Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Is This a Country Fit for Today's Young Women? Laura Smith, Head of Sixth Form at Kenton School, in Newcastle, Looks at the Challenges and Triumphs of Teaching Girls and Preparing Them for Life in Britain Today

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Is This a Country Fit for Today's Young Women? Laura Smith, Head of Sixth Form at Kenton School, in Newcastle, Looks at the Challenges and Triumphs of Teaching Girls and Preparing Them for Life in Britain Today

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Smith

AS I write, I have the Young Women's Trust Survey 2016 in front of me titled "No Country for Young Women."

It paints a depressing picture of young women "whose lives are on hold" and comes to the conclusion that "young women are struggling to make ends meet and are increasingly worn down and worried for the future."

This is a huge problem for our nation, women account for over half of our population and have huge potential to drive our economy forward. If this is the state of young women in the country today then we are failing them. I think it is the duty of our generation to challenge this and make a change.

Recently young women in Poland have taken to the streets to protest against stricter abortion laws and in Finland women have been on strike to protest a 14% wage gap between men and women.

Within the North East there are many examples of women who challenge this stereotype of women floundering; it is an area of strong female leaders.

Both Newcastle Central and Newcastle North are represented in parliament by women. Indeed, on a train on the way back from London last week I met the two women representing the North East at the annual Unison Women's Conference and was humbled by the networks and action they represent that goes on daily across the North East.

There is also a new cohort of young leaders emerging making the region a champion for equality of opportunities. Sharon Kelly, managing director of Tyne and Wear Metro, Sara Davies, Founder of Crafter's Companion, Bethany Ainsley, founder of Nouvoue Dance and Fitness. This all signals hope in region and that hope is something that I want to bring to all the students in Kenton Sixth Form.

People often ask me "Which teachers inspire you?" "Who made you become a teacher?" But that was not my motivation. I don't have favourites and I am lucky to have been the recipient of handfuls of great teachers through my state school education in Newcastle.

From my unrelenting maths teacher in middle school, to the strictest of handwriting teachers in primary and informal seminar style Sixth Form teaching.

I have been lucky to have a privileged education and huge support from my own home. But there lies the problem, I was lucky. This is not the case for all students in the North East.

This sense of social inequality frustrates me every day.

Whilst I was in school myself I volunteered with Amnesty International, Traidcraft and the city council's school for travelling children.

Through all these experiences everyone I have met has always had so many interesting stories and so much to contribute to society.

There is being aware problem That is something that I have found to be a common theme as I studied for my law degree in Oxford, worked for the Education Partnerships Africa charity and studied for my masters in international development and education in Newcastle and India.

nothing I was equally inspired by the PhD students in my college at Oxford, the struggling head teachers I met in Kenya and India and the students I worked with in various North East primary schools during my master's degree.

What struck me was the injustice in terms of opportunities available to these groups of people, and a lot of that came down to where they were born and who they were born to. All these experiences opened my eyes to both the challenges in our region and across the world, but also the opportunities.

There is no point being aware of a problem and doing nothing about it, so I joined the "Teach First" program; Teach First aims to end educational disadvantage in the UK by developing leaders in schools, empowering students to make decisions about their future, encouraging innovation in education and building a movement for change.

that we Along with 51 other graduates from around the UK I embarked on an intensive two year Leadership Development program in the North East. …

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