‘..consideration must be given to the question, what constitutes education and what is the proper way to be educated? At present there are differences of opinion as to the proper tasks to be set; for all peoples do not agree as to the things that the young ought to learn, either with a view to virtue or with a view to the best life, nor is it clear whether their studies should be regulated more with regard to intellect or with regard to character’
Our intent is for our girls to leave us after seven years well qualified and well rounded; intellect and character. Ready to take on the world and to change it for the better. Ten feet tall. They’ll have their eyes open to a world full of possibilities, to different & global perspectives and to all that they are capable of. They’ll be unstoppable!
Our implementation of that intent is through a rigorous and academic, though future focussed curriculum framed around the EBacc, through outstanding teaching and outstanding care and through our unique personal development and character education programme, The FSGBacc, which provides girls with outstanding opportunities and experiences. Our ethos is driven by the unshakeable belief that exam results are what you get; they do not define who you are and will play only a part in shaping the person you become. Our academic curriculum therefore is only a part of what we do! We want all girls to have the opportunity to explore and excel, to GROW, LEARN & DEVELOP - not only in the classroom but beyond it. Our international outlook is also at the heart of what we do and equally vital to our ethos; we want our girls to know that as human beings there is much more that unites us than divides us. Our work in this area this year, and our success, has only made us hungry to do even more. We have reflected upon and refocused our views that curriculum should not just interest and inspire the girls, not just reflect and respond and be relevant to the world we live in but that we need to be much more ambitious; that the curriculum we teach should help to change the world for the better: a curriculum that teaches our girls to value themselves, value each other, value the world we live in and the world around them. A curriculum for values. A curriculum for empathy. A curriculum for wisdom. A curriculum to change their world. A curriculum to change the world.
Our impact is in outstanding results (Progress 8 at 0.77 in 2019/5 year average 0.58), in the sheer volume of outstanding opportunities applauded in our ‘year in the life’ slideshows and in our girls - who leave us after seven years well qualified and well rounded - ready for their onward journey and next adventure. It is evident in our international and global school status and the lens which that affords us through which to focus curriculum change. It is evident in the engagement of our students with our FSGBacc programme – which just 3 years into existence has recruited over 250 students for DoE, 200+ cadets, offers dedicated curriculum time in Years 7/8/9 and 10, FSGBacc camps as part of our transition package, and extends into post 16 with our new FSGAmbassador programme. “A curriculum rich in OOCLEs leads students to develop personal responsibility, teamwork and leadership skills; Students develop a generalised personal confidence and resilience through participation in OOCLEs, on which they are then able to draw when facing new challenges both at school and beyond”
Arguably the most important aim of education is personal empowerment – enabling our students to take control of their own lives and to shape their own futures. Education is, though, also about passing on ‘the best of what has been thought and is known in the world’ from one generation to the next. We must also prepare our girls to become good people, good friends and good neighbours, good colleagues, good parents, good citizens. Education is, of course, also inextricably linked to economic prosperity and therefore preparing students for the world of work must also be carefully considered.
The Folkestone School for Girls has a long established and enviable reputation of delivering outstanding academic results. However, in response to the questions posed by Aristotle all those years ago, we believe that education must maintain a balance between intellect and character. An outstanding education is not either/or. It is both. At the heart of our school, then, is an unshakeable belief that whilst exam results and academic qualifications are, of course, important they are not everything! Exam results are what the girls get; they do not define who they are and will play only a part in shaping the people they become. This philosophy is central to our school curriculum and therefore our academic curriculum is only a part of what we do.
Students therefore do not complete an inordinate amount of qualifications as a matter of course. We subscribe to a ‘quality, not quantity’ rationale. Instead students at FSG complete what we believe to be a sensible number of qualifications. This allows students time to focus efforts on achieving the very best grades within these, but also time to participate in co-curricular activities and interests – both at school and at home, and additionally, time to spend with friends and family. A justifiable balance between intellect and character.
Our curriculum naturally focuses on traditional, rigorous academic subjects with the importance of these subjects reflected in the time allocated to their study. Commonly referred to as the ‘Ebacc’ – these courses and qualifications remain central to our curriculum. Mathematical proficiency, the highest standards of spoken and written English and general academic knowledge/competence are, and always will be, crucial.
