‘..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.
We achieve this through a traditional, rigorous and academic curriculum framed around the EBacc, through outstanding teaching, 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 learn and to grow - 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 success in this area 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 give our girls the knowledge, the skills, the drive, the courage and the values to change the world for the better; to realise that we are always ‘better together’.
Our impact is in outstanding results (Progress 8 at 0.77 this year/5 year average 0.58), in the outstanding opportunities applauded in our ‘a 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.
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.
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 penpal exchanges and the like. Presently, too, with the current situation with COVID 19 and the likely impact for some years to come on overseas trips we feel this to be especially vital.
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.
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 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, PSHCE 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 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 with 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. We are exploring links with Nepal through the British Council and the Gurkha regiment which are feeding further curriculum development and challenging anti-immigration views so prevalent in society, and there are exciting developments in robotics and problem solving in the pipeline.
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, Economics, Btec Sport, Health & Social Care and Psychology. Students also have the option to access a few select subjects such as Philosophy or Graphic Design through our collaboration with The Harvey Grammar. 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 in 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, sports, 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.
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 some 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
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.
In September 2020 we introduced the FSGBacc afternoon to the year 7 curriculum. This will then follow into year 8 too – and allows girls the opportunity to experience many of the opportunities and facilities we can offer, to instil the habits of mind to have a go, to join in and to do something different. This also clearly demonstrates our commitment to personal development and character education by dedicating curriculum time to it and putting it at the heart of what we do.