responsible and independent members of society, for example through learning principles of self-defence, understanding organ and blood donation systems, knowing how to spot signs of coercion and being aware of safe driving practices – to name but a few. It’s all about how to better contribute to society, but also how to maintain your own safety and independence.
These are all topics covered in our Life 360 programme, and, in line with our broader academic curriculum, all classes are taught by subject specialists to ensure that girls are learning from the best. We are able to achieve this by running the sessions on a carousel basis, so girls are learning in smaller groups with subject specialists before rotating on to the next session. We also bring in experts from outside of school to talk to girls about these key areas, ensuring they hear directly from industry experts.
Alongside this programme we also run a creative wellbeing strand where girls have a fortnightly opportunity to start their day with a mindfulness activity such as music, dance or art. This is to encourage relaxation and social connection – without any added pressure.
In fact, all of the above-mentioned strands are delivered without any focus on a particular assessment outcome – girls won’t be sitting exams or delivering coursework, and there will be no ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ in the Life 360 programme. It’s about having the opportunity to learn and to create, to enhance the girls’ existing life skills and prepare them for today’s world.
Life 360 is part of our future facing approach to education which runs through everything we do, ensuring that we empower our girls to be the very best version of themselves in every sense – not just in terms of academic success. We are so proud of the girls in our community, both in terms of our current pupils and those who have gone on to achieve such outstanding success, and that’s why it’s important that we provide these practical skills that they can apply later in life.
Building solid foundations will put girls on the front foot, enabling them to confidently navigate the world around them, manage their resources effectively and play an invaluable proactive role in their community and beyond.