However, we are also a caring community where girls’ ‘other’ achievements are viewed as equal to academic attainment. Creativity, sporting prowess, community involvement and empathy for others are all key goals. We are also committed to ensuring that girls understand and accept key British values such as a respect for the rule of law, democracy and a tolerance of difference. With our commitment to caring for girls as individuals and our strong moral base, the school has a zero tolerance of sexism, homophobia, racism and other prejudicial attitudes. We encourage students to aspire, to find out who they are and to develop their strengths across a broad spectrum of activities; our curriculum reflects this in the subjects offered and the additional opportunities presented. Careers education ranges from workplace visits in year 8, to mock job interviews in years 10 and 12, to work experience and internships post 16. We have a vast array of educational visits with over 140 taking place in the last academic year alone, covering all year groups - students have visited sites from Kent to London, France, Belgium, Iceland, Washington DC and are due to visit Namibia & Cuba in Summer 2020; there have been visits to museums, galleries, theatres, festivals, movie studios, concerts and areas of scientific and geographic interest exploring sports, the arts, the sciences and political & social history. This enriching and enlivening curriculum is crucial to the ethos of the school and to the outcomes achieved for our girls.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
“More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness”
“We think too much and feel too little”
We are also an international school with link schools in Nepal, Cuba, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Spain, France, Morocco and Lebanon. Our international outlook is equally vital to our ethos; we want our girls to know that as human beings there is much more that unites us than divides us. We think this work is vital to a world leading and world changing curriculum. As the author R.J Palacio says “we cant teach empathy, but we can inspire it’ and the direct contact between our girls and their counterparts overseas gives them a personal insight into life elsewhere and brings aspects of our curriculum into a real world context. We want them to understand that in exploring where difference does exist, we learn and we grow. An old adage suggests that at a party we should seek out and speak to the people least like ourselves. Don’t make a beeline for the people who seem just like you; dress just like you; think just like you! The people least like you are often the most interesting and our international outlook allows us to bring the outside world in – to beam children from around the world straight into the classroom; to meet different cultures, different races; to hear about life as a child elsewhere; to make new friends; to experience different points of view and to always be drawn back to the common traits that make us all human.
From our extensive pen pal programme to subject specific developments through to our creative cross curricular projects in years 7/8/9, our international ethos and global outlook has become an intrinsic part of what we do. We want our girls to understand and be proficient in the use of ‘soft power’; building networks, communicating compelling narratives & establishing international rules. Climate change, mass migration, Covid-19, antibiotic resistance… will require global solutions. We want our girls to be at the forefront of those solutions – well versed and established at, and confident in, working with colleagues from across the globe. Our international school links provide the chance to hone hard and soft skills through international discourse and debate; hear alternative viewpoints, participate in international research and opinion and to form lasting relationships that can secure long term benefits for us all. A research project carried out by The University of Edinburgh acknowledges that students working in an international community had a positive influence on personal growth & development, interpersonal ease & social levelling. A second consideration is that this is a sustainable way to ensure that the vast majority of our students get some direct experience of a childhood lived elsewhere, of a global perspective – given that overseas trips are costly for students and costly in time and organisation for the staff who lead them. They are, of course, also for the few and not the many. That said, this is a way to provide heavily subsidised trips overseas to students who would never otherwise have had the opportunity to go. This last year alone, bar COVID 19 interrupting plans, 23 students would have visited Madrid and we had begun to plan a trip for 20 students to visit Nepal in February 2021 on potentially life changing trips – all either free of charge or virtually free of charge.
However, all students can benefit from bringing life overseas directly into our classrooms through video conferencing technology and/or pen pal exchanges and the like.
An international outlook is not offering lots of trips (though we do). It is a much more fundamental attempt to focus our curriculum on global issues and challenges, to provide opportunities for our girls to work with students overseas to better understand these challenges, (and each other) and to work collaboratively with teachers and educators overseas to share best practice. A global dimension, in fact, is woven throughout our school curriculum not only discretely, in individual subjects, but also through imaginative cross-curricular projects such as Dear Freddie Mercury which looks at immigration and The Ministry of Information which looks at the role of the media, misleading statistics, fake news and dodgy dossiers in shaping our perceptions of the world around us.
