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Ahead of International Women’s Day 2022 we are taking this opportunity to celebrate all of the excellent women in senior leadership roles within Scottish independent schools.

We spoke to Helen Harrison, the first-ever female Head of Fettes College, whose philosophy encapsulates the qualities of being Curious, Creative and Kind - the sector-leading school’s three core values.

Find out how Helen’s principles have shaped the experience for the pupils at Fettes College throughout the pandemic and how they aim to now move forward boldly - as told by Helen in this blog.

Taking on the role of Head at Fettes College

It is a great honour to be Head of Fettes College, a collaborative community in which every member is working towards the goal of giving their best whilst supporting those around them. I am proud to be the school’s eleventh Head, just as I am to be the first woman in that role in 150 years, and I am similarly proud that last year we commemorated 50 years of educating girls at Fettes. We prepare all our students for a thoroughly co-educational world and I am a firm believer in the maxim that if you can see it, you can be it, in all walks of life.

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Navigating the pandemic with confidence

On this International Women’s Day, tempting as it might be to reflect on how my school has changed over the last fifty years, it is perhaps more relevant for us all to consider the positives we have collectively achieved over the last two years.

We have seen achievements and resilience, as we have all dug deep to navigate the Covid mitigations of the pandemic, and to reflect on the transformational way we have adapted and developed to sustain our learning during this time. This has been happening in schools throughout the land and I am, personally, so very proud of the way Fettes students, their families, and my staff have responded in these difficult and unsettling times. These outstanding individuals have been versatile and resilient in adapting to change.

All schools are finding the confidence to take bolder steps out of the uncertainties of the last two years into a future that will be forever shaped by, but not constricted by, what we have all been through.

Moving forward boldly

I take this opportunity to personally renew my commitment to be bold and perhaps to invoke that forward-looking, pioneering spirit of remarkable women all over the world throughout human history. I invite you to join me, to be brave in believing in yourself, be curious to learn about the world around you, be open to differing views, embrace opportunities to influence and to instigate change for a better tomorrow.

At Fettes, I surround myself with talented people and we work together to support each other and to excel, to notice, to care and to keep developing. We want our students to know themselves and to leave us surrounded by friends, with the best A Level grades or IB score possible. We want them to feel able to draw on established reserves to be resilient and fully prepared, ready for the next exciting phase of their lives and to make a positive mark on the world.

On International Women’s Day, let us all take time for reflection, then let us be inspired to be the best versions of ourselves, to realise fully our potential and to be bold in all we undertake.

As I say to my teams… “Come with me!”

Many thanks to Helen Harrison and Fettes College for their contribution to this blog.


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