‘The quality of the pupils’ personal development is excellent’. Northampton High School ISI Report, November 2019
At Northampton High School, we place great emphasis on personal development, and this was immediately recognised by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) on their visit to the school in November 2019. This area of their inspection report considers a number of factors including pupils’ self-esteem, self-confidence, resilience, well-being, spiritual understanding, social awareness and respect and value for different cultures. The school was judged ‘excellent’ for personal development – the highest possible grade.
Personal development is a priority from the outset at Northampton High School as our Nursery girls are encouraged to develop their independence under the careful guidance of their key worker. This member of staff works closely with the parents, as do the tutors as the girls progress through the Junior School. These partnerships of care, nurture and support are vitally important, and small class sizes allow adequate time and attention for each child.
Wrap-around care and a wide range of extracurricular activities enable the girls to develop their interests and individuality from a very young age, and those in Reception to Year 6 benefit from the expertise of colleagues from the Junior and Senior Schools – as well as external facilitators – as they explore extracurricular opportunities and begin to develop a sense of self.
Regular Philosophy for Children (P4C) lessons encourage Junior School students to philosophise about images, video clips and text extracts as they learn to express concerns, create questions, to reason and to identify inconsistencies. As they work together, they learn to become clearer in their thinking, more open-minded, less self-contradictory and increasingly aware of the arguments and values of others.
PSHEE lessons tackle key issues in an age-appropriate way and whole-school assemblies often tie in with these discussions, and with current affairs. Junior School students are encouraged to talk about these themes with their parents as they develop their social awareness. As they move through Key Stage 2 they are increasingly encouraged to take on positions of responsibility and to lead and care for others through initiatives such as peer-to-peer mentoring – opportunities that they will carry into the Senior School and Sixth Form, too.
As girls mature, relationships with friends become more complex, and we prepare them for this by adopting the ‘Girls on Board’ programme in Years 5 to 9. This approach enables the girls to find their own solutions to disagreements, giving them an emotional toolkit to use independently and empowering them to take control of their own relationships. It also helps them, their parents and their teachers to understand the complexities and dynamics of girl friendships and helps in the transition from their junior to senior years.
‘The social development of pupils is excellent’. Northampton High School ISI Report, November 2019
Promoting emotional security and developing character and resilience for life are key principles in our personal development programmes. In addition to Girls on Board, there are a number of structured programmes that underpin our Senior School Wellbeing and Development practices, and these fall both within and outside the main curriculum.
The Positive™ programme promotes positive psychology in every area of school life and we teach students to use tools such as the Worry Filter™ and Emotional Barometer™. These tools help them to notice and normalise a range of feelings, whilst working through helpful techniques to move from a negative to a more positive mindset.
In Year 7, pupils are introduced to the COaCH (Confidence and Challenge) programme. This programme, spanning Years 7 to 9, provides a range of challenging activities aimed at developing confidence, resilience and leadership, alongside introducing a range of supportive services available in school.
Our PSHEE curriculum is a core element to the COaCH programme. Through these lessons we encourage students to explore, in an age appropriate way, a range of social, personal and health matters. This includes digital literacy and awareness and dealing with problems they may encounter in school and their wider lives. Getting involved in new activities and learning new skills are vital to personal development and the COaCH programme challenges students to take up at least one new activity each term from the vast list of extracurricular offerings. This gives them the opportunity to learn about themselves and others.
Our excellent pastoral structures mean that all the pupils have a range of people to turn to for day-to-day support as well as more specialist services. Form tutors meet their tutees daily for a catch-up and termly for a more detailed tutorial. Heads of Year work with the whole year group, running activities, assemblies, relaxation breakfasts and other events to promote friendship and well-being. Our Wellbeing Assistant offers a listening ear as well as bespoke mentoring and coaching sessions and group workshops on a range of wellbeing topics. We also employ a nurse to deal with day-to-day medical issues and support with chronic complaints.