Our ‘hidden curriculum’, our ethos and values and how these are demonstrated and reinforced are also a crucial part of our wider school curriculum – and we strive to ensure that our girls leave us knowing that it’s not what we are or who we are that matters but how we are.
Our curriculum aims are thus broad and far reaching. An outstanding academic curriculum paired with outstanding teaching, outstanding pastoral care and outstanding opportunities for personal development and character education all align to ensure our girls leave as well-qualified and well-rounded young women. They will have a strong academic portfolio of qualifications, highly developed interpersonal skills, a broad range of interests and are well prepared to pursue varied and fulfilling careers and to take on the world!
Our ambition is that after 7 years at The Folkestone School for Girls our students:
All students in years 7 and 8 study a broad and balanced curriculum accessing the traditional spectrum of academic subjects: Maths, English, Science, Geography, History and Modern Foreign Languages. For breadth and balance, they also study Music, Art & Design, Drama, Computing, Religious Education, PSHE and Physical Education. In year 9 students are able to personalise their own curriculum to better reflect their own interests and aspirations. All girls choose 2 options from the Ebacc suite of subjects: History, Geography or a Modern Foreign Language (from a choice of French or Spanish). Whilst language study is encouraged and indeed languages are chosen by the majority of girls, our traditional academic curriculum does not currently compel girls to study a Modern Foreign Language and instead we prefer to offer girls a greater degree of choice within their academic curriculum. Together with 2 x English, Mathematics and 2 x Science GCSEs these subjects combine to form the broad and balanced academic package that our girls will need for the future. With GCSE Religious Education compulsory too, all girls therefore study at least 8 traditional academic qualifications to GCSE.
Students then choose two further subjects which enable further personalisation.
Two new courses introduced for first teaching September 2017, Business Studies & Health and Social Care, seek to provide a more vocational option for students to complement their more academic compulsory curriculum. These subjects also seek to address the future direction of travel of our economy and to provide girls with the necessary skills and knowledge to flourish in these growth sectors. They also provide further alternative choices for students not of a creative nature.
Other Ebacc allows the girls the chance to study Geography, History and a language or even all four – Geography, History, French & Spanish.
All students study all sciences in Year 9 with year 10 decision time as to whether Combined Sciences or Separate Sciences is the most suitable route for GCSE.
Our long term goal is that all students will also complete the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award in Year 9.
Our curriculum model:
‘Exam results are what the girls get; they do not define who they are and will play only a part in shaping the people they become’. A further implication of the belief that there is more to life than exams is that the education we offer should not be governed solely by exam preparation. There are other things of interest to learn and to know beyond simply exam content. We want our girls to be able to have a broad general knowledge, to be curious about, and question, the world around them; to have a grasp of the wider world beyond simply examination specifications. We also aim to provide students with memorable experiences and rich opportunities to frame and focus their academic learning, inspire further work and/or to develop personally. Not just narrowing gaps or closing gaps but filling gaps with experiences and memories – cultural capital. Our annual ‘Listening Project’ in History is an obvious example, as is our ongoing relationship with The Big Reveal Community Arts Charity which affords our girls the opportunity to work and perform with professional actors and directors, undertake small tours; even illustrate and publish our own children’s book. Our academic curriculum reflects our school context with study of the Suffragette movement in History and a year 9 English focus on ‘women writing’ notable reflections on this. Even November 11th and Remembrance is viewed through the lens of our school context – with recent years focussing on the Gurkha regiment, women in war, Belgian refugees in Folkestone, Walter Tully, Hellfire Corner and our school evacuation to Merthyr Tydfil! Geographers tackle environment vs development through local study of Prince’s Parade and Otterpool developments. In Mathematics, students study ‘misleading statistics’ and how these can be used to create fake news; they also study personal finance and ‘best buys’ are questioned for their wider impact, such as food waste, beyond solely value for money. There are exciting developments in problem solving in the pipeline with our very own onsite Escape Room!
