Time and False Noses

9 Sep


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The summer holiday has about it a different quality from all other times of the year.   While the school premises team are, if anything, busier than ever in the summer break when most of the development and major maintenance work gets done, there is still a feeling of ‘powering down’ in July and August.

 

There has, of course, been much debate about the pros and cons of the long summer break for schools with Mr Gove’s bid in 2013 to cut short the summer holiday being one of his few reforms not to be achieved.  It is certainly true that, in one sense, it is a throwback to a long-past society with different priorities.  Michaelmas in September, traditionally the time to celebrate the harvest coming in, is nowadays a minor punctuation mark in the Christian calendar but, at one time, it was a major event in the year.  The effective start of the farming year, it became the time to employ new staff, begin a rental on a new property – in effect the start of the ‘official’ year.  It made sense for university terms to fall into line with this rhythm and, in time, schools duly followed suit.

 

Most children nowadays do not have to help bring the harvest home in the summer (although I know of at least a handful of girls locally who help on the family farm and am pleased to take this opportunity to congratulate Louise Penn as she prepares to start a degree course in Agriculture at Newcastle University).

 

It is understandable, too, that parents feel keenly the pressure of finding childcare for younger and meaningful activities for their older children and also resent the fact that flight and package holidays suddenly soar in price immediately after term ends.  Equally, teachers learn, as part of their training, to smile benignly while keeping their thoughts to themselves when ribbed by friends (and sometimes even slight acquaintances) about ‘those long holidays.’

 

edmund-leachAs I began to gear up for the new term after a wonderful summer break, I found myself reflecting on this topic and asking myself whether the special quality of the summer holiday goes beyond the obvious benefit of a rest when the weather is generally fine.  Revisiting an essay, entitled ‘Time and False Noses,’  written in the 1960s by Cambridge-based anthropologist Edmund Leach, reminded me that there is much more to a school’s ‘summertime’ than easy living.

 

Anthropologists long ago noticed that all cultures divide time into ‘ordinary’ time and ‘extraordinary’ or ‘sacred’ time, when all work stopped and time was dedicated to special events and activities such as feasts and rituals. Our holydays/holidays – that extended break when we can turn off the alarm clock, and forget about bells and rules, lessons and homework – is a good example of ‘sacred’ time in this sense. Time set aside to do extraordinary things – perhaps extraordinary in the sense of exotic, or maybe just lying around doing little or nothing, in a way we cannot normally get away with.

 

This is about more than just rest.

virginia-woolfVirginia Woolf said ‘It is in our idleness…that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.’ And it is true that we need some time of idleness on occasions just to allow our minds to wind down and to get below the surface of what we feel about things, to think about them more deeply than we can ever hope to do day to day.

 

croppedWhere ordinary days are dedicated to work and routine, holidays are dedicated to the opposites – leisure and play, or feasts, gatherings and performances.  Traditionally, these were the main festivals of the calendar and, in our modern, secular society, the concept has been reappropriated as a social, musical or cultural event.  One thinks of Glastonbury or Edinburgh.  The GDST’s inaugural Multitude Festival, which many of our U4s enjoyed in Ipswich in July, was in the same tradition.  Leach noticed that these times were also associated with either dressing up, dressing down or even a foray into fancy dress –  what he meant by ‘false noses.’  (Think Red Nose Day.)

 

Extraordinary time makes no sense without ordinary time just as ‘holiday’ assumes ‘workaday.’  If every day were a holiday, then no day would be in fact.   Or, as Leach put it, ‘the interval between two successive festivals of the same type… is usually a named period e.g. “week”, “year.” Without the festivals, such periods would not exist, and all order would go out of social life.’  We need that contrast and, indeed, we are hard-wired at some level to thrive on it – as I was keen to emphasise to the girls in our first Assembly of the year together!

 

Incidentally, Leach also noticed that we use rituals to help us negotiate psychologically the transition from ‘sacred’ time back to ‘ordinary’ time (and vice versa) – which puts a whole new complexion on that vital purchase last week of a new pencil case when there was nothing very much wrong with the last one…

 

Whatever your summer break brought you, I hope that it was an extraordinary time and that, setting false noses aside for a while, you are ready to enjoy the marvels of the ordinary time to come.

