To push or not to push?

‘How will you push my daughter?’. This is a question Alex Neil, Head Teacher of Farnborough Hill, is often asked. But is ‘push’ the right word to describe the education journey? Alex shares her take on this.

I understand where parents are coming from; they want their daughter to achieve all that she can, but the use of the word ‘push’ worries me. It implies we have to chivvy the girls along, that they are passive in their learning and it is up to us to force them to achieve. I would like to give all children much more credit than that. I believe the girls want to learn, they have high aspirations – just ask any 10 year old what they would like to be; it is up to us to inspire, encourage and celebrate their unique gifts and talents, however they manifest themselves.

No two girls who have ever entered, or whoever will enter, Farnborough Hill are the same. One will be a musical maestro, another an awesome spin bowler and a third a mathematical genius. One may be the quietest and most unassuming in class but tread the boards with aplomb and flair in a way not seen since Judy Garland. Another might be a combination of all talents listed. It is up to us as the teachers and educators to work with each pupil to discover her passion and drive – to find her element – and to use that as a tool to encourage. We must present the pupils with the opportunities to achieve; we need to inspire the girls through outstanding teaching and learning methods.

When we know what drives a pupil, when we know they are in their element, then we do not have to ‘push’. Achievement will come; they will feel inspired not only by themselves but by those achieving around them.


Supporting students with finding their element and playing to their strengths is a key part of The Ivy House Award. Farnborough Hill sixth form students have been participating in The Award over the last term, developing their self-leadership skills to give them the edge in a competitive world.

Download our brochure to understand more about how The Award could benefit your pupils.

By Alex Neil, Farnborough Hill
19th December 2019

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