We also seek to reinforce learning between subjects. The world, its wonders and its challenges are not neatly subdivided into subject areas! Climate change has obvious links to Geography and Science for example and we seek to reinforce and broaden learning through looking for opportunities between and across subjects. Imaginative cross-curricular projects, such as ‘Dear Freddie Mercury’ which focuses on immigration or ‘The Ministry of Information’ which considers how the media, social media, fake news and misleading statistics have the power to shape our thoughts, influence our decisions and perhaps even to change our world – are a reflection of our ongoing curriculum review to ensure that our curriculum remains relevant to the girls; their world; the world. They are also a reflection of our international outlook and the global dimension which is woven through all that we do here at FSG.
As a girls’ school we also, of course, champion women. Our school was founded in 1905. The local boys’ grammar in 1674. Why the difference? When ordering vintage book cover posters for our sixth form centre, we could only find books by predominantly male writers – why? In observing the world around us we want our girls to ask such questions, to be curious, to delve deeper – not for the purpose of passing examinations, but because we want them to take on the world!
The overwhelming majority of students continue into Sixth Form. Most students complete 3 A levels, but some do 4 and exceptionally some study 5. We have an extensive offer post 16 curriculum (some 30 subjects) focused mainly on A level but covering all disciplines. From the Mathematical and Scientific disciplines students can choose from Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Further mathematics, ICT and Computer Science. In the Arts: Art, Dance, Drama and Music. Humanities subjects offered include History, Geography, Government and Politics, Sociology, French, Spanish & English Literature. We also offer Business Studies, Health & Social Care and Psychology. Typically, around 85% of students continue onto university, the remainder directly into employment. We continue to expand our EEP curriculum post 16 as per our whole school focus on personal development with lessons for example on cookery and self-defence.
The Folkestone School for Girls provides access to a wealth of additional opportunities within school through our comprehensive personal development & character education programme, The FSGBacc. There are opportunities to take part in a host of different sports clubs and competitions, to participate in our many Dance and Drama productions or indeed to sing or play in one of our many choirs, ensembles or musical evenings. Students in year 7 will access Commando Joes, students in Year 8 can join our Combined Cadet Force, students in years 9, 10 and beyond can access the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme. We also have Debating Societies, Language Ambassadors, Peer Mentors, Young Magistrates, Young Enterprise and many other clubs, teams, performances and activities throughout the year. We believe this is in an incredibly important part of education. Being part of a club or organisation requires teamwork and commitment. It develops self-confidence and simply can allow us all to grow and flourish in other arenas. Employers too are looking for these attributes. A broad and strong portfolio of academic qualifications is important but equally so is the chance to demonstrate what else you have done and can do! What will you talk about at a job or university interview? What would be your talking point?
Complementing our traditional, rigorous and academic curriculum, then, all students will take part in a personal challenge to develop attributes such as self-confidence, determination, resilience, teamwork and leadership. We call this the FSGBacc. We think it’s so important that it’s a part of our formal curriculum in years 7 and 8 with time during the working week dedicated solely to this.
Every student will have a broad portfolio of strong academic qualifications – and a sensible amount of them! Typically, 10 x GCSE & 3 x A level.
Not too few so as to limit options and limit the opportunity to reflect individual strengths, interests and aspirations but also not too many…
Not too many many because nobody needs 14, 15 or 16 GCSEs and fewer qualifications means more time to broaden and deepen knowledge to achieve the very highest grades within these
Not too many so as to leave time and scope for other interests (in or out of school)
Not too many so as to leave time and scope to just relax, to be a child, a teenager, to spend time with friends and family.
But over and above grades and qualifications, all students will take part in a personal challenge – Rock climbing on our new wall, or Mountain biking on our new trail or being in the cast or crew of the Big School Production - that challenge might be different for everyone. For some it might be scaling a rock face and overcoming that fear of heights, for others it might be standing up in public and performing. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway. We believe then - A sensible balance and a focus on developing INTELLECT & CHARACTER.
‘Know thyself’ said Socrates.
The FSGBacc pushes you out of your comfort zone; challenges you to test yourself; to pit you against you be that on the sports field, the mountain bike trail, the climbing wall or the stage; on expedition with Duke of Edinburgh or on night exercises with the CCF. You will learn to know yourself; and all that you can do.
You are capable of more than you know. If we can help you to realise that then you will never settle for anything less.
