We spoke with Samantha, NHSG Head Girl 2020/21, about taking on the role of Head Girl during a national pandemic. This is what she had to say…

‘Sweet and sour’ is how I would describe lockdown.

Older girls previously buried in books and deadlines re-programmed their lives within minutes. Plenty delighted in the premature end to their studies but my heart sank for those denied an opportunity to exhibit their full potential and robbed of end of school traditions. With no predecessors’ hand-me-down on ‘How to be a Head Girl at home’, it was here I first came face to face with the protagonist of 2020; change. Change, again, is both sweet and sour. I quickly decided I didn’t like change; I was fearful of the landscape of free time in front of me and set out to have a plethora of perfectly productive days.

“Everyone was fearful – however, I thought if I could help somebody become a little less fearful, this would be a significant achievement.”

On reflection, I am very proud of my school. The Guided Home Learning system drew us closer to normality, a new normality. School forum, Mental Health Awareness Week, Diversity Week, a Black Lives Matter assembly, Sports Day, pastoral care, co-curricular clubs, guest speakers and much more, were made very much available to us. The hardship certainly began with lack of structure, yet, as meetings, clubs and a school timetable developed, I recognised a productive utilisation of my time. Change was not so bad.

Now, to summarise the ‘sweet’ experiences. The compassion and kindness, the pure goodness of selfless society when faced with unprecedented challenges. Lockdown gave me the opportunity to reconsider my future and brought about the realisation that I no longer wanted to be a doctor. Now, I am applying for Law and truly excited by the prospect of studying this at university.

Lockdown brought me time to tick things off my to-do list that had been expanding for months. I started to read classic literature, such as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, and submitted an essay to a university essay competition. I have also learnt to appreciate. I appreciate that heroes don’t always wear capes, and they often come with IT expertise! I’ve learnt to appreciate my big family unified in my not so big house (perhaps with the exception of when I can’t get to sleep for a noisy big brother and sister). I’ve learnt to appreciate just how lucky I truly am. Most importantly, I’ve learnt to appreciate health.

In early February, I outlined my vision for NHSG and the impact I hoped to have during my time as Head Girl as part of the school’s new selection process.

Mental illness, especially in the form of body dysmorphia and abnormal eating habits is prevalent in young girls. My vision was to address this through various channels, for example, inviting professional guest speakers and dieticians into school to challenge misconceptions and produce a new normal – away from the unattainable ‘perfection’ portrayed so abundantly in the media. Unfortunately, I have had first-hand experience of a family member with eating disorders, and therefore feel well equipped to address this issue.

I would also like to play a part in boosting House allegiance and making House events appeal to a wider array of pupils. I suggested three new house events; a great House Bake Off, an annual Go Green challenge (in which houses compete to improve the environment) and finally, a house style University Challenge to give our phenomenal intellectuals an opportunity to shine. Some other proposals include half-termly trips to different universities – why should five different families travel to the same university? – and increasing the involvement of Alumnae in work experience opportunities.

Finally, I will promote hard work, motivation and drive, as well as inspiring professionalism in school life. I am keen to nurture an appreciation of academic achievement – for me it is something to be proud of in the same sense that drama skills and sports success are celebrated.

We’re already half way through the Autumn term and I know there is a lot I wish to achieve. It is exciting to work towards my aims, and I feel emboldened by the challenges lockdown has exposed me to. Above all it has taught me to embrace, rather than fear, change.

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