As a passionate educator, I am always interested in new research that can shed light on young people and the various challenges that they may encounter. Our work as Lowther Hall educators is informed by research about learning and teaching which has been curated and written about by John Hattie, Robert Marzano and Loris Malaguzzi, helping us to craft classroom experiences for the girls that will be meaningful and that will assist them to synthesise, remember and apply the concepts and knowledge that they encounter.

Recently, I was interested to read some Research by Harvard-educated data scientist Dr Seth Stephens-Davidowitz which shows that parents are more concerned about their daughter being thin and beautiful than being intelligent. The study demonstrates that American parents are 2.5 times more likely to ask Google "Is my son gifted?" than "Is my daughter gifted?" In contrast, they are twice as likely to ask "Is my daughter overweight?" and three times more likely to ask if she is "ugly" than to ask these questions about their sons. Yet, in reality, boys are nine per cent more likely to be overweight and girls are eleven per cent more likely to be in a gifted programme. How different would girls’ lives be, asks Stephens-Davidowitz, “if parents were half as concerned with their bodies and twice as intrigued by their minds?” One of the great things about a girls’ school context, of course, is that our girls are at the centre of all of our thinking. We are deeply intrigued by the minds of our girls, as are so many of our families!

This week, another interesting study crossed my desk in relation to a new program being developed to assist young people with the development of positive body image. The study, led by Dr Simon Wilksch at South Australia’s Flinders University, examines the links between social media and disordered eating in young people and is a sobering reminder of the damage that can be done if our young people have unmonitored access to applications such as snapchat, instagram and tumblr, when it comes to self-concept. This work reminded me how important our Personal and Social Development classes continue to be in helping girls to navigate various media which they encounter and of the essential role that we as adults play in restricting and/or overseeing their exposure to unhelpful messages about the ideal female form.

I have also been unsurprised to read some emerging work about the importance for young people’s wellbeing, of a feeling connected to school, especially in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. It will therefore be all the more exciting to welcome our Years 8, 9 and 10 girls back on-site on Monday and to continue working with all of our students in their shared Lowther Hall journey.

Ms Elisabeth Rhodes