Stronger Together

Stronger Together

The International Coalition of Girls Schools is a remarkable organisation.  Its growth over the last few years is nothing short of miraculous. Its mission is admirable.  Its reach is impressive.

Last week I returned from the first ICGS Conference.  We had been together in Cleveland, Ohio.  Over 500 educators working in girls’ schools around the world.  We came from seemingly different contexts: schools with religious affiliations, state and private schools, primary, secondary and special schools but all united in one mission: to enable leaders to support the empowerment, enrichment and success of girls and young women.

I first engaged with the Coalition in 2016 when I attended an amazing gathering in New York. We heard from Dr Lisa Damour, the renowned American Psychologist, whose first book Untangled gives powerful and vital insights into the development of teenagers.

In those days, it was NCGS, a collaborative “national” North American coalition and it ran conferences, activities and seminars for leaders and educators.   

Since then, under the leadership of the immensely talented Global Executive Director Megan Murphy, the Coalition has developed into a worldwide network of schools that educate students who wish to attend a girls’ school. 

Two significant mergers, curated over a number of years, between the NCGS and the UK’s Association of State Girls’ Schools (ASGS) and then the Alliance of Girls’ School Australasia (AGSA), led by the inspirational Loran Bridge, have led to what is now a cohesive and powerful body representing hundreds of girls’ schools.

The attraction is obvious.  Collaboration for staff and students, bespoke training and development, the opportunity to share great practice and to influence policy makers. 

I have been afforded the great privilege of being part of the ICGS Board in recent years and am rightly in a major minority as an English man.  The Board members are intelligent, thoughtful, dedicated, challenging and supportive.  I have learnt a huge amount from individuals and from the team about myself, my leadership and others. 

There have also been incredible opportunities to hear from numerous women (and some men) who have shared their journeys with us.  Leaders from schools in hugely challenging parts of the world.  Thought leaders who have pushed boundaries, challenged the status quo and raised uncomfortable issues in order that generations of girls and young women will have choices and fair opportunities that they did not.  Their sense of passion, justice and determination is always inspiring.

I came away from Cleveland with a renewed sense of optimism.  Things are challenging for us all at the moment.  Life is difficult and there is no obvious silver lining.  Those of us in education feel like we are in a VUCA world where Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity have become constants.  But where wise and humble leaders are prepared to talk, to debate, to discuss, to challenge and to commit to working through difficulties for a great good, for the next generation, there is always hope.        

Julian Dutnall,
CEO, LIFE Education Trust