Brave Thinkers. True Colours: Teaching girls to take risks

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Brave Thinkers. True Colours: Teaching girls to take risks

How can we encourage our daughters and granddaughters to follow their ambitions and learn from mistakes along the way? Alice Lucas, headmistress of St Helen’s School, an independent girls’ day school in north-west London, shares her approach to building resilience in girls

St Helen's girls also flourish outside of the classroom
St Helen's girls also flourish outside of the classroom

At St Helen’s School, our vision for every student, whether they join at three, 11 or 16 years of age, is to be brave and true, intellectually curious and believe they can do anything. We achieve this through a combination of individual coaching, embedding future-ready learning attitudes and dispositions, and giving each child the space – both physical and mental – to develop their interests, aspirations and friendships.

We are keenly aware of our responsibility to ensure girls meet their potential – our founder, May Roland Brown, was one of those amazing 19th century women who believed passionately in women’s potential to be professionals in any sphere – and this ambition is the lifeblood of the school today. However, our approach to reaching this end goal is thoroughly modern. We are preparing girls for a future that we can’t imagine so we need to equip them with strategies to fulfil their potential.

At St Helen’s School, our coaching model enables trained staff to work with each individual girl to help them work out what they want to do in life and how to get there. Alongside coaching, we place a large emphasis on students developing and cherishing our key learner habits: the pursuit of knowledge, problem-solving, creativity and metacognition, which means understanding your own thought processes. The latter is a key reason behind us teaching philosophy from Year 1 as a timetabled lesson to expand pupils’ thinking, debate and to learn about learning.

Headshot of Headmistress Alice Lucas

We also reinforce the positive character attributes of courage, integrity, ambition and kindness and find ways for girls to put these into practice either within school life. This is done through our partnership with the charity Phab UK, for which our students run a youth club experience for teenagers with disabilities and learning needs, giving them a profound sense of responsibility and service to others; or through participating in our outreach programme, working with state schools in the Northwood community.

We know that exams are important but they are just part of the St Helen’s story. Happy children tend to get good results and, as such, we are committed to ensuring our girls make the best of our 21 acres of green space for fun as they develop their love of learning both in and outside of the classroom.

The school’s grounds

Our co-curricular programme provides opportunities for each girl to take a risk by trying something new as well as to support her cultural or religious heritage – and we have a thriving Jewish Society, run by Jewish students together with Jewish members of staff.

Fostering positive healthy relationships is also a key way to help girls flourish beyond their school lives. Our pupils in the Prep and Senior school and Sixth Form are wonderfully supportive of each other and we are very proud of the compassionate approach that is at the heart of our school life.

We celebrate each other’s values and make allowances for pupils to attend religious festivals, observe the Sabbath each week and enjoy healthy, vegetarian options in the school canteen.

At St Helen’s, we strive to nurture the leaders of tomorrow, equipping each pupil with strategic decision-making skills, as well as resilience and self-confidence, to achieve their potential and, yes, learn from mistakes along the way.

Keen to see the school in action? Attend an open morning or arrange a visit to discover what makes St Helen’s School such a warm, fun and vibrant place to grow and learn.

Visit to register your interest or contact our Admissions team on 01923 843230 or via Coaches are available and service areas including Stanmore, Barnet and Finchley.


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