A research project on the lifelong value of Out-of-Classroom Learning Experiences (OOCLEs) commissioned by Gordonstoun School and carried out by The University of Edinburgh noted that an astonishing 94% of respondents claimed that OOCLEs had an overwhelmingly positive impact on their personal growth; “A curriculum rich in OOCLEs leads students to develop personal responsibility, teamwork and leadership skills”
"Students develop a generalised personal confidence and resilience through participation in OOCLEs, on which they are then able to draw when facing new challenges both at school and beyond"
In other words.... Confidence is transferable.
A 2008 report published by Ofsted, on ‘Learning outside of the classroom’ acknowledged that ‘learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils personal, social and emotional development’ and that ‘memorable activities lead to memorable learning’.
It concludes that ‘the most effectively led, managed and confident schools included ‘Learning outside of the Classroom’ as an integrated part of a well-planned effective curriculum’
You can access further information about our FSGBacc programme here and can download a comprehensive booklet via that link
You can access a full list of the clubs and activities on offer everyday, week in, week out here
Our school website also lists opportunities locally. There are a broad range of clubs and activities available in and around our local community that might be of interest and that girls may consider joining. Many are free. Some do have a small fee. All allow our girls a further opportunity to do something they may not otherwise have the chance to do and to grow, develop and enjoy an interest away from school.
It is clear that our curriculum is perfectly aligned to deliver powerful ‘Leadership Learning’ and this focuses on 3 key strands right from the very outset of their time with us.
1. Leadership of self
2. Leadership of others
3. My future.
This will commence, in earnest, in Year 7 at the Freshers Fair and follow on with students completing their GoLD journal and then personal statements in Year 9 ready for mock interviews in Year 10. As part of this ‘leadership learning’ package we are piloting two exciting new schemes for years 10 and beyond; the Future Leaders Project and the Ivy House Award.
We see our job as opening eyes. As an international and global school we certainly aim to offer our girls a broader experience, a wider perspective and an international and global outlook; to open their eyes to a life lived elsewhere. We also seek to open eyes to a world full of opportunity and possibility through our academic curriculum. ‘When will I ever need to know this?’ has been, and is, a common refrain in classrooms around the world but actually that’s what makes education so exciting – we don’t know what we’ll need to know for our futures as we don’t know where our futures lie. Our job then is to prepare our girls today for a world full of opportunities tomorrow! Finally, ‘There is more in you than you think’ is a central tenet of our school vision and through our FSGBacc programme – be it DoE, Combined Cadet Force, mountain biking, rock climbing, the list goes on - we seek to open our girls eyes to all that they are capable of!
If our ‘covid times’ can be summed up using the words “unusual, uncertain and unprecedented”, then for FSG we are determined to move our key language back to;
Unshakeable in our belief that exam results are what you get. They do not define who you are and will play only a part in shaping the person you become
Unwavering in demonstrating through our international outlook and global dimension that as human beings there is always more that unites us than divides us
Unyielding in our focus on wisdom over knowledge. If knowledge is power then wisdom is the power to do the right thing and we want our girls to know that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all!
We believe we have demonstrated in all those awards and accolades earned over recent years and in all those new initiatives introduced that we are unstoppable. Our school development plan is even more powerful evidence of that; there are still ideas and plans to move the school even further forwards. Unstoppable. In the site developments and plans for our FSGBacc, unstoppable. In our Turing success, unstoppable.
Unstoppable in focussing on intellect & character
Unstoppable in focussing on the whole child, every child.
Unstoppable in our determination to be world leading and world changing
Unstoppable in our ambition to be the best school in the world; nothing less.
Unstoppable. This is our school. It is who we are. It is what we do. We are extremely proud of it.
Covid-19 was a springboard for the world in terms of connectivity; a global problem that could only be tackled with a global response. We were all in it together. The big issues of our time - climate change, mass migration, inequality and the global north-south divide, antibiotic resistance etc are the same – they can only be solved with a global response and we want our girls to be at the front of that response.
Knowledgeable in those big issues. The values, hope and confidence that those same issues can be tackled; problems can be solved; there is a fairer better world possible and that they are the people to achieve just that!
With experience in working with all sorts of people from all sorts of places - they’ll be well versed and established at, and confident in, working with colleagues from across the globe to do just that!
With their eyes wide open to a world of possibilities and all that they are capable of, they’ll be world leading and world changing.
They’ll be unstoppable.