 

Dr Helen Stringer

 

Sources

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/apr/18/michael-gove-longer-school-day-holidays

http://hiebertglobalcenter.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Reading-8-Two-Essays-Concerning-the-Symbolic-Representation-of-Time.pdf

 

Living out loud

8 Jul

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The demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on Monday by supporters of Bacc for the Future, a group campaigning for the EBacc (English Baccalaureate) to give greater prominence to creative arts GCSE courses, has brought back to the forefront of political debate the role of the creative and performing arts in our society.

 

The issue boils down to one question – do the arts matter?  At Northampton High School visitors were left in no doubt about where we stood on it last Thursday as they toured our annual Arts Festival and experienced a dazzling showcase of art, fashion textiles, food, drama, dance and music.

 

Yes, yes and yes, again!

 

First, the arts matter – to our girls at Northampton High.

 

The range and quality of art work on display – from the sea-themed tiles made by the Nursery girls to the complex 3D pieces by the GCSE and A Level students, from the feel-good fortissimo of the ‘Lion King Medley’ to the gothic horror of the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired promenade theatre installation – made the strongest possible statement about the power of the arts in their lives.

 

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We are delighted that four members of the Class of 2016 are going on to do arts-related degree courses (Shona Guha to Musical Theatre, Leonie Robertshaw to Fine Art, Su Shuang to Fashion Textiles and Emma Dutton to English with Music) and we look forward to seeing how their careers unfold.

 

Second, the arts matter – to all girls.

 

Watching Year 6 painting Georgia O’Keeffe flowers in their Art lesson on Monday, I was reminded that, historically, women have been few and far between among artists, whether in the visual or performing arts.  And, even today, women are under-represented in the highest echelons of many areas of creative endeavour.  Only just over a year ago, Tracey Emin, herself a trend-bucking figure in many ways, raised a furore in the art world by remarking –  ‘There are good artists that have children. They are called men.’  The backlash against her, however, suggested that hers is now becoming a minority view.  Far from being an arena where women cannot shine, the arts world – an area of the UK economy, incidentally, earning almost £10 million an hour according to government statistics – is a happy hunting ground for creative women.

 

14_traceyeminThink art, think Bridget Riley, Marlene Dumas and Emin herself.

 

 

 

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Think fashion, think Vivienne Westwood and Donatella Versace.

 

 

 

 

Adele's new albumThink music, think Adele or Enya (in one tradition) or Judith Weir and Joan Tower (in another).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Even our artistic heritage, long seen as barren ground for women, has started to be reclaimed, partly through the campaigning efforts of Helen Fraser and the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST).  Following a petition masterminded by Twyford student, Jessy McCabe, and backed by the CEO of the GDST, the exam board Edexcel reformed its A Level Music syllabus recently to include Clara Schumann and Kate Bush among the composers studied.

 

Finally, the arts matter – to our world.

 

As last Thursday’s event demonstrated so emphatically, the arts enliven and enrich our lives.  The fact that the earliest humans painted animals on the walls of their caves, as in Chauvet, over 30,000 years ago and made flutes from bird bones over 40,000 years ago confirms for us the knowledge that self-expression through the arts is as fundamental to human nature as language.  Or, as Emile Zola put it, ‘if you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud. ‘  The fact that children in the concentration camp at Theresienstadt during WWII drew paintings of life before capture, such as Ruth Cechova’s picture of sunbathing, suggests that the arts are forms of language, because they communicate universal human ideas and emotions.

 

Like language, artistic fluency may wither away and become extinct for lack of practice.  If that were to happen, we would lose the ability to ‘live out loud’ – and we would all be much the poorer for it.

 

Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress

 

Sources

http://www.baccforthefuture.com/latest-news

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/10584193/Tracey-Emin-Why-Im-celebrating-not-having-children.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/tracey-emin-is-wrong-being-a-mother-doesnt-mean-you-cant-be-a-good-artist-too-9775997.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11841976/Britain-schools-Exam-boards-must-stop-writing-women-out-of-curriculum.html

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/dec/16/a-level-music-female-composers-students-campaign-jessy-mccabe-edexcel

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/creative-industries-worth-almost-10-million-an-hour-to-economy

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-26987720

Lessons of democracy

1 Jul

croppedWe are living in interesting times… throughout June, the School has been pulsating with debate – whether it was the DASH inter-house debating competition (in which Artemis emerged as winners in a very closely-fought final) or, more recently, the growing controversy over Britain’s membership of the European Union. Our mock EU referendum campaign began with a quiz in Assembly, led by Mrs Tansley and contested via mobile ‘phones using Kahoot, about how much girls and staff really knew about the EU.

