Is it different for girls?

This year’s Girls’™ Schools Association conference boasts an impressive line-up of speakers and discussion groups

The 2014 Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) Conference takes place this autumn from 24 to 26 November. For the first time in a number of years the conference will be held in London. This year’s venue is The Royal Horseguards Hotel and One Whitehall Place, where delegates from some of the UK’s leading day and boarding schools will have the use of some of the capital’s most impressive historical rooms.

The conference programme looks set to make an equally powerful impact. The first day alone will feature GSA president Alice Phillips, as well as guest speakers Professor Dame Carol Black, principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, and Dr Frances Saunders, president of the Institute of Physics.

Newnham College remains one of three women-only colleges at the University of Cambridge. Professor Black is also adviser on work and health to the Department of Health, chair of the Nuffield Trust, and chair of the Governance Board at the Centre for Workforce Intelligence.

The Institute of Physics has hit the headlines in recent years with two significant pieces of educational research. The first, ‘It’s Different for Girls’, looked at the low numbers of girls who are pursuing physics to A level and analysed which schools were more likely to have girls studying the subject at that level; it concluded that girls at independent girls’ schools were four times more likely to pursue physics to A-level standard than girls at maintained co-educational schools. The second study, ‘Closing Doors’, explored gender and subject choice in schools: included in its findings is the fact that single-sex schools are significantly better than co-educational schools at countering gender imbalances in progression to certain key subjects.

The second day of the GSA conference will see educator and psychologist Dr JoAnn Deak and motivational trainer Marcus Child take the stage.

Author of ‘How Girls Thrive’, Dr Deak has over 30 years’ experience helping children develop into confident and competent adults. Her latter work has encompassed adults, parents and teachers in their roles as guides or significant ‘brain sculptors’ of children. On her website is a quote that well describes her own perspective on her work: “Every interaction a child has during the course of a day influences the adult that child will become.”

Organisers have hinted at a particularly special stand-out speaker to close the conference but, before that, delegates will hear from clinical psychologist Professor Tanya Byron. Her involvement as a presenter and on-screen expert in the BBC television series ‘Little Angels’ (2003-05), ‘Teen Angels’ (2005) and ‘The House of Tiny Tearaways’ (2005-06) gave national audiences an appreciation of issues around exploring and treating children’s behaviour problems. Professor Byron is also author of ‘Your Child, Your Way’. She was also commissioned by Gordon Brown, while he was prime minister, to undertake an independent review into the potentially harmful effects of the internet and video games on children, resulting in ‘The Byron Review: Safer Children in a Digital World’.

This year there will be a particular emphasis on sharing ideas and heads will be leading a number of formal discussion groups on topics such as curriculum and qualification reform and future developments in initial teacher training.

“The GSA conference is an excellent opportunity for heads to network with their peers and to gain new perspectives and inspiration from a range of guest speakers and exhibitors,” says GSA spokesperson Rachel Kerr. “This year we’ve given networking a priority, with a series of formal discussion groups to complement the informal conversations which delegates always have. We’re expecting this year’s event to attract a particularly large audience.” 

The GSA Conference takes place at The Royal Horseguards Hotel and One Whitehall Place, London, 24-26 Nov W:

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