Benenden students enjoyed an insightful interview between Headmistress Samantha Price and Baroness Barran MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education.
In an event that was also live-streamed to Benenden parents and Seniors, Baroness Barran – who is a Benenden Senior herself, as well as a Cambridge graduate, a former investment banker and former CE of the domestic abuse charity SafeLives, and who was awarded an MBE for her work on domestic abuse – shared fond memories of her time at Benenden and then-Headmistress Elizabeth Clarke.
She also discussed her current role in the House of Lords, and her varied responsibilities regarding academies, student finance, counter terrorism, climate change, and a range of other educational policy areas.
When asked whether she saw a role for independent schools within multi-academy trusts, Baroness Barran enthusiastically discussed the value of independent and state school partnerships: “We’ve got a group of schools, including this one, who are truly exceptional and world class. Surely we should be thinking about how can we use some of that world class brilliance and share that through the state sector, which gets less money.”
Asked whether she would advise current Benenden students into a career in politics, the Baroness commented that while she hadn’t exactly planned her career, “as an MP, you can have a real influence on the lives of the people in your constituency.
“MPs really do care about the people in their constituencies and deal with a huge amount of what we would call ‘case work’. It’s very local, individual problem solving that they spend a lot of time doing, so if that interests you, you can definitely have an influence that you won’t have in any other job.”
Nevertheless, in keeping with the School’s push to help students learn to disagree well, the Baroness also warned: “You learn to work with people who you would not have necessarily chosen to work with. It’s part of our democratic resilience that everybody doesn’t have the same view on different issues – and that’s a good thing, but it doesn’t make it necessarily easy to work with.”
Describing her motivations behind the foundation of the SafeLives domestic abuse charity, the Baroness commented on the inadequate responses to domestic abuse that were commonplace in 2004 and the efforts she and her colleagues went to in combatting them. This included establishing the charity’s flagship Independent Domestic Violence Advocate qualification – the first of its kind which garnered immediate, unprecedented demand.