This morning I had the pleasure of visiting Red Maids’ Senior School, an independent school for girls aged 11 to 18 which is situated in the Westbury-on-Trym area of Bristol.
There, I met and interviewed Headteacher Isabel Tobias and was taken on a full tour of Red Maids’ Senior School by two Year 12 girls.
The reason for my visit was to find out more about Red Maids’ Senior School – rated as one of the ‘Top 50′ independent girls’ schools by The Times this Summer – and about Headteacher Isabel Tobias, who has been Headteacher of Red Maids’ for an impressive fourteen years.
Isabel Tobias, who is warm and welcoming, explained to me on my visit that one of the key values at Red Maids’ is that it is ‘all about the girl’:
“We are experts in educating girls and enabling them to develop into successful and confident young women.”
This is achieved by the school offering challenge, opportunity and support through the curriculum, as well as through wider opportunities such as leadership, music, drama, sport, public speaking and charity fundraising.
Isabel explained to me that the theme of supporting girls to achieve has been a major one in her long career of teaching and that all but one of the five schools which she has worked in have been girls’ schools. This, along with being a mother to two daughters and a son, has formed her views about the benefits to either gender of single sex education.
Red Maids’ promotes values such as kindness, respect for others and good behavior, and, indeed, I was struck by the kind, safe and friendly environment both in my meeting with Isabel and later in my tour around the school.
Founded in 1634, Red Maids’ is the oldest girls’ school in the country and girls at Red Maids have a strong awareness of the school’s history, respecting school traditions and the school’s strong links to the Bristol community.
Yet, the school also has a modern outlook, and both embraces and promotes technology, for example the girls use iPads in lessons and also study subjects such as robotic technology.
The school also demonstrates strong global awareness and action. For example, in recent years, girls from Red Maids have tirelessly fundraised for a little village in Cambodia and have raised enough money to build a school there. Red Maids’ students have made three trips to the village and have taught at the very school which they helped to have built.
In another overseas partnership, Red Maids’ has fundraised for a young Ugandan girl named Irene to have an education, which has enabled her to go to school and teacher training college.
Red Maids’ has many international links
Isabel Tobias is aware of the importance of challenging girls out of their comfort zone so as to support them to exceed their expectations and to achieve their very best both in their education and in later life.
Thus, the curriculum offered at Red Maids’ is broad and challenging, including traditional subjects such as maths, English Literature and Language, foreign languages, Latin, classical civilisation, history, geography and biology, physics and chemistry.
In addition, Red Maids’ also offers more modern subjects such as ICT, business studies, PE, drama, food and textiles technologies.
But as well as offering A levels, Red Maids’ is the only school in Bristol to also offer the option of the International Baccalaureate Diploma, which along with other advantages, also offers a broader choice of specialist subjects to students (you can find out more about the International Baccalaureate from some Red Maids’ girls themselves in this video).
In fact, Isobel Trout, a former Red Maid and Bristol Youth Mayor whom I interviewed on Bristol Mum two years ago, took the IB route at Red Maids’ and entered the top 0.5 % of IB students internationally when she achieved 44 out of a possible maximum of 45 points in her results last Summer!
The all-weather astro turf at Red Maids’
Regarding extra curricular activities on offer to girls at Red Maids’, the list is impressively diverse. If girls wish to explore music, they can do this through orchestras, musicals and choirs.
If it is drama that girls would like to enjoy more of, then there are drama clubs, plays and performances at Red Maids’, plus the school also regularly takes part in the Shakespeare Schools’ Festival.
Other extra-curricular activities include debating, robot club, science society, house events and competitions, mentoring, caving, kayaking, paint pals, philosophy and master chef with fellow Bristol school QEH, philosophy society and many, many more activities on offer at Red Maids’.
The Sixth Form Centre at Red Maids’
Isabel and her team understand that the role of a child’s parents in her education is an important one.
Thus, parents are invited and encouraged to attend parents’ evenings and information evenings, completing school questionnaires, attending the Red Maids’ parents’ discussion group and they also use the ‘hub’: an electronic portal on which parents can access information such as course content, timetables and attendance, plus letters and reports.
Red Maids’ also sends regular weekly email newsletters to parents and parents are invited to attend sports matches, plays, performances and presentations evenings such as Prize Giving and extended project presentations.
Isabel also explained to me that there is a very active Friends’ Association for parents which runs events such as the school’s Christmas Craft Fair and whole school BBQ, as well as running the Enterprise Cup, volunteering in the school library and raising funds to buy extras for the school.
Isabel ensures that she is available to parents should they need her, actively encouraging them to communicate any worries or concerns with her, as well as with other members of staff.
Isabel noted that while women in Britain today have come a long way in their fight for equality with men, there is still some way to go and work still needed to done, a fact which strongly resonated with me.
Thus, Isabel’s long-term aims include making education at Red Maids’ accessible to even more Bristol girls in future. This will be done through growing the already generous bursary and scholarship fund and also using former pupils even more to inspire girls, for example, a former Head Girl is soon to be coming back to speak at Prize Giving.
Isabel’s commitment and passion for girls at Red Maids’ to achieve their very best are form part of Isabel’s long-term aims for the school:
“I aim to ensure that young women are truly ambitious and have the confidence and the skills so that they never have to compromise their life chances and personal goals. I want to empower girls so they become happy, fulfilled and influential women.”
Leaving Red Maids’ Senior School today I was truly impressed and inspired; Red Maids’ is a wonderful school. Yet, as Bristol Mum readers will know, it is the people behind the school who make it what it is.
As Isabel Tobias so aptly puts it:
“The key to all this is the wonderful staff – both teachers and support staff who really care about the students and are all committed to making the educational experience for girls at Red Maids’ the best it can be.”
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If you would like to find out more about Red Maids’ Senior School, you can do so by visiting http://www.redmaids.co.uk/senior.aspx