In the Sixth Form, students’ personal development is driven by an active engagement in the wider community and by a bespoke programme that supports their next steps after school. Through schemes such as the Community Sports Leaders Award, Young Philanthropy and Big Sister Little Sister, students develop practical skills while actively supporting other people, whether that be through promoting sport at local primary schools, visits to nursing homes or mentoring younger girls at the High School.
The PSHEE curriculum also includes sessions that reflect on the role Sixth Form students can play in helping to support wider society through joining the Anthony Nolan register, for instance, or taking part in the Oxford University Meningitis B vaccine trial. Leadership roles throughout school are taken by Sixth Formers, who gain valuable experiences while giving back to the school community.
We support students in making decisions about life after school through a personalised, comprehensive programme. This includes visiting speakers, trips to universities and apprenticeship fairs, opportunities for work experience through the GDST Rungway app (among others), as well as a continuing, personal dialogue between students and tutors that is supplemented by PSHEE sessions on writing applications, managing finances and making informed decisions.
‘There is an excellent awareness from all pupils as to their moral obligations to each other, themselves and the school to be the best they can be each day’. Northampton High School ISI Report, November 2019
Throughout the school, personal development is enhanced by a broad curriculum that offers students the opportunity to learn in creative ways, promoting confidence and offering independent choice without compromising on academic excellence. Our students leave us as confident and forward-thinking young women with a strong sense of their own identity and a deep respect and tolerance for each other, which is a strength of the school (ISI report, 2019). The results speak for themselves.
Caroline Petryszak, 14 February 2020
Tough lessons in learning
I always think that late January has something of a ‘between the wars’ feeling to it in school. As Year 11 students breathe a sigh of relief and head bleary-eyed back into lessons after their mock exams, Year 13 students are girding their loins for the onslaught of their own practice papers. And let there be no doubt, mock exams are a significant hurdle. At first glance, they may simply appear to be a measurement against the exam boards’ yard sticks, but, of necessity, they are crammed into a short period of time, and doomed to attempt the near impossible – to give a picture of overall attainment in courses that are not even completed in many cases.
For teachers, parents and guardians they represent a challenge too. At best, they provide a helpful pointer in terms of likely achievement, but they also often hint at how much more could be achieved if heels were picked up and whips were cracked, ringing alarm bells that can lead to disillusionment. We must help students to see mocks as opportunities for development and reflection that do not merit such draining emotional torments, while also ensuring they take them seriously.
And yet, year after year, we see final exam grades that significantly outstrip mock results. So surely they are doing their job? I would argue that this is indeed the case, and the very fact that they are able to replicate some of the high stakes to come is what leads to this success.
So, what is indispensable to effective learning and how do mocks help with this? Research points to active processes for recalling information as being the most effective. In essence, this is what tests do – force learners actively to reclaim specific knowledge from their memories, according to the requirements of a given paper.
This is why past paper practice, like the mocks, can be such a good way to revise. If you want to support a learner towards a specific aim, you practise within the context. It is of little help to a learner driver in a practical test to read and reread the Highway Code, but improving parallel parking by completing the manoeuvre multiple times in different parts of town will certainly make a difference.
In their research, Dunlosky et al. say that practice testing has ‘high utility’ and is ‘not time intensive in comparison with other techniques’. This comparison is with very widespread but unproductive methods for revision, such as rereading, highlighting and making notes. Study vlogger Ali Abdaal goes into more detail on this in his YouTube channel here: youtu.be/ukLnPbIffxE
So, gather all the past papers and individual practice questions you can. Complete them (in timed conditions, if possible) and seek feedback on all of them. Use www.thestudentroom.co.uk forums to see what other people thought of past papers and get to know what the board is looking for by reading examiners’ reports.
Don’t forget, the more active you are in extracting your memories, the more learning you are doing.
