The education agenda 2024

Posted on 12th January 2024

Alison Sefton, Head of Norwich High School for Girls GDST

A recent blog piece I read (here) highlighted the following four key issues for schools in the year ahead and I thought it was worth reflecting on what we are doing as a school in each of these areas:

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is very much the technology of the moment, despite it having been around for many years. It seems to receive billing as the panacea for all workload issues – from students researching coursework, writing code or preparing a talk; to teachers writing reports, preparing assemblies and lesson planning. The technology has huge potential for good. However, like any new technologies, some of us are more comfortable with having a go, trying out new things and seeing how they might work and others need a little more guidance. Technology is transforming workplaces and schools and we are using our Digital Strategy Group across the Prep and Senior School to consider how we train staff and pupils in the uses and benefits of AI. For staff this will be focused on reducing workload and for pupils I see use of AI as being a life skill; teaching and supporting them in their ability to use wisely the technologies that are available to them. Pupils have always had to declare that any public examination coursework is their own but this year the Joint Council for Qualifications will ask that pupils cite where they have used AI to support their work. AI is here to stay.

Subject choices

Our Curriculum 2024 project is looking at the breadth of our academic and co-curriculum offer across the Prep and Senior School to ensure that it fits with our values and ethos and offers pupils opportunities inside and outside the classroom to assimilate knowledge, build interdisciplinary skills and resilience. Watch this space for more information about changes to the curriculum and co-curriculum from September 2024.

In addition, as a member of the GDST family of schools, we have access to some exciting content over and above our core academic offer. For example, as mentioned in the linked article above, the pre-university GDST Space Technology Diploma is delivered across multiple GDST Sixth Form departments including at Norwich High Sixth Form. It is a new initiative to upskill pre-internship coders for computer science-based space technology ventures, using Python Programming language. Find out more here.

Nurturing “character education”

Technology has the ability to change the way we work and learn, but it is humans who have the curiosity to learn and to question the way things happen. As yet, technology can’t replicate a person’s character – the spirit they have and their sense of belonging. Through the GDST Undivided Charter for Action, we are committed to putting our students first; fearlessness; a sense of family, where every individual is valued, respected and included; in our mission to continually grow and improve. Read more on our website here. Alongside our community partnerships working with local primary schools and raising funds for local charities, we are delivering on one of our core school values: Community matters to us. Our girls positively support the lives of others in school and the wider community; they are outward looking and networked. This is set to continue through lots of great initiatives in 2024.

Wellbeing for all

The World Economic Forum predicts that ‘life skills’ such as resilience, flexibility and self-management will become even more essential in the future. Over the Christmas break, a striking wall installation on the C Corridor of the Senior School gives us a visual reminder of our Senior School pastoral aims: Know yourself; Look after yourself; Make it Happen. Our pastoral team is looking across the school at how we continue to develop these aims as a whole school to help pupils prioritise positive wellbeing as well as building the life skills they will need like analytical thinking, complex problem-solving and critical thinking.

Staff wellbeing is a high priority for me, and recent staff survey results have shown that staff feel engaged, enabled and empowered, and, importantly, believe action will be taken as a result of their feedback. Through regular consultative meetings, and following a challenging few years following the pandemic, we feel we have created an environment where everyone can thrive which is very exciting.

It looks set to be a great year ahead – both for the remainder of the current academic year but also into 2024/25 when we will be celebrating the proud achievement of 150 years since we were founded on Monday, February 22nd 1875, at Churchman House in St Giles. This is the perfect time to reflect on the school, past, present and future; and to celebrate the enduring pioneering spirit of Norwich High School for Girls.