NHSG - In conversation with Emma Barnett – NHSG’s new Head of Junior School

In conversation with Emma Barnett – NHSG’s new Head of Junior School

May 15, 2024

Following a competitive recruitment process, Emma Barnett has been appointed as Head of Junior School for Newcastle High School for Girls’ (NHSG). We chatted to her about her career, her future plans for the Junior School, and what makes NHSG such a special place.

Can you tell us a little bit about your career to date.

I’ve actually been with NHSG, or at least with Church High one of its founding schools, since I graduated. That’s over 25 years and I’ve loved every moment.

I began as a class teacher and am absolutely delighted to now be the Head of the Junior School; it’s a real honour.

Over the years, I’ve seen pupils join our Junior School, continue right through NHSG until age 18, go on to achieve great things beyond school, and then return as parents bringing their daughters back to the school. That really is testament to how special the school is.

You’re clearly passionate about the Junior School at NHSG. So what is it that makes it so unique?

The sense of community is really special – we have great relationships with both the parents and the pupils which we build on from a girl’s very first steps into Nursery and school at age 3 or 4. We work in partnership to support the girls to develop a real love of learning and intellectual curiosity from day one, and then we nurture it to set the foundation for all future learning. We do this brilliantly at NHSG.

Another trait of NHSG that really stands out for me is how progressive we are. We embrace change, for example, we’ve always been clear that the role of tech isn’t simply confined to computing skills – it’s an enabler to learn in more flexible, dynamic and creative ways across all curriculum subjects. You can find knowledge at the click of a button these days, but it’s what you do with it and how you apply it that really sets young minds up for the world. Our Junior School classrooms are stimulating places that encourage lively discussion. A classroom where the girls are talking more than the teacher is a genuinely exciting place to be.

Why are you passionate about an all-girl education?

Despite great strides, sadly, there are still some barriers faced by girls and women. Our new generation of girls are too young to see those barriers but with the absence of boys competing for attention and opportunities in the classroom, they are free and confident enough to pursue whatever they want to do. Nobody is going to suggest to them that they shouldn’t become a scientist or a footballer one day. They literally have the whole world at their fingertips from the age of three and, as they grow older, they’ll be better equipped and empowered  to compete for those roles because they’ll have never doubted their right to succeed in traditionally male-dominated sectors.

The world is their oyster.

What are your future aims for NHSG Junior School?

For me it’s about ensuring that what we are teaching and how we teach it remains dynamic and future focused. So this will involve keeping abreast of what’s going on in the world, and continually auditing, reviewing and reflecting on what we are doing. This extends to the

the pastoral system in school too. Technological development, particularly connected to social media, means that new challenges are faced regularly, even for younger girls, and we need to acknowledge and address these issues.  Society is changing rapidly all the time, and we have to change with it. As long as the girls are happy, feel safe, secure and confident in their learning environment they will do well and achieve great things.

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