October 2018


  • Renewed optimism
    New terms always begin with a mood of optimism, says Geoff Barton. Even when we worry about results, about looming inspection or about setting achievable budgets and plugging unforeseen staffing gaps, there's something that makes education distinctively upbeat each September. More
  • Cuts - The real impact
    Following his open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton surveys the impact of funding cuts, highlighting examples from around England of how diminished budgets are chipping away at the very fabric of education. More
  • Best of both worlds
    Positioning teaching as a global profession could have a positive impact on the current teacher supply crisis, both at home and abroad, says Dr Fiona Rogers from the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). More
  • Girl power
    Former teachers Charly Young and Becca Dean founded The Girls' Network with a mission to inspire and empower girls from the least-advantaged communities and help them achieve their goals. Here, Charly explains how the network is helping to change the lives of thousands of girls across the country. More
  • A flexible approach
    Could flexible working provide a major boost in helping to retain teachers? Jack Worth, Lead Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), looks at their latest findings and says school leaders and teachers need to work together on this. More
  • Double act
    Having survived their first year as Co-Headteachers of The Holt School in Wokingham, Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce reflect on one year in post in this unusual but not completely untested model of headship. More
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Former teachers Charly Young and Becca Dean founded The Girls’ Network with a mission to inspire and empower girls from the least-advantaged communities and help them achieve their goals. Here, Charly explains how the network is helping to change the lives of thousands of girls across the country.

Girl power

A recent survey by Girlguiding (https://tinyurl.com/ybpotacw) found that as young women go through adolescence, their confidence drops significantly, with only 31% of 17–21 year-olds surveyed saying that they feel confident in themselves. Alongside this, government figures released in May (https://tinyurl.com/y7cbseap) reported that there are more than 50,000 more economically inactive young women (aged 16–24) classed as NEET (not in education, employment or training) than men.

As English teachers in secondary schools, Becca and I could see more than just the data. We saw young women facing a variety of challenges: pressure to conform, a lack of self-confidence and a lack of self-belief. It was also clear to see that due to their limited network, many of these young women had little or no access to professional female role models. Seeing first-hand how the teenage girls in our classrooms were struggling, we decided to do something about it.

In 2013, Becca and I piloted a one-to-one mentoring scheme for 30 girls and we put in place structures to potentially change the lives of those girls involved, forever. Our vision was that girls would benefit from a greater access to opportunities, but also the confidence to seize those opportunities and skill sets to thrive.

As word of this pilot spread, more and more professional women asked to get involved and, before we knew it, we had set up The Girls’ Network, which has been growing at an incredible rate ever since.

Bright futures

The Girls’ Network aims to ensure that bright futures are not subject to background, gender or parental income. We look to inspire and empower girls from the least-advantaged communities by giving them a personal female mentor who meets regularly with the girls over a year, exploring career opportunities, developing their skills and providing them with support to achieve their goals through education and beyond.

Some of the one-on-one sessions can include giving careers advice, checking CVs, asking practise interview questions and giving the girls access to a vital network of professional female role models.

The Girls’ Network is now working with more than 1,000 girls per year across the country. Each school’s programme consists of at least ten one-to-one mentoring sessions with a trained professional female mentor and all mentees also receive at least two workshops, access to work experience and life-long membership to our Ambassador Network. The workshops are tailored to the girls’ needs and can vary from resiliencebuilding workshops, to workshops led by industry leaders providing insight into their specialist fields.

Morson International, a technical, aerospace and rail recruiter, recently ran a workshop for a group of girls at a school in Greater Manchester. The assistant head of the sixth form at the school said, “The afternoon was truly successful for all the girls. It showed them the opportunities available within the rail sector and helped them realise that there are career paths for them to follow in this sector. It was such an insightful afternoon for all involved and we hope to do it again to inspire more students. A true representation of a local employer engaging with the employees of the future.”

The girls are also invited to networking events and the year-long programme is celebrated with an inter-school regional celebration event.

We are incredibly proud of what The Girls’ Network has achieved so far. In 2017, all the girls we supported grew their network of professional women, accessed via their mentors, with the vast majority of participants also reporting increased resilience and greater communication skills.

Lasting impact

Feedback from mentees, mentors and teachers has shown us that the work we are carrying out is vital and is having the lasting impact that is needed.

One teacher from a school in Liverpool described the immensely positive effect the network had made to two of her students and said, “Both Sarah and Anjali were really overcome with who they talked to, the networking they were able to do and the work experience and work shadowing opportunities they have set up for themselves. Because of who she met, the things she was able to discuss and the opportunities she’s created, Sarah described it as one of life’s events that she’ll never forget.”

And here is how one of the girls we have helped described her experience of being part of the network: “When I started the year of mentoring with Jackie I was nervous and shy and lacked confidence. My ambition is to become a midwife, but at the beginning of the year I didn’t quite know how I would get there. Jackie believed in me and listened to my ideas for the future.

“Over the months she motivated me to attend revision sessions for my GCSEs and plan my routines for revising at home. I was keen to get a part-time job and Jackie helped me to write my CV, practise interview questions and develop my communication skills. My skills and confidence improved so much that I got the first part-time job I applied for. At the start of Year 11, my mocks and predicted grades were Cs and Ds, but in August I achieved two As, two Bs and three Cs. I was delighted and really proud of myself.

“I’m doing a BTEC Level 3 extended in health and social care at college and I know that I will become a midwife. I also know that I need to work hard to achieve my goal. Jackie and I are still in touch and she occasionally gives me hints and tips, either by text or by sending me postcards. It’s also good to know that I can continue to ask her for information or advice in the future.”

Another mentee said, “The most important thing that I have learnt from The Girls’ Network is that no matter what background you have come from you can succeed in life and you should always follow your dream.”

While another commented, “It [The Girls’ Network] enables me to understand the basics about how to explore my ideal career, develop my interests and prepare for job applications. This is a precious opportunity which we normally can’t get in daily life.”

We are now looking to build on these success stories by growing our network even wider and increasing our partnership with schools. We are excited about the opportunities we can create for young girls who need them, and we are committed to empowering girls with the tools they need to reach their full potential.

Your CPD

Charly is a keynote speaker at ASCL’s conference on 23 January 2019 – A 2020 Vision for Pastoral Care in Schools: Conference for Pastoral Leaders. Book your place at www.ascl.org.uk/pastoral

Practical skills:

The Girls’ Network one-on-one sessions can include giving careers advice, checking CVs, asking practise interview questions

Charly Young
CEO and Co-Founder of The Girls’ Network