Ethos and Student Leadership
Ethos and Student Leadership at Didcot Girls’ School: An Overview from Dr Gohar Khan, Director of Ethos
Ethos and Leadership are integral to student experience at DGS. A powerful culture underpins all academic and non-academic work. The ethos for respect, resilience, ambition, and diversity has been nurtured and cultivated over years. Leadership and the ability to self-lead is taught actively and inclusively. Enrichment is judiciously planned and the provision of cultural capital is reinforced by continual research. We endeavour to make all our events student-led and appoint a robust and diverse student leadership team who are excellent role models for the school community.
As Director of Ethos, my role revolves around promoting a culture in which socially responsible and globally-minded young people are nurtured across the whole of the Ridgeway Education Trust (RET): DGS, St Birinus School (SBS) and Sutton Courtney Primary School. The post sends out a powerful message: we expect our young people to partake in opportunities for leadership and personal growth. At DGS we believe that when it comes to leadership, it’s never too early to start. Last year there were three major aims for the school ethos: to challenge traditional notions of exclusive and elitist leadership; to track the uptake for our Leadership Ladder and student leadership teams to ensure that students across the board benefit from a rich and diverse experience; to establish meaningful links between values-based leadership and Teaching and Learning, with a focus on Growth Mindset.
This year, our aim is to continue to offer an excellent provision for Ethos and Student Leadership, and focus more closely on embedding diversity in a rich and meaningful way into our ethos work; to focus on climate action; to rebuild and develop our community spirit, especially as a result of Covid-19 and its consequences; to track more closely our extra-curricular provision. A lot is encompassed within Ethos at DGS; while responsibilities are becoming increasingly widespread, when we speak of Ethos we mean our values and culture, ‘the DGS way’, the House Championships, our extra-curricular provision, conferences, trips, global awareness days, cultural capital, assemblies, enrichment and student leadership. Our Leadership Ladder, which students embark on in Year 7, allows all our young people to engage in leadership in a meaningful way. Our House system, comprising seven houses named after inspirational women, offers a diverse and competitive programme throughout the year. To sum up, our Ethos is driven by our aim to nurture the next generation of leaders and change-makers, who recognise the power of values-based leadership: resilience, compassion, ambition, empathy, global awareness and the will to make a difference. We regularly ask our students: ‘who is the one person you will always have to lead - and lead well?’. With this in mind, our students embrace the culture for leadership whole-heartedly and strongly believe in the positive impact this experience will have on their futures.
Valued-based leadership is a core aspect of our ethos at Didcot Girls’ School. The Leadership Ladder has become a cherished tradition that enables us to fulfil our mission statement: We are a vibrant school community which empowers girls to become resilient and to fulfil their potential as future leaders. Young leadership is at the heart of our wider school provision, and we are committed to offering our students with every opportunity to grow, thrive and flourish into the change makers of the future. The Leadership Ladder is an entitlement for our Year 7 to Year 10 students and will prepare them for the many leadership roles we offer to our Year 11 students and Didcot Sixth Form. The provision is based on the values we cherish and uphold at DGS and offers a full range of eclectic opportunities for young people to embrace leadership in a way that they enjoy. There are different criteria for each year group, which will result in the following awards: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
How it works
The Leadership Ladder is an entitlement for Year 7 to Year 10 students, and we expect every student to undertake this exciting leadership journey with us. The ladder itself is based on the values we privilege and cherish at DGS – from resilience and courage to creativity, compassion, and teamwork. From these values we create a full range of eclectic opportunities for young people to embrace and enjoy. If you are in Year 7 and 8 you will work towards Lower Bronze, Silver and Gold. At each level, you must complete 6 leadership activities to receive your award, which will be presented in the form of a badge in an assembly at the end of term. Over the years, our students have worn these badges with great pride on their blazers. Your form tutor or the member of staff running the activity can sign the leadership ladder for you. The Platinum is a community-based award, where you contribute to your community for a number of hours; this award can be earned at any stage of your school life and is an excellent way for you to embrace the spirit of ‘giving back’. The Platinum award is very prestigious, and students have always enjoyed getting involved in it. We hope that students will enjoy growing their leadership skills with our exciting provision.
Looking further into the future we are also aware how beneficial the Leadership Ladder can be when it comes to seeking work experience, employment, or places in Further and Higher Education and a great talking point in interviews. You will also note the link to several ‘Employability tasks’ as options too, several of these are linked to our web-based careers platform.
Student Leadership Opportunities
• Associate Head Girl (Year 11)
• Deputy Associate Head Girl (Year 11) • House Captains (Year 11)
• Deputy House Captains (Year 11)
• Climate Action Leaders (Year 11) • Charity Leaders (Year 11)
• Diversity Leaders (Year 11) • Mentoring Leaders (Year 11) • Deputy House Captains (Year 10)
• Ethos Leaders (Year 10)
• Prefects (Year 11)
• Other roles, as appropriate including: Form Captains, Academic Mentors, Club organisers, Reading Ambassadors, Sports Ambassadors, School Councillors, Community Prefects
At DGS, we have seven houses all named after inspirational female role models that provide a focus for friendly competition within school, along with a recognition of the skills and qualities of these role models that our students might aspire to. Throughout the year our students take part in the House Championships on an ongoing basis. Every aspect of life in school is rewarded, directly or indirectly, by the awarding of House Points (HPs) which are tallied 6 times a year to produce termly House Championship winners and an overall ‘2020/2021 House Champion’ crowned at the end of term 6. Last year our students earned over 120,000 HPs between them, even with the lockdown learning! This represents a fantastic effort by our pupils. Housepoints are earned in four ways: i) Housepoints awarded via SatchelOne ii) Postcards home (5HP each) iii) Completion of the leadership ladder (5HP per badge achieved) iv) Awards of Housepoints for both participation AND achievement in House Competitions.