Headteacher's Blog

  • 07Apr

    I dwell in Possibility

    Rachael Warwick









    'I dwell in Possibility
    A fairer House than Prose...
    The spreading wide my narrow Hands
    To gather Paradise.'

    Emily Dickinson


    I am sure that the best teachers are those who 'dwell in Possibility', who see their subject as a source of awe and wonder, and are able to communicate this to young people. This happens both in the classroom and through the huge

    array of extra-curricular activity available to our students. I am proud of a huge number of things about our school: first and foremost, the quality of our teachers and support staff. This edition of 'Panorama' is, once more, testimony to the

    energy, positivity and talent of DGS staff. They are keen to praise their students' achievement and I think it is appropriate that I should praise theirs!

    Dr Nickerson continues to create wonderful STEM opportunities for students across the school. Mrs Barnes has created a vibrant culture of reading in the Library and is working brilliantly with our Patron of Reading, Jo Cotterill, to create additional opportunities for our students. Dr Khan's work on leadership and

    community is inspiring: International Women's Day was a joy as students used their voices to speak out for gender equality. Mr Dingley has transformed our students' experience of music across the school, culminating in the inspiring

    Ambassadors' Concert earlier this week. Dr Comina led a vibrant and engaging Science Week for the whole school community this term - and we loved it! Miss Vassiliou, Miss Klinpikuln, Miss Carter and Mr Anderson champion high quality oracy with wonderful opportunities for public speaking and debate which our

    students clearly relish. Mr George continues to engage the school brilliantly with the community and to lead the way in encouraging students to be active citizens who campaign for positive change. The high quality language provision provided by Mrs Morris and her team has resulted in DGS being invited to join the

    Mandarin Excellence Programme, creating wonderful opportunities for future students. Staff give their time over holidays to lead trips and create unique

    opportunities for students, whether this be the Science trip to Disneyland and the Business & Politics trip to the USA over February half term or the Dance &

    Psychology trip also heading for the States over this Easter break. Our PE team regularly give up their evenings and weekends to accompany girls to fixtures and it is no surprise that sport continues to thrive at DGS. Mrs Turner and her team continue to raise extra funds for the school through creative and enjoyable events which bring together the school and wider DGS community.

    And yet, what is perhaps less visible to parents, but vitally important, is the

    quality of teaching, day to day, in the classrooms across DGS. Mr Goodenough paints a very vibrant picture of this in his article on page 3. There are a huge number of teachers working extremely hard, day in and day out, to provide

    quality learning experiences for all students - one of the school's three core

    values. This takes time: a lot of time. Over Easter there are revision classes

    taking place for students preparing to take GCSE and A level examinations: so many staff are prepared to give up more time to support their students.

    I have been privileged to appoint some excellent new teachers and support staff to the school for September to reflect our growing roll. I know that my most

    important job is to continue to appoint the most committed, positive and talented staff, as this creates the virtuous cycle which fuels our school's success. The ingredients of an outstanding school always come back to the quality of people in it, and the culture which supports them to give of their best. Thank you, DGS staff, for ensuring that our wonderful students have the opportunity to give of their best in a stimulating, vibrant and supportive learning community.

    Happy Easter!


    Posted at 11:08

  • 23Jan

    A Year Beyond Outstanding at Didcot Girls’ School

    RW photo - officeA Year Beyond Outstanding at Didcot Girls’ School

    One of the many exciting and interesting changes which results from achieving an Outstanding evaluation by Ofsted is the freedom to innovate. The culture of Didcot Girls’ School, integral to the pace and ambition which led to our fast-paced improvement, is now well established. The confidence of students and staff to ‘push the envelope’ is what creates a cycle of ongoing improvement and makes the school an exciting place to be.

    Our examination results this summer were record-breaking, placing us in the top 20% of schools nationally. All groups of students performed brilliantly. Of course, the core of any school’s success is the quality and consistency of teaching and learning. I am privileged to work with the most committed and talented group of staff who go above and beyond on a daily basis. They are, without doubt, the key to the school’s ongoing success. 

    Our vision remains the same: to create a superb education for all our girls so that they develop their potential and progress to exciting futures.

    Mrs Warwick


    Posted at 10:30

  • 13Sep


    RW photo - officeThe definition of vision is: ‘the ability to think about or plan for the future with imagination or wisdom.’ Perhaps a better definition would be: ‘the ability to think about or plan for the future with imagination and wisdom.’

    A vision can be relatively easy to create: it is the communication of the vision which is the difficult bit!  How do we do this? We need to consider other people’s motivation to help us make the vision a reality and ask them to give their time and energy to make it happen. No one ever brought a vision to life on their own!

    This is the reason that Dr Khan, our new Head of Ethos, has been talking to students and staff in assemblies and briefings about her vision for the House System and Leadership Ladder this year. Dr Khan’s vision is for every student to become involved in leadership in some way at DGS or in the wider community. Dr Khan spoke in whole school assembly about the importance of leadership as a way to serve others, to enjoy fierce and friendly competition, and to develop skills which will enable you to break any number of glass ceilings in the future. This is a pretty compelling vision.

    The vision for Didcot Girls’ School is also compelling:


    It is a source of huge pride to me that, thanks to the committed and talented governors, staff and students at our school, this vision is a day to day reality at Didcot Girls’ School. We are not complacent though and, as an Outstanding school, we always aspire to be ‘even better’.

    What is your vision? How will you communicate it to others? I look forward to watching all that DGS students will achieve this year: I know that, once again, you will make me extremely proud!

    Mrs Warwick


    Filed under: Headteacher's Blog Posted at 09:32

  • 20Jul

    ‘Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.' - 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'

    Rachael WarwickThe choice of 'Alice in Wonderland' as our Lower School Production this term seems strangely apposite given national events. 'Curiouser and curiouser' seems an appropriate response to the fantastical and bizarre world of politics over recent months. One thing of which I am sure is that the strength of the DGS community which celebrates the diversity of all its members is more important than ever. I am also more sure than ever that our distinctive mission to develop the leaders of the future is vital. Let our Head Girl team run the country and I would rest assured!

    Janus-like, this is the time of the school year to reflect on our significant achievements and to look forward to the future. We have much to be grateful for, and much of which to be proud. We are the only secondary school in Oxfordshire to have moved from Ofsted Good to Outstanding in the new framework and for at least the last seven years. As well as being positioned in the top 20% of schools nationally for the outcomes of our Year 11 students,  the school boasts a rich extra-curricular life and holds precious a distinctive ethos which makes the education offered at Didcot Girls' School, in my view, exceptional, rather than outstanding. It is no surprise that we are oversubscribed in the new Year 7.  

    This term, Junior Takeover Day on Friday 1st July was a highlight as students in Years 7-9 led the school for a day. We have celebrated National Women in Engineering Day and DGS continues to provide exceptional STEM-based opportunities, thanks to Dr Nickerson and her close work with Harwell and Culham Science Parks, Oxford University and the Smallpeice Engineering Trust.  

    The creative arts move from strength to strength at DGS. We have been treated to 'Ebb and Flow' a Dance and Art collaboration this term, as well as another fantastic exhibition in the Freeborn Gallery featuring the work of Simon East and our Year 9 students. It is easy to take for granted the huge talent of our young people  but let's remember just how exceptional is the work of Miss Robertson and her students in the magical fantasia which was 'Alice', as well as the brilliant adaptations from 'Peter Pan' and 'Lord of the Flies'. Thank you!  

    We have celebrated in style this term: Sports Awards; Lower School Awards Evening; Celebration Breakfasts and Celebration Assemblies. We are never slow to show our appreciation for our exceptional young people.  

    What do we look forward to next year? The arrival of our new Head of Music, Mr Dingley, and Music taking its rightful place alongside the performing arts subjects at DGS. Jo Cotterill, children's author, will take up post as Patron of Reading at Didcot Girls' School: she is brilliant and we are very excited to be working more closely with her! Watch out for the whole school focus on oracy led by Miss Vassiliou and the continued focus on a growth mindset culture from all of us at DGS. We will be talking to students about what makes an 'outstanding DGS student' and providing more opportunities for our students to act as role models to their peers.  

    Personally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank some wonderful colleagues who depart DGS this summer for pastures new. You will all be much missed! Looking forward, as the school roll continues to grow, I am delighted to welcome a large group of exceptional new colleagues in September. Welcome! And thank you, DGS families, for your ongoing support.

    My final thanks are for all my colleagues at DGS who make our school what it is today: 'Truly great schools don't suddenly exist. You grow great teachers first who, in turn, grow a truly great school.' (John Tomsett)

    And one thing I do know is that Didcot Girls' School is a great school.

    Happy holidays!

    Rachael Warwick


    Posted at 08:46

  • 27May

    'At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.' Albert Schweitzer

    Dear DGS Families

    Another fast-paced two terms have passed since the last edition of 'Panorama'. I hope you enjoyed the 'Our Inspiring Women' publication at the end of last term - I certainly did!
    Rachael Warwick
    At Didcot Girls' School, we are mindful of the need to press 'pause' on the day to day busyness of school life to stop and celebrate the students of whom we are so proud. Didcot Sixth Form College Awards Evening and the Upper School Awards Evening were both fantastic events, made more inspiring by the presence of our guests of honour: Professor Andrew Harrison, CEO of Diamond, and Zamila Bunglawala, Deputy Director at the Cabinet Office, respectively.

    Highlights of this term have included Grace Gilmour's success in the Young Art Oxford competition and the opening of our latest exhibition in the Freeborn Gallery, 'Hopes + Dreams'. This will now translate into a whole school project with students and staff creating their own manifestos, some of which will be rendered into different art media by our very talented Art students and then displayed around the school. Don't miss the wonderful sky photographs produced by Year 10 artists which are printed throughout this edition of 'Panorama': Mia Field's photograph of the Didcot Power Station on the front cover is stunning.

    With GCSE and A level examinations now well underway for our older students, the focus turns towards our younger students. Next term we look forward to the Lower School outdoor production of 'Alice in Wonderland' - picnics and umbrellas at the ready! We are also preparing for Lower School Awards Evening and our PE Awards Event as well as Junior Take Over Day aimed at students in Years 7,8 and 9.

    As the school year draws to an end it is appropriate to reflect on the importance of gratitude. I am extremely grateful to have a job where I can help make a positive difference to young people's lives. I am also extremely grateful to work with the committed, enthusiastic and talented group of teaching and support staff which make Didcot Girls' School an outstanding school. One DGS parent contacts me on a regular basis to thank different members of staff for the various contributions they have made to her daughters' experience at our school. I don't think this parent realises for one moment what a profound effect her messages have on those who receive them. The power of noticing the acts of others and thanking them for these is how we light the flames in those around us. Thank you to all of the DGS parents who take the time to notice the countless acts of kindness and support provided by staff at our school every day: we are extremely grateful.

    With best wishes

    Rachael Warwick




    Posted at 08:39