 

 

 

(FILES) This file photo taken on August

Some of the most intelligent debating I heard, in a national campaign tarnished by spin and smears on both sides, was in the formal referendum debate on Monday 20 June when Daisy Lambert and Amy Goldup (Remain) pitched their case against Hannah Simmonite (Leave). A few days before, over a picnic in Shropshire with Year 7s, I overheard one pupil say, with impeccable logic, that under-18s should be allowed to vote in this referendum because the result would affect their future more than the older generation. (Whether, applying the same reasoning, the over-80s should be disenfranchised was, to the group, a moot point.)

 

 

 

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The result in school (66% for Remain, 31% for Leave and 3% spoilt ballot papers) – while clearly out of step with the national verdict and with the vote in Northamptonshire – was in line with other GDST schools which, overwhelmingly, recorded anti-Brexit results. In this, as in the national picture, a clear generational divide emerged, adding yet another fracture line to the socio-economic and geographical chasms that have long been familiar contours in the British political landscape.

 

The school referendum highlighted one of the stark but salutary lessons of democracy – that having your say is not the same as having your way. It teaches us how to cope with losing. For some, the fact that searches in Google about the impact of Brexit surged after the outcome was announced, suggesting that the result rather than the campaign was what prompted many voters actively to seek the facts about the question, prompted some political pundits to mutter darkly about the ‘tyranny of majorities.’

 

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This, however, is missing the other major lesson of democracy that the referendum teaches us. This is not that democracy is flawed (though we know it is). As Churchill said, ‘democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.’ It is that democracy, to be effective, relies on an informed citizenry. The fact-lite hyperbole and mendacious mud-slinging which dominated the national debate made it difficult for any but the most assiduous and critically-minded voters to reach a well-informed judgement about the issue.

 

The story of Britain and Brexit 2016 reminds me, yet again, of the paramount importance of Citizenship education in school.  That ‘c’ word – nestled in one of the least glamorous of educational acronyms, PSHCE – is so easily paid lip service to rather than fully embraced, so often tracked perfunctorily in the interests of compliance with guidance about promoting Fundamental British Values rather than genuinely embedded in a school’s culture.

 

As the girls reasoned thoughtfully about the ethics of the franchise, tapped their ‘phones excitedly in our quiz, discussed with their teachers the pros and cons of EU membership in class and walked down corridors deep in earnest debate, I felt proud to know that the education of our girls in the lessons of democracy is a cherished part of daily life at Northampton High.  And this is why, regardless of the future direction of the UK, whether in the EU or outside, I am filled with hope for the future.

 

Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress

 

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To follow Dr Stringer on Twitter please click on the icon

 

 

 

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36619342

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/what-happens-if-we-leave-the-eu

 

The 360 Degree Challenge and the Radically Enriched Curriculum at Northampton High

24 Jun

img_0884lr Cara Flanagan in Psychology Review comments that ‘it is not high self-esteem that brings about good academic performance’, rather ‘it is the belief that you can acquire the necessary skills to be successful’. This sums up much of current thinking about how students can develop resourcefulness, responsibility and independence and avoid the pitfalls of a fixed mindset by developing a range of positive learning styles and dispositions.

 

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In fact, these ideas are not a particularly new concept, in his seminal 1976 work Teaching Thinking, Edward de Bono explains that thinking and learning is about ‘knowing how to deal with situations […] planning, decision-making, looking at evidence, guessing, creativity’ as much as it is about ‘exploring experience and applying knowledge’. At Northampton High we want to support all this by fostering our students’ ability to devise and control their own learning. We aim to enhance their understanding of what drives and motivates them, for example, through our 360 Degree Me programme, which encourages them to look at themselves from all angles, as learners and individuals with distinct ambitions and potential.

 

 

 

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Last year’s 360 Me Day proved effective in altering the students’ perceptions about what is really important to them personally, so this year we wanted to go a step further and challenge them to take responsibility for managing the learning experience for themselves. The result has been our 360 Challenge Day to take place in July at Wicksteed Park in Kettering, a charitable trust whose cultural and historic significance in the area offers rich educational possibilities for this project.

