With responsibilities including speaking in front of the whole school at assemblies and chairing Pupil Council, head girl Grace has all sorts to do during her days at Malvern St James. SoGlos discussed what life is really like for her at the independent school, near Gloucestershire.
About the expert – Grace, head girl at Malvern St James Girls’ School
After joining the school in Year 7, developing her self-confidence and identifying her own personal values, Grace went on to become the head girl. Now in Year 13, Grace is preparing for life after Malvern St James and reflecting on the legacy she’ll leave behind.
Malvern St James, based in picturesque Malvern on the Gloucestershire border, is a leading independent all girls’ school, welcoming pupils from age four to 18-years-old. The school embraces each pupil’s individual talents, interests and passions, while achieving excellent academic results.
Grace – you’re the head girl at Malvern St James. What does that involve?
To be honest, it’s a wide-ranging role with glamorous and mundane aspects! From moving chairs before assembly, to finding words that move others.
I found it strange at first to be held up as a role model, it made me more self-aware as I went about my day; I had to think more deeply about the effect of my behaviour on others. I also had to think about MSJ in the longer term – which took me time to process.
It’s quite easy when you are in Year 13 and thinking about what’s next, to forget that the school will remain once you have left. So, we’ve come up with ideas and strategies that will hopefully reach far into the future.
I join in many meetings about day-to-day school issues with prefects and members of the School’s Senior Leadership team. Often, that means getting in early or eating lunch at top speed. My two deputies and I liaise with the student body, particularly through Pupil Council which I chair; we take feedback and get ideas from girls across the school, fighting to uphold good suggestions and giving honest reasons if we can’t. Engagement and friendship between the years at MSJ is powerful and I think Pupil Council is part of that bond.
Although I give speeches at Open Days, take assemblies and read at the Carol Service, the biggest event for me is Commemoration where I speak to the whole school community, and greet my own year group for the last time. It’s the final blast before we all break up for summer – and my year group goes off into the rest of our lives.
Had you always had aspirations to become head girl?
Not at all! When I joined in Year 7, if I wanted to represent the school at all, it was by running very fast. At that time, I wasn’t even very confident about school trips or staying overnight. It really has been the warmth, strength and openness of the culture and of friendships over my time at MSJ that have helped me believe I can lead – and also made me long to give back.
As I moved up school, for me, a passion for sport evolved into a passion for drama; so I loved the energy of presentation and interview that was part of the Head Girl’s hustings process, and the role itself – I enjoy public speaking. Maybe through studying History and RS, I also felt I had values that would count for the school, and a vision of the way I wanted it to go. I also wanted to grow personally from the role.
What’s a typical day at Malvern St James like?
It’s funny because MSJ days follow a very familiar pattern, but almost every day something quite different happens; whether it is a talk from an old girl about kilt making – or a staff versus student rounders match!
Most days for me start in the Sixth Form Centre chatting with my friends and drinking tea. Usually we then go on to a whole school assembly, which those of us on the Prefect team will set up. All of us can just fit into the main hall; a fundamental opportunity to come together as a community.
In Sixth Form, I have one lesson for each of my three subjects a day; a good balance that also means that I have at least one study period a day to focus on my own work.
At 10am we have break – always something good to eat, especially on Cookie Wednesday. Lunch is more good food, and a range of student- and teacher-led clubs, as well as subject drop ins.
Although lessons end at 4pm, there are two school hours afterwards for sports matches and various clubs and activities, as well as time to knock any homework on the head.
I go home at 6pm because I am not a boarder. But, occasionally I stay for supper at 6.30pm before a drama rehearsal or lecture.
What’s the best part of your day?
That would have to be sitting in the Sixth Form Centre with my friends, chatting and sharing stories – there is such a sense of community, funniness and friendship. I will miss it a lot!
What’s your favourite thing about life on the border of Gloucestershire?
Although I don’t live in Gloucestershire, my grandparents live in Chipping Camden, so I spent a lot of time in the county when I was younger. From that point of view, I love the visual beauty of the small Cotswold towns and villages, the sense of historical continuity, the big, old wool pack churches, the colour of the stone – and the big, grassy playgrounds for children!
As I got older, I’ve begun to appreciate how connected Gloucestershire is as a county, not only to Worcestershire where I live, but also to Oxford and London. I’ve also discovered Cheltenham, one of the places my Mum wants to come along, when I go shopping; for its elegance, the parks, and a fun day out.
What advice would you give to girls thinking about coming to Malvern St James?
Throw yourself into the MSJ community! You won’t find a warmer or more responsive and supportive one, anywhere. Prepare to trust teachers. Here, they don’t feel like the enemy, so learn to ask if you are unsure or need something. Be yourself. It may sound like a cliché, but MSJ will create a space for you, whoever you are, so claim and enjoy your own voice, strength and integrity.