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.
Climate Change Is A Gender Issue Too!
Whilst we are becoming much more aware of the likely impacts of our changing climate we tend to think of the impacts varying according to wealth, but UN research indicates that, particularly in developing countries with traditionally defined gender roles, climate change impacts most on women. Women in general are disproportionately affected by climate change as they rely more on natural resources (i.e. water, food and fuel for cooking and heating), whilst at the same time being restricted in terms of their access to natural resources and decision making. For example in developing countries women are generally responsible for collecting water to meet domestic needs, a task which is becoming more difficult and time consuming for women / girls as supplies of water become more limited and they need to search further afield; this can have a negative impact on the education of girls as they may need to miss school to complete this domestic work.
Climate change is predicted to increase the amount of natural disasters, such as flooding and drought. In countries like the Philippines and Bangladesh women make up a disproportionate number of the casualties from flooding events, in part because they are less likely to know how to swim, but also because women are less well informed about impending flood warnings and shelter information (despite their common role as caregivers to children and elderly relatives). The proportion of women and children displaced by natural disasters is disproportionately high at 75%. Also disaster relief efforts often focus on men’s needs, for example following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami assistance was made available to replace fishing boats used by the men, but relatively little support was made available to replace the fish processing tools used by women.
This is not to say of course that climate change only affects women, with a specific impact of increasing drought in parts of India to lead to higher suicide rates due to difficulties in making a living from the land. Gender also continues to play a part in the different impacts within developed nations, with a study in the USA showing a 98% increase in physical victimization of women following Hurricane Katrina (domestic violence often rises following a disaster through a combination of post traumatic stress and the strains placed on families living in temporary accommodation with reduced privacy).
In recognition of the importance of gender within the impacts of climate change the United Nations has explicitly incorporated gender actions within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; the 2015 Paris Agreement explicitly refers to the empowerment of women, as well as intergenerational equity, in tackling climate change. There are already many example of projects funded by the United Nations to help communities adapt:-
- In Mali solar energy technology has been made available in rural communities to help women to grind flour more quickly (a process vital for meal preparation but very time intensive traditionally); this has freed up time for women to pursue alternative activities to generate income.
- In the hillside El Augustino district of Lima, Peru a group of 100 women have replanted 18000 square metres of land with Tara trees (a small, leguminous plant). Not only do these plants benefit the community through their medicinal properties in treating fevers and stomach problems but also the dense root systems help to hold the soil together, thus protecting communities from the increased landslide risk caused by more intense rainfall events.
Head of Humanities
Digacy – an integrated approach to digital literacy
We often think of education in terms of numeracy and literacy, but digital literacy has a vital role as well, which is why we have set up the ‘Digacy’ programme at Northampton High. Through Digacy, we aim to bring together the various strands of digital learning to ensure that our students have a healthy and holistic understanding of their digital personas and are ready for the changing world of work, where excellent digital skills are taken for granted.
There is a temptation to see digital learning through the lens of computer science, or IT functions like spreadsheets and databases, or even simply in terms of digital devices themselves. However, we cannot afford to compartmentalise in this way in a world where technology impacts on nearly everything we do. Digacy, therefore, is not a lesson that pupils go to like Maths, Languages or Computing. Rather it is witnessed throughout the curriculum in areas like science, humanities, the arts and sport. We believe that no matter what students are aiming for individually, we have a responsibility to ensure we are scattering their paths with digital ‘nuggets’ alongside the subject-specific skills they require.
Beyond learning linked to the ‘traditional’ curriculum areas mentioned above, Digacy also aims to support teachers and students as they engage with some of the more intangible aspects of the changing digital world. Online awareness and safety concerns weigh on parents and carers’ minds and questions about social media, screen time and emotional wellbeing are common at events we hold at school. There is no easy answer to these problems, but with a focused approach under the umbrella of Digacy, we can ensure that no stone is left unturned in our preparations.
We have built the Digacy programme around the Digital Competence Framework (link below) to cover the following four main areas:
- Citizenship – identity, wellbeing, online safety, digital rights;
- Interaction and collaboration – sharing, showcasing experience;
- Creation – coding, presenting, setting up websites, researching, evaluating;
- Data and computational thinking – critical thinking, how data and information link in the digital world.
Through the concepts above, Digacy is seen in both the academic curriculum and in cocurricular areas, such as PSHE and our bespoke Transferrable Skills lessons in Years 7 and 8. In addition, we have pupil digital leaders in both junior and senior schools, looking at practical approaches to highlight online safety issues, in partnership with teachers.
As a unifying element, we have introduced an eportfolio programme to all year groups from Year 6 onward. The eportfolio is effectively a personal website designed and curated by the pupils, showcasing the best and most representative examples of their learning journeys. It also allows them to track their progress through the Digacy programme via an online log and is linked to pupils’ personal pages on our VLE, firefly. At the heart of the eportfolio is a belief that harnessing the power of technology will enable students to enhance their wider lives. By actively managing their digital footprints in this way, we believe they are better placed to avoid some of the negative issues associated with social media, as well as developing a ‘Brand Me’ awareness and website building skills that showcase their interests and aptitudes for future professional audiences.
We believe this integrated approach to technology in learning through the Digacy programme will be an important tool to help our students come to a 360-degree understanding of themselves, their ideals and ambitions.