The View From My Study – 10th March

Have you heard of Beatrice Shilling? Probably not is my guess, and yet here is a lady who was fundamentally important to Britain’s war effort in the early 1940s. Once the Battle of Britain started, it became clear that the German planes had a distinct advantage because during the aeronautics of air combat – the swoops, rolls and dives – the Merlin engines of the RAF planes would flood and then cut out while the German engines would not. The search for a solution took over a year and it was Shilling who, with her team, worked 19 hours a day to test and re-test and solve the mystery of how ‘negative-g’ affected the rate of fuel delivery to the carburettors.

Shilling was an engineering genius and as a female at this time it was unusual. Or was it? We shouldn’t be surprised that she was capable; instead, we should marvel at her tenacity to push past all the obstacles that were in the way for women. She is one of many to be written about in a book entitled Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman which details the stories of pioneers, revolutionaries and geniuses whom our history teachers forgot to mention. So much of the history we were taught was dominated by the exploits of men and this book sets to redress the balance.

Schools must seek to follow the lead of the book, otherwise everyday sexism and inappropriate stereotypes will perpetuate. The problem is that in many parts of the world the obstacles still remain and children are growing up believing that certain roles and responsibilities are not appropriate for them, particularly in the case of girls. As a school, our duty is to break down these barriers by changing attitudes. Only in this way will society become fairer and more equitable.

It is an exeat this weekend after a very busy few weeks and I trust everyone can enjoy a restful couple of days.

Gareth Jones, Headmaster

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