On Monday 3rd June we had the pleasure of hosting the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Right Honourable Karen Bradley, MP. She was greeted by some of our Penrhyn pupils and presented with a bouquet of flowers before undertaking a tour of Strathearn with our Principal, Mrs Connery.
Mrs Bradley finished her tour in the Boardroom where she was greeted by our Head Girl, Deputy Head Girls, School Council Chairperson, members of the Board of Governors and senior teaching staff.
In a relaxed setting, the Secretary of State answered a number of questions from our pupil representatives:
What was your journey into politics?
Mrs Bradley told us that she attended an all-girls comprehensive school in Buxton, England before studying to become a Chartered Accountant at Imperial College, London. As an advisor to the Conservative Party in the early 2000s, the then party leader, Michael Howard encouraged her to enter the world of politics, she grabbed the opportunity and was subsequently elected in 2010.
What do you believe to be the main challenges to women in leadership?
The Secretary of State told us that women need to have more confidence to put themselves forward for positions of authority, to look up to role models and be much braver in their quest for leadership. One of the challenges to overcome is a perceived bias in the media against women.
We are approaching our final year of school – what advice would you give to us as 17 year olds?
Mrs Bradley passionately encouraged the pupils to embrace the opportunities they get. She told the girls – “Don’t be scared to make decisions because you own your own life”. She followed this up by advising the students to not let others make decisions for them but to follow their own goals.
What were your favourite subjects at school?
Her two favourite subjects were Maths and History. She also spent some time asking the pupils about their own subject interests and future ambitions.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Mrs Bradley responded to this question by answering; “Things like this. It is great to meet people and find out about their lives”. She also commented on the challenges of her job. This included the diverse responsibilities as an MP in Staffordshire, Parliament sessions in London and Secretary of State business in Northern Ireland. She jokingly commented that this means needing to have three toothbrushes in three different homes depending on her work location.
What are your fondest experiences of Northern Ireland?
The Secretary of State said, “I am in love with Northern Ireland. It is very similar to the landscape of Staffordshire and I always experience a warm welcome here”. One of the highlights for Mrs Bradley and her family was a recent visit to the North West 200 motorcycle racing festival. She can’t wait to return there in the future.
This was a special day for us in Strathearn and we were grateful that the Secretary of State was willing to take time out of her busy schedule to spend time meeting our students.