NHSG - Newcastle High School for Girls looks to the future with the appointment of new Head

Newcastle High School for Girls looks to the future with the appointment of new Head

March 1, 2024

Amanda Hardie has been appointed Newcastle High School for Girls’ (NHSG) new Head, charged with leading the school’s continued development on behalf of its all-girl pupil community.

We chat to Amanda about her plans, what makes Newcastle High so special and how girls and women are forging successful careers that are changing the face of society.

Congratulations on your new role. How are you feeling about what lies ahead for you and for NHSG?

It’s an incredibly exciting time. I am taking over the strategic leadership of the school, having spent my career dedicated to providing an outstanding all-girl education at Newcastle High and previously at one of its founding schools. I have inherited a school that is already in an incredibly strong position, with excellent A Level results and a firm position in top school rankings. To now be able to build upon those solid foundations will be an absolute honour.

Newcastle High is a truly wonderful community where every girl is celebrated for who she is and empowered to be the best version of herself. I think what we all value the most as staff is seeing the girls grow into talented young women, from their early days with us in nursery and junior school – right through to waving them off as university life beckons and hearing of their success as they become part of our active alumnae community. So I think a huge part of my role will be listening to what’s important to the girls, keeping abreast of educational and technological advances that can create increased opportunities for them, and for NHSG broadly, and continually driving innovation in all that we do.

You’re a long-standing member of the senior leadership team, most recently in the combined role of Head of Junior School and Senior School Deputy Head of Academic – as well as serving as Acting Head since September 2023. How will this experience influence your new position?

Having such in-depth experience of both the Junior and High School environment is invaluable as it allows me to know every girl across school as an individual and to create a more consistent pathway through education for our pupils. Planning the curriculum with this all-through educational journey in mind means that every stage will build effectively and seamlessly on the one that went before it, and pupils will be incredibly well prepared for what comes next as they move into the year above. We are also able to familiarise junior school pupils with the senior school environment before they move up, which helps with confidence building. This is something that NHSG really prides itself on, and why we welcome girls from ages 3+, preparing them for future happiness, confidence and success.

Why is an all-girl education so important to NHSG?

Research shows that there are many benefits to an all-girl education, not least an improved sense of confidence that makes a huge difference. The Girls Day Schools’ Trust, the family of schools to which  Newcastle High belongs, is at the forefront of  educational research on this topic, and recent figures show that GDST girls feel less negative about the future, are more comfortable taking risks, and are less likely to avoid certain subjects because of their gender when compared to girls who attend mixed schools. This is why we see so much success in traditionally male dominated subjects, particularly STEM subjects, where we have seen many NHSG alumnae forging dynamic We regularly invite alumnae back to speak to our current pupils and their talks are always genuinely inspirational. Hearing from impressive women who once attended the school talking about their careers and experiences highlights to our pupils what they are capable of achieving in the future.

How do you encourage interest in STEM subjects at NHSG?

I think the first factor to consider is that there is zero room for discouragement. Girls can sometimes feel like imposters in mixed environments where boys might dominate certain subjects and take up more space in the classroom. But from the moment girls walk through the doors of NHSG, right their first steps in nursery, they are encouraged to follow their passions – which might involve playing football or building constructions from a young age. They do not feel inhibited by the presence of boys in the learning environment and therefore are free to learn without limits.

We also work proactively to encourage take up of STEM subjects, working with regional and national partners and taking part in competitions and other initiatives. For example, we have recently signed up to The Wonder Challenge for KS3 and KS4 that sees pupils from Year 9 and 10 form mini construction companies.

We have also invested heavily in our core academic offer, with the introduction of Design and Tech into the curriculum. Collaborations with Sunderland and Newcastle Universities have also opened up opportunities, as well as industry partnerships, for example our work with Nissan which ties into our robotics teaching.

We still don’t see enough representation in industry – according to PWC only 5% of leadership positions in the UK tech sector are held by women – but things are changing and I’m committed to ensuring that Newcastle High is at the forefront of that change in our region, driving this interest and engagement from an early age and contributing to greater gender equality in STEM going forwards.

What other opportunities are available for girls at NHSG beyond the exciting STEM developments?

NHSG is a school where every girl is celebrated as an individual and is encouraged to follow her passion and interests.  Whether that passion is for Languages, Art, Humanities, Literature – the list could go on! –  our broad and exciting curriculum provides endless opportunities for girls to challenge themselves, to learn and to grow. For example, our school is alive with artists who show incredible creativity and drive, linguists who are inspired by native speakers and provided with opportunities to develop mastery of their chosen languages, actors who hone their craft with expert guidance and who produce the most phenomenal performances worthy of the West End and historians who are perceptive in their analysis of the past and who show curiosity and insight. Whatever it is that sparks the intellectual interest and passion of each girl, there are opportunities for her to pursue this and to take her learning way beyond the norm.

Where do you see the school in five year’s time?

My long aim is that NHSG will be the independent school of choice for girls in the region, where academic success is a given, where there is exceptional pastoral care, where girls have high aspirations and are inspired by strong female role models and know that nothing is off limits for them in terms of their future career choices. I think the core principles and ethos of the school will always remain – that is to provide a supportive environment in which girls thrive and learn without limits, and where we encourage a balance of happiness and ambition. The only way girls can achieve is if they are confident and comfortable in their learning environment but are adequately challenged to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

But I do see us continually evolving, particularly in terms of our academic offer and our award-winning facilities, and much of that will involve always looking beyond academia – generating impactful external partnerships and keeping an eye on what is happening in the world.