School Blog


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.


Out of sight but not out of mind

Without a doubt the purpose of school is to educate, and the primary focus is understandably on students and teachers. It is surprising to realise therefore that, in common with most other schools, there are almost as many support staff as teachers at Northampton High. Why should this be? And what do they all do? Particularly when the school is closed during the evenings and school holiday periods.

It is reassuring that almost 50% of the support staff are directly involved in supporting teachers and students whether they be Science Technicians, IT Technical support, Teaching Assistants, Before and After School Care, Nursery Nurses, School Nurse, Counsellors or Examination Invigilators.

We have made a conscious decision at Northampton High to keep all school services in-house rather than contracting these functions out. This means that we have experienced teams of caterers and cleaners who take a great pride in keeping the domestic side of school running smoothly and to a high standard. The beauty of having in-house teams means they are flexible and responsive to the needs of the school community, whether this is during term time, or to support the community use of the building in the evenings, holidays and at weekends. It also means that these staff are generally long serving and very much an integral part of the wider school community which adds value in so many ways.

Our administration team take care of the two school Reception desks, transport administration, financial administration, examinations, database management, HR, marketing and admissions, trips organisation, ordering goods and services, as well as supporting teaching staff with routine administrative matters. I think anyone who has had reason to visit or telephone, either the Senior School or Junior School Reception, will acknowledge that they received a warm welcome and help with their enquiry.

This just leaves our Premises team who cope admirably with the running of a 27 acre site and school mini bus service. They are on hand 7 days a week to meet the demands of the school and out of hour’s lettings. The growing demands of compliance involve them dealing with the management of tree surveys, legionella, water risk assessments, asbestos management plans, health and safety, COSHH risk assessments, grounds contracts, swimming pool plant and our several school boiler rooms. They are an experienced team with a wealth of knowledge about the school site and infrastructure and are always on hand to carry out work requests from teaching staff. One of their favourite tasks is getting up at 3 am to open up the school to wave off a trip! Or being woken at 2 am when the intruder alarm has been activated by a display falling from a wall!

It feels like there has been a need for increasing numbers of support staff over the years brought about by an increase in legislation, inspection regimes and compliance, adherence to best practice in safeguarding and the need to risk assess just about everything we do. It would be good to think that the additional support staff have eased the workload of teachers but this is most certainly not the case. The job of the teacher is as challenging as ever, demanding a huge level of commitment, talent and many working hours. However it is true to say that the school could not operate with the dedicated team of support staff that also work hard, often behind the scenes, out of sight, and sometimes out of hours.

One of the joys if working at Northampton High is that all staff come together to form a community united in its aim of doing the best it possibly can for our pupils. This applies to all staff, whatever role they have to play.


Should ‘Be More Kind’ Be the First School Rule?

“There is a momentum in kindness, that beats the momentum of ‘no tolerance” [1]

In these last few dark days of a seemingly endless January, it would be easy to be even less optimistic about some of the challenges in caring for the wellbeing of young.  Many school staff (and parents too) face a huge challenge in trying to gain support from overstretched local services whose job is to offer advice and guidance.  And with the opening of every newspaper, teachers discover yet another 21st Century problem could be fixed by simply ‘teaching it in schools’ (mobile phone safety, financial skills, cooking, resilience – you get the picture – many of those things that communities used to teach their children).[2]  So I was delighted to discover that my cold journey to the ASCL Pastoral Conference, in the shadow of Blue Monday, was to prove a refreshingly positive experience.

Pastoral Care is a tough one; it encompasses all of those things that are not the nuts and bolts of academic work. To name a few strands, we are talking about health in all its guises, including mental health, extracurricular offerings, happiness and resilience, behaviour and rewards, safeguarding and online safety. Countless things that are so important to the wellbeing of our pupils, and that make such a difference to their potential to thrive and succeed.

The conference I attended introduced keynote speakers who all talked of the increasing challenges facing all teachers and especially those charged with leading on pastoral care. There was acknowledgement that times are difficult, local support is sparse and an acceptance that young people are facing challenges that adults are struggling to get to grips with.  But this was no navel-gazing self-help group. It was a conference filled with practical advice and professionals sharing their experience of supporting pupils and parents in myriad, innovative ways. Paul Dix, founder of Pivotal Education, whose astonishingly effective behaviour management techniques advocate simple kindness and consistency (and tearing up the long list of rules) was both entertaining and practical.  Then there was Tony Clifford’s enlightening talk on Attachment[3] in which he discussed how understanding the impact of experiences in early childhood can affect the behaviour and attitude of the teenager will really help teachers get the best out of their pupils. Other workshops included a practical session on digital parenting (useful for parents and teachers) from Maria O’Neill of UK Pastoral Chat[4] and workshop from Janet Goodliffe on developing a whole school approach to student emotional health and wellbeing.

It is good, for any professional, to get out of normal routine and discover what others are doing, particularly in these times of change and uncertainty for young people and their wellbeing. I’m looking forward to implementing some of the strategies and ideas learnt.

But the day also made me reflect on the fact that the staff at the High School really care about our pupils and really want the best for them. We aim for pro-active pastoral care; spotting issues before they get out of hand and supporting the pupils in building a toolkit of strategies to help them deal with things that life can throw at them.  We achieve this through our PSHEE programme, tutorials and lots of informal support. Our adoption of the Girls on Board[5] programme to empower our pupils to tackle friendship problems with adult support, rather than interference, has been groundbreaking.  We also embrace the Positive Project[6], which is used across the GDST network, to help young people tap into their feelings and determine some strategies for improving how they feel about life’s ups and downs.

As a reflective practitioner, I am always evaluating areas where we could make small tweaks to turn the volume up on warmth and support too; I fully advocate the notion, from Paul Dix, quoted at the top of this post. We are fortunate to have few behavioural issues of any consequence in our school, but that quote really embodies for me what every interaction between a pupil and member of staff ought to be. Anyone who has spent time in my office will be familiar with my chalkboard wall, upon which I write quotes that I find inspired or inspiring. For some time now, the Frank Turner lyrics ‘In a world that has decided that it’s going to lose its mind, be more kind my friend, try to be more kind’ has been on that wall.   And the facts back up the words – there is strong evidence that schools that embody mutual kindness between all members of the community have fewer behavioural issues and a greater academic purpose too.

[1] Paul Dix, founder of Pivotal Education.


[3] The Attachment Research Community





Celebrating achievement in an unpredictable world

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence” –  Helen Keller

 Our annual Events and Achievements celebration, held earlier this month, is without question the single event that best sums up Northampton High School’s ethos and philosophy for me. This is partly because it is designed to fulfil that role, although my perception of why it performs the function so well is broader and more personal. As the event draws nearer each year I am filled with a sense of apprehension and pride, because I know that I will be called on again to list the glittering achievements of so many students. A privilege and also a serious responsibility in anyone’s book. The achievements are extensive and varied, from academic awards to ballet grades, but perhaps the most notable are those we celebrate with the students who left us in the summer and are now busy starting the next stage of their journeys through life. Into higher education, apprenticeships or travelling, but above all into adulthood.

What does our awards ceremony mean then, if it is adequately to do justice to the young people whose lives have been channelled through the school? This is not an easy question to answer, because the breadth of achievement in schools is arguably only matched by the range of human endeavour in the world at large. However, I think that Helen Keller’s words go some way to explaining why this particular event means so much to the students receiving prizes, as well as to the wider community of the school.

Some might say that young people in the UK have little reason to be optimistic. Looking towards an erratic and changing workplace, students are naturally concerned – more so now perhaps than ever before. The vast majority of people under 25 did not want to leave the EU, with over 80% saying they would vote to remain in any future referendum, according to research by Survation. Their freedom to find work has without doubt been affected by Brexit, indeed, according to Ernst & Young, 34% of companies monitored have ‘publicly confirmed [..] to move some of their operations and/or staff from the UK to Europe’.

Yet the catalogue of destinations and courses our Sixth Form leavers have chosen, and the sheer range of prizes given for academic, musical and artistic achievement, tell another story altogether. One of optimism of the purest kind. There is opportunity for those who know how to find it and success will increasingly be defined by how well people are able to match their skills to the changing needs of employers. Striving for new and better achievements throughout life at school feeds the fire of ambition, encouraging flexibility and developing pools of resilience when things do not quite go as planned.

Success at Northampton High is not simply defined by elite performances. We reward pupils for serious academic progress as well as those who have achieved the highest results. Furthermore, our prizes for contributions to school life and to the wider community are given the same priority as those for students winning gold awards in national scientific and mathematical competitions. Beyond the actual awards in our ceremony, however, it was the recent Sixth Form Academic Scholarship that confirmed to me the confidence inherent in our students. This year well over half of Upper Fifth students entered the competition, in spite of the limited number of awards on offer. This shows huge self-belief and the realisation that there is much to be gained from the experience itself – an opportunity to give of one’s best and to learn about responding to pressure.

Helen Keller was right. Through hope, confidence and optimism, our students consistently come up with amazing achievements, no matter how uncertain our world may be.

Mr Rickman, Deputy Head Academic


Autumn reading at Northampton High School

With the temperature dropping and the leaves beginning to turn autumn has now well and truly arrived. The glorious summer we enjoyed is now an increasingly distant memory along with summer reading, which always seems to have a lighter feel. One of the good things about the change in season are the opportunities to curl up with a good book. Our new U3s have been in school for over a month now and are well into their reading lessons with Mr Viesel; the year 6 girls who visit the Senior Library on a weekly basis with Mrs Fordham are also very much enjoying their reading. One factor the girls mostly have in common is their love of the Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens, we all enjoy pouncing on the next book in a favourite series. Part of our job in school is to encourage the girls to read a variety of authors (feeding directly into achievement at GCSE) and the publishing world offers a fantastic range of choices.

Helena Duggan’s first book A Place Called Perfect is a favourite with the year 6 and 7 girls at the moment. A mixture of fantasy and adventure, the story revolves around Violet who moves to Perfect with her parents but soon begins to hate living there. It’s too clean, the people are too friendly and too nice. Violet begins to question things. Why does everyone have to wear special glasses to stop them going blind? What are the strange noises in the night? And why is Mum acting so weird? The second title in the series, The Trouble with Perfect, has recently been published.

Ross Welford, TV producer turned author, has become very popular in school over a short period of time. His latest title The 1,000 Year Old Boy is the story of Alfie Monk, who can remember the last Viking invasion, though of course no one would believe him if they knew. This is not a story about wanting to live forever but about a boy who would like to stop, which means finding a way to make sure he will eventually die…Time Travelling with a Hamster (about the dangers of time travel; ideal for Dr Who fans) and What Not to Do If You turn Invisible (being invisible sounds fun, but only if you can become visible again) are also popular titles in the Library, well-written and very entertaining!

Onjali Q. Raúf is a new author to the Library at NHS, founder and CEO of Making Herstory, an organization which works to end the abuse and trafficking of women and girls.

Told with heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.Told with heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.Told with heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.Told with heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.Told with heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it. He’s nine years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets – not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite! But then I learned the truth: Ahmet really isn’t very strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help. That’s where my best friends Josie, Michael and Tom come in. Because you see, together we’ve come up with a plan.”

Recently published and sure to be under many a Christmas tree is The Restless Girls written by Jessie Burton and beautifully illustrated by Angela Barrett. Based on “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” by the Brothers Grimm, The Restless Girls has been updated for the 21st century. When their mother, the Queen dies, the princesses’ father decides to keep his daughters safe at all costs, a price which includes their lessons, possessions and most importantly their freedom. The eldest daughter, Princess Frida, has a strong will and imagination; together with her sisters they fight for the right to live! There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it.

Another potential Christmas stocking filler is Doctor Who: The women who lived. Meet the women who run the Whoniverse.

“From Sarah Jane Smith to Bill Potts, from Susan Foreman to the Thirteenth Doctor, women are the beating heart of Doctor Who. Whether they’re facing down Daleks or thwarting a Nestene invasion, these women don’t hang around waiting to be rescued – they roll their sleeves up and get stuck in.

Scientists and soldiers, queens and canteen workers, they don’t let anything hold them back. Featuring historical women such as Agatha Christie and Queen Victoria alongside fan favourites like Rose Tyler and Missy, The Women Who Lived tells the stories of women throughout space and time.

Beautifully illustrated by a team of all-female artists, this collection of inspirational tales celebrates the power of women to change the universe.”

And finally, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Set during the American Civil War, the story of the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, has an enduring popularity. Poor from a monetary point of view the sisters have lives rich in love, colour and kindness whilst learning from their mistakes and disappointments. The perfect autumn read.

He’s nine years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets – not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!

But then I learned the truth: Ahmet really isn’t very strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help.

That’s where my best friends Josie, Michael and Tom come in. Because you see, together we’ve come up with a plan. . .

With beautiful illustrations by Pippa Curnick

Told with heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it.

He’s nine years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets – not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!

But then I learned the truth: Ahmet really isn’t very strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help.

That’s where my best friends Josie, Michael and Tom come in. Because you see, together we’ve come up with a plan. . .

With beautiful illustrations by Pippa Curnick

Then Violet starts to question other things… Like why does everyone have to wear special glasses to stop them going blind? What are the strange noises in the night and why is Mum acting so weird

Miss Buxton, School Librarian


Are the arts in trouble? Not if we take a 360 degree perspective

The apparent decline of the arts subjects in many schools across the country appears to be an unintended consequence of the coalition government’s decision to champion a more overtly academic regime, with its related reforms to the exam system. With hindsight, this decline does not seem so remarkable, perhaps, particularly in the light of the dissolution of local authority control in favour of independent academies and multi-academy trusts, and the consequent loss of long-established networks of advisory specialists.  Furthermore, according to a new report funded by the Nuffield Foundation, faced with the inspectorate’s (Ofsted’s) focus on national test outcomes as the key measure of school success, headteachers have been forced to react restrictively to avoid the disastrous impacts that failure on these metrics can have on pupil and staff recruitment, as well as the wider reputation of their schools (1).

The narrowing of the curriculum that has been the result of all this has only relatively recently been recognised as a potentially damaging trend in economic terms. The creative industries contribute in excess of £90bn to our GDP and account for 1 in 11 jobs. These numbers have been rising at a rate faster than all other parts of the economy in the recent past, reliant to a large extent on immigrant talent attracted to our creative hubs. However, the danger that a large gap in the supply chain for future employees in these industries might emerge following Brexit is now very real, according to John Kampfner, CEO of the Creative industries federation, with ‘17 defined skills shortages in areas such as animation and special effects’ (2).

As with other independent schools, at Northampton High we have the freedom to consider developments in national education policy through the lens of our own philosophy and educational beliefs. This gives us the option of only gathering up innovations when we think they are beneficial and channeling our approach to structural changes, so that we can focus on the learning experience and help our students to find their own paths without having to compromise the breadth and balance of the choices they can make. We know that this leads to our Sixth Form students leaving us to go on to a striking range of futures beyond the purely academic or scientific, large numbers of them specifically arts related and many more very closely allied.

As befits our aim of helping our pupils come to a 360-degree understanding of what drives and inspires them, we place the arts squarely at the heart of school life and we encourage them to weave a path in and around the more traditionally academic subjects. Hence art, literature, film, music, food, textiles, dance and drama all feature in the day to day lives of the girls, both in curriculum time and in the wider life of the school. To mention but a very few examples from the last 12 months, this has been seen in our work with both an artist and director in residence, a link with the National Leather Collection, national awards for film, textiles and food collaborations with junior school girls, a dance and gymnastics celebration evening and extensive partnerships with humanities, science, maths and arts subjects across the school, including a STEAM extravaganza last month.

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention our stunning annual Arts Festival which this year was bigger than ever, in honour of our 140th birthday, including 3 invited authors to suit all age groups (and parents!), a recital of music performances from girls aged 7 to 18 and arguably the most technically accomplished musical ever produced by the school, the Sound of Music. To finish off a fabulous year for the arts, we are refurbishing our Music department over the summer with the theme of female icons in music, practice rooms no longer being known as room 1 or 2, but by the name of an artist or composer, such as Beyoncé or Clara Schumann.

Needless to say, while the arts are flourishing at Northampton High and at other schools like ours, we cannot do it all. I sincerely hope that the wake-up call to government does not come too late to avoid our national influence in this vital sector being reduced beyond all recognition.

  1. Toby Greany and Rob Higham, UCL Institute of Education. Hierarchy, Markets, and Networks: analysing the self-improving school-led system agenda in England and the implications for leadership, Nuffield Foundation and IOE Press, July 2018
  2. John Kampfner. Creative industries are key to UK economy, the Guardian, January 2017

Mr Rickman, Deputy Head Academic


View Point – Think About Politics for the Moment

Think about Politics for a moment. A Conservative government struggling. Divisions in cabinet as plots swirl around Westminster and knives are sharpened as rivals jostle to satisfy long held ambitions. The issue of Europe is high on the agenda causing exasperation and confusion. The economy is still unable to generate anything remotely like a feel-good factor. We have the resignation of cabinet ministers for falling short of the required standards of professional, parliamentary behaviour. There are concerns amongst the general public that the NHS is on the verge of breakdown and that the privatisation of the public sector is serving to enrich the few and leaving the many to pick up the pieces. There exists a resurgent opposition with a populist leader allegedly more in tune with the common man and woman. There is a tangible sense of despair; a concern that society isn’t working and that something has to change.

Were you thinking of 2018 and the recent political scene? Did you picture Theresa May, Carillion, the NHS winter crisis and Brexit? Did you recognise Boris and Gove and think about what might have been on Damian Green’s internet browser? Were you running through fields of wheat or at Glastonbury with Jeremy Corbyn? Or were you thinking of food banks or whether you should have left some spare change with that homeless man or at least gone and bought the poor bloke a coffee from the Starbucks across the street?

Or were you back in the 1990’s? Was it an ailing John Major that you witnessed, shovelling peas around his plate on Spitting Image and getting greyer and greyer by the episode? Did you see a country still debating our future in Europe, contemplating the surrender of the pound and noting the arrival of UKIP on the political landscape? Did you recall Neil Hamilton, Cash for Questions, Jeffrey Archer heading to prison or David Mellor and his Chelsea shirt? There was the re-emergence of the Labour Party under Messrs Smith, Blair and Brown and the prospect of the railways, the Post Office and even the NHS being sold off to the highest bidder at some point in the future. Then there was Black Wednesday in 1992, the Bulger murder in 1993 and the unnerving feeling that things were just not how they were supposed to be.

Perhaps, some of you were back in the early 1960’s with Harold Macmillan and the Etonian gentlemen clique trying desperately to run a nation that was socially leaving the familiar world of austerity and deference behind? The stop-start of the economy and the rejection of De Gaulle as we begged to join the European Economic Community and the Night of the Long Knives where the embattled PM sacked a third of his cabinet in a matter of hours including many of his closest friends and colleagues. A much younger Harold Wilson offering a revived Britain in the white heat of the technological revolution to the accompaniment of a society falling in love with the Fab Four, reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover and entertaining the end of capital punishment and decriminalising homosexuality. Did you think of Profumo and Christine Keeler and that picture of her posing on that chair? Did you experience that feeling again that we could do better and needed something different?

We could go back further but we’ll stop there. We’ll stick to the period of Modern British History that our Sixth Form girls study at A Level. History and Politics runs in cycles, almost as if there are simple routines that are repeated and played out on a nationwide macro scale every couple of decades or so. That should not be surprising; from the moment we wake up, indeed from the moment we are born, life becomes a repetition of certain rules, practices and regimes. It would be ridiculous and somewhat naive for us to think that History and Politics do not tread a similar path. Some would say that through History we learn about the past but I’d like to think it also teaches us about the future.

“They say the next big thing is here, that the revolution’s near, but to me it seems quite clear that it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.”
– Shirley Bassey (with Propellerheads)
“Maybe history wouldn’t have to repeat itself if we listened once in a while.”
– Wynne McLaughlin

Andy Donaldson, Head of History


Let the debate begin!


We are constantly warned of the dangers of The Digital Age from its ability to limit our powers of reasoning to being a destroyer of good health, both mental and physical. Perhaps most worryingly, employers from all sectors warn of the damage The Digital Age has already caused to the way in which we communicate. That is why oracy, the skill that enables us to be confident, fluent public speakers through opportunities such as debating, discussions and engaging in dialogue, is so vital. Learning to use the spoken language are as important as learning skills in literacy and numeracy.

Well, I am here to report good news! The skills needed for effective oracy are alive and well for girls at Northampton High School and in the wider community we have reached out to during our Outreach Debating Project.

In partnership with Noisy Classroom, an organisation dedicated to ensuring the skills of effective oracy are kept at the forefront of educators’ minds, we have successfully worked with Year 5 and Year 6 girls from three local primary schools to explore oracy through debating.

These workshops culminated in a final day of debating where all schools taking part proved, without question, that the skills of oracy are indeed alive and well. Perhaps even more importantly, the day also further emphasised just how important that we, as the guardians of future generations, must continue to give our girls the opportunity to develop this invaluable life skill whether it be at the dinner table at home or in the classroom!

Let the debate begin!

Karen Fordham

Year 6 teacher and Humanities Coordinator


Transferable Research Skills: skills for life!

Universities have long complained about the lack of academic independence which many of their new under graduates exhibit. Research into this area has found that many new students struggle to write essays, carry out independent research and build arguments; a lack of skills which leaves them ill equipped for the rigorous academic approach required in higher education.

Many universities have responded by providing study skill sessions for their new under graduates. The University of Edinburgh for example provides modules on ‘Taking effective notes’, ‘Preparing bibliographies and avoiding plagiarism’ and ‘Using the Library and understanding your reading list’.

At the High School, we take a proactive approach to study and research skills, equipping our students with the skills to make their transition into higher education a smooth one.

Library orientation and research skills such as planning, note taking, bibliographies and plagiarism are embedded within the Humanities curriculum, through History in Year 7 and Geography in Year 8. In Year 8 we are particularly ambitious for the girls, teaching the use of citation, a challenge which most of the girls rise to with aplomb.

In Autumn 2017, Ms Heimfeld and I have introduced a new initiative based around the Reith Lectures. Girls in U4 have the opportunity to practice the skills learnt through Humanities Transferable Skills and linked to the marking criteria of the EPQ, whereby we are interested in the process of completing a piece of work, not just the end product. The aim is for the girls to finish their essay on their chosen subject by Easter, presenting their findings in the summer term.

The EPQ (Extended Project Qualification, worth half an A Level at A2) is one of the elective choices on offer to the girls as they move into the Sixth Form. A response by the examination board AQA to university complaints about student lack of research skills, it allows candidates to choose a topic they wish to explore which isn’t covered in any of their exam subjects or to take a subject of interest beyond the curriculum. Similar to writing a dissertation at university, in that the end product must come out of academic research, but very different in that candidates are credited for the learning journey, not just the end product. The end product may also be an artefact, which can be pretty much anything, from making a film to designing and building a hover board!

Candidates have the opportunity to learn how to work at university level whilst having support within the school environment; the EPQ is proving a popular qualification with our girls.

“I would say that the EPQ has helped me gain skills that will be essential to life at university – and who wouldn’t love those lower university offers! An EPQ is a great asset to your personal statement and makes you stand out at interview”.

Lara Pieczka; Lara completed an artefact for November 2017 submission – The Queen’s Codebreaking Catastrophe: A code breaking workshop for Key Stage 2 pupils.

“The EPQ was an inspirational process for me, the freedom to think, away from the curriculum, allowed me to realise my true interests; it was a deciding factor in my choice of degree for university, clarifying the situation hugely”.

Julia Wardley-Kershaw; Julia completed an artefact for November 2017 submission – The Violet Hue: an exploration into European cinematography.

We look forward to this year’s girls receiving their results in January as the new 6.1 girls begin their EPQ journey.

Mrs Buxton, School Librarian