 

 

 

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Lead organiser and Head of Biology Russell Attwood says, ‘the focus of the day will be developing the attributes that are so important for school and life in general, such as resilience, teamwork, independence, planning, time management and leadership’. Students will be working autonomously in the Park on thematic projects that they have chosen themselves, in small groups from the same House. Each group will have pupils from across Key Stage 3 which will give them the challenge of collaborating with others and Year 9 students will be given the responsibility of taking the lead and supporting the younger girls. In the weeks leading up to the project each group has been given time to plan every aspect of their day: from what they need to wear and bring with them, what and where to eat, to how they will find the information for their projects and ultimately their presentations to the rest of the House.

 

 

guy-claxtonWhat would we like the students to gain from their experiences at Wicksteed Park? I would say that character and grit would appear fairly high up on the list of hoped-for advantages, along with a deeper sense of how they learn to adapt and cooperate. In terms of outcomes, we do not expect every project to be an outright triumph in terms of preparation or execution, but for learning to be really successful, according to Professor Guy Claxton, there needs to be an element of ‘uncertainty and experimentation; having a go, seeing what happens and gradually improving’. This process is essential for personal growth and develops character, which is hugely important in helping students achieve self-reliance in their learning.

 

A single day of challenge, albeit as part of an ongoing commitment across the school to the education of the individual student via the 360 degree philosophy, will not suffice to embed the ‘crucial attitudes and capabilities’ Professor Claxton refers to. For this reason, we have looked to develop our wider curriculum to help create a more creative and self-reliant community of life-long learners in our school. To do this we have subtly adjusted the timetable, without having to change the overall timings of the day, through what we call the Radically Enriched Curriculum (REC). This new REC period after lunch has allowed us to reposition PSHE lessons and opens a new window for co-curricular activities where we can stretch and challenge student outlook and ambition. The timing also allows for a community of learners within the staff, with regular slots for peer-led training, discussion groups and working parties. As an important side effect, we have also been able to match up the Junior and Senior School timetables more efficiently, which we hope will lead to even more opportunities for innovative cross-phase and transition activities.

 

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Leona Heimfeld, Stretch, Challenge and Creativity Coordinator, comments that her personal challenge ‘is to stretch the students beyond their own expectations’. She explains that this involves building ‘complexity of character, developing skills not easily learned in the curriculum-based classroom: the thrill of collaboration, the social responsibility of group work, physical and vocal self-confidence, the power of creativity and imaginative spontaneity’. The programme is geared towards providing a series of unique projects that mesh in with students’ ambitions for the future and links with our careers programme, Inspiring Futures. There is also a hugely important role for pastoral wellbeing in Leona’s opinion: ‘My studies have shown that creative projects offer much needed opportunities for de-stressing, with time to daydream and ponder reflectively’.

 

Essentially, by approaching this from a whole-school standpoint we give students and teachers opportunities to work together as equals. Assessment is not an agenda item within REC, so the focus is entirely on what is important to the educational process within a cooperative, flexible and yet individualised framework. We believe this will deepen the students’ enjoyment of learning through an appreciation, or ideally, a love of difficulty and challenge, a readiness to experiment and a real understanding of how to criticise and improve their work without being self-critical or negative about their potential for success. The idea of silencing the inner critic was a hot topic at this year’s Girls’ Day School Trust Conference where outgoing Chief Executive, Helen Fraser, called on students to release their ‘inner cheerleader’ instead. Likewise, for teachers, this approach is designed to encourage them to review their whole attitude to pedagogy beyond the REC programme, increasing student freedoms and allowing them to make as many decisions as possible to shape their own learning experiences.

 

tanya-byronProfessor Tanya Byron, writing in the foreword to Guy Claxton’s book Educating Ruby: What our children really need to learn, comments that we need to rethink our school systems ‘to help our children get ready for the challenges and opportunities they will face’. At Northampton High we take this role very seriously; we do encourage our students to take the 360 degree view and, in fact, this is the approach we expect everyone in the school to take when it comes to intellectual self-image. To paraphrase Professor Claxton himself, we are not in the business of ‘grinding out results’, we are an open-minded community of learners and we wish to be a mill of aspiration, individuality and creativity. These are the attributes that will get our children ready for the future.

 

 

Henry Rickman

Deputy