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  Helen Jeys has been head of Alderley Edge School for Girls (AESG), Cheshire, since 2016. She was previously Deputy Head (Pastoral) of Manchester High School for Girls.
best they can be. I encourage the girls to AI love teaching; it remains my enthuse young people with the subject I
passion and yes I still make time to
teach whenever I can. I taught part of the A level Religion & Philosophy course last year and have loved teaching a Year 9 Philosophy course this year. I continue to adore my subject and write when I can; I find my subject and the love of it continues to drive my educational philosophy and teaching it enables me to explore different approaches to teaching and learning. It is important to remember the core importance of teaching and learning.
focus on people and their value rather than the material and indeed, my girls come back telling me about the importance the ‘Alderley family’ has had on their lives. All we can do is to help our students develop the skills they will need to be self-confident and self-assured when they face the world outside of the school gates.
QYou gained a first class honours degree in Theology, and went on to teach Religion and Philosophy. These subjects, along with Psychology, appear to be getting more popular amongst sixth-form students. Could there be a connection between this trend and the increasing anxieties of a generation who are finding it ever harder to find contentment in a hectic, social-media- driven life?
AI think that students are fascinated with meaning and big questions. Perhaps social media and the 24 hour news we are surrounded by expose young people to issues and concerns
that I was not faced with during my
teenage years. Therefore, being given the opportunity to discuss issues like the reality of evil, nature versus nurture and questions surrounding political philosophy are of huge interest to young students. Furthermore, with increasing medical capabilities, issues surrounding ethics, the nature of the human and so forth are hugely relevant. However, these subjects might not give you the answers to that thirst for contentment! I think that it is important to encourage young people to find that contentment and escape from the stresses life can throw at us through sport, drama, dance, music, yoga, mindfulness and so on. This is why a holistic approach to education is so vital.
QYou have written philosophy text books for teenagers. Do you still make time to teach?
adored. I had a place to study for a PhD in Post-Holocaust Hermeneutics but decided that I wanted to give teaching a go. I have never looked back!
pressures of responsibility which go with such promotion. How can competent staff be encouraged to take on the challenge?
Many girls do stay throughout AESG but we also have about 40% of our student body join us in Year 7. We
Effective INSET and professional development continue to
be hugely important. I also
There is said to be a shortage of senior teachers willing to move up to headship, possibly because of the
do, nevertheless, offer a 2-18 experience
and it is fabulous to talk to those girls for whom AESG has made up such a huge part of their lives for so many years. These girls are real advocates of the ‘Alderley family’ and only talk of benefitting from the experience. Indeed, our new Head Girl has been at AESG since early years and she is anything but institutionalised; rather, she is an ambitious, self-motivated and self-assured young woman and we are proud of the person she has become; she has flourished in school. Furthermore, our alumnae are inspirational figures and we are proud to use them as
role models for our current girls so that they know, too, that they can achieve in whichever field they choose.
What does music bring to your life?
oneself in music (just as in sport or dance for instance) provides a momentary escape which we all need after a packed term! I am also blessed with musical children and love to hear their performances and see the wonderful opportunities and skills they continue to enjoy through playing.
encourage my staff to take on the challenge of courses, inspection training and shadowing. Headship is a huge responsibility but also a fantastic one; one tries to emphasise the positives – they far outweigh the negatives!
perhaps this is of little surprise given
the constant harping in the media
about teachers being underpaid, under- appreciated, and under stress. How can this negativity be offset? Who, or what, inspired you to get into teaching?
At the lower end of the scale, recruitment into the profession remains difficult. As with nursing,
It is easy to be negative given what we read in the media but my staff are hugely passionate about what
I don’t play as much as I would like but playing does enable me to have some balance – immersing
they do and about supporting the girls as individuals. They make a genuine difference to the lives of the girls and to the Alderley family. I always loved Religion & Philosophy and after my degree really wanted to
What percentage of your girls – if any – go right through AESG from
early years to Sixth form? Is such a long stay at the same school something to be advocated, and does it carry a risk of being rather inward-looking, even institutionalised?
You enjoy playing the cello and
the piano. Do you participate in performances at school or outside?
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