John Dunlosky, Katherine A. Rawson, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Mitchell J. Nathan, Daniel T. Willingham; Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology. In Psychological Science in the Public Interest Journal, January 2013
There’s a rumble in the jumble – A textile teacher’s pledge to support a sustainable fashion future
2020, a new year, a new decade even! Talk of new ideas and resolutions are flooding onto my instagram feed.
This year I am not contemplating dry January or any get fit quick regimes, I have decided to set myself a challenge which is by far more difficult for a self confessed shopaholic.
For 2020 I am setting myself the task not to buy any new items of clothing for one whole year (with the exception of smalls).
Faced with tempting sale rails and new season window dressing, I know I will find it hard to resist the lure of the high street or filling my ASOS basket with gorgeous goodies, but before I head out into the January sales I am taking a stand to think about the impact of fast fashion on the environment.
I am sure this pledge will come as a laugh out loud surprise to many, particularly those who know me well, this is for several reasons.
- I am a fashion addict.
- I worked as a designer in the fashion industry for 11 years (prior to my teaching career), therefore this concept is somewhat hypocritical.
- My current job title (Subject leader and teacher of Fashion and Textiles) involves me inspiring and motivating a new generation of designers who could well seek careers within the fashion industry.
That being said, what better way is there to inspire and teach this generation to consider environmental and ethical issues surrounding fast fashion to create a more sustainable future for the industry.
The fashion industry is one of the major polluting industries in the world, the production and logistics of crops, fibres, fabrics, dying/printing processes and garments all contribute to the pollution of our environment, not to mention the 300,000 tonnes of used clothing which goes into landfill in the UK every year.
So what will I do? How will I raise awareness? How will I feed my addiction for shopping? How will I survive without regular retail therapy? And how will I avoid looking like a dishevelled version of my former self?
- I will need to consider the fibres and fabrics of which my clothes are made and the way they have been manufactured. Ultimately the best thing I can do is to keep my clothing in use for longer and buy no new stuff.
- I am a magpie for collecting vintage textiles, fabrics and trinkets so already I relish the thought of rifling through a vast array of charity shops and vintage fairs in order to feed my addiction for clothes shopping.
- I am looking forward to the thrill that comes with a winning bid on eBay and also learning how to use depop to buy and sell.
- I have the advantage that I know how to design and make my own clothes (these of course will need to be made from fabric which is already in my existing stockpile, as buying new will go against my pledge).
- I have an open invitation to staff and pupils to attend our sewing bee/make do and mend sessions in D4 on Monday lunchtimes during REC
- Plans are already underway to organise a jumble sale within school (volunteers and donations needed).
I will report back in 6 months’ time with an update of my progress. Wish me luck, I think I am going to need it.
Some ideas for upcoming sustainable fashion events and local vintage shopping:
January 18th Jumble fever (Oxfam), Oxford town hall
February 1st Lou Lou’s Oxford Vintage Fair, Oxford town hall
February 15th Worth the Weight Vintage Kilo Sale, Milton Keynes, see facebook page for details
The Vintage Guru, St Giles, Northampton – a wonderful emporium of vintage pieces.
Image: A vintage skirt which I reworked from a 1950s dress. I am looking forward to wearing this during the summer.
Awards Evening 2019
This week we had the pleasure of coming together to celebrate the academic year 2018-2019, to recognise and applaud the achievements of our students and to thank all those who had contributed to making the three terms so successful.
The theme of the evening was ‘Fearless Individuality’ and, although we rightly mentioned the excellent headline examination figures of 59% A*-A grades at GCSE and 70% A*-B at A-Level, the focus was very much on the stories of the individuals – on the risks that they had taken, the hurdles that they had overcome and of the opportunities that they had been given along the way.
Our guest speaker was Sasha Roseneil, Professor of Interdisciplinary Social Science and Dean of the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences at UCL. As a High School alumna, she was able to take us on a journey from Derngate to London via Yorkshire and Essex as she spoke about her ‘Places of Learning’. In an entertaining and informative speech that touched students and visitors alike, Sasha outlined her academic and professional journey, discussed memories of school, and – picking up on the theme of the evening – spoke of her own relative strengths and weaknesses, her interests and passions and of the unexpected events that have made her the person that she is today.
Being an individual – especially in one’s teenage years – can take real courage, but we pride ourselves in knowing and valuing each of our girls and they are encouraged to take risks, to trust in and develop their own skills and character and to avail themselves of the myriad opportunities on offer. These include extracurricular offerings, with sessions as diverse as Debating Club, Ukelele Group, Language Leaders, Femsoc, Cafe Sci, Yoga and the Sewing Bee, and volunteering opportunities, including the Big Bear Little Bear and Big Sister Little Sister mentoring schemes. Girls have the opportunity, too, to provide academic support as Language Leaders or Number Partners and to be involved in outreach work as Young Philanthropy Ambassadors or Community Sports Leaders.
Opportunities for personal and intellectual growth in the classroom are a given at the High School,
and the Awards Evening is a perfect opportunity to appreciate this as girls receive recognition for their public examination results, scholarship, and academic excellence and achievement. This year, we also celebrated the individual successes of a student who won a gold medal and a trip to a prestigious award ceremony in the Biology Olympiad and another who won a much-coveted place at the Newnham College Summer School for Mathematics in Cambridge. We considered, too, the two students who were selected for the English Schools Athletics Competition at Alexandra Stadium, the girl who won gold at the World Para Swimming European Championships and the former pupil who was nominated by the British Film Industry as one of 2019’s ‘faces to watch’.
Personal growth is not simply about solo recognition, though, and all of our students – including those mentioned above – understand the importance of bringing their peculiar skills and character to a group or team setting. The ability to think creatively and to work collaboratively are deemed as essential skills for future employment and lifelong learning and girls are encouraged in these, and in appreciating the value that they can add to a group.
Not surprisingly, therefore, there have been numerous opportunities to work as a group over the past year and we remembered in particular the trips to the University of Leicester for a Brain Awareness Day, Warwick University to track exotic particles using real data from CERN and the Victoria & Albert Museum for the ‘Dior Designer of Dreams’ exhibition. Longer excursions, too, including outward bounds courses, Duke of Edinburgh hikes, the World Challenge expedition to Cambodia and other overseas tours, including language exchanges. A particular highlight here was the Erasmus+ project, which involved four other European Schools and had a focus on creativity and digital competency. We are delighted and honoured to be holding the grand finale of this here in Northampton in the spring.
Group achievements include the Young Enterprise company who won the award for the best customer service and best teamwork at the county final and there was a plethora of team successes, especially in sport. The U16 badminton team represented Northamptonshire in the regional finals, where they were runners-up, and the U16 Netball team reached the national finals, finishing an astonishing 12th in the country. Meanwhile, the U13 and U15 hockey teams were once again division champions, the U13 swimming team repeated their success in qualifying for the IAPS National Finals and the equestrian team won a place at the prestigious national finals at Hickstead.
Considering the team that was the staff, student and parent body of 2018-2019, it was impossible not to mention the whole-school celebrations and achievements, including sports days, the Gym and Dance Extravaganza, the production of CATS the Musical and the hosting of BBC’s Question Time. For many, however, the 140th Birthday Gala Concert at All Saints’ Church was unforgettable. This event marked the culmination of a year of celebration and brought the whole High School community – both past and present – together. Professor Roseneil spoke of her memories of the centenary celebrations when she was a High School pupil, yet she delighted in her ex-form tutor and language teacher being present for her Awards Evening speech this week. She will be back at least once a year, to give of her time and expertise and to remember and absorb the very special atmosphere that is Northampton High School. Others will return, too, as they always do, and we will continue to celebrate the individuals who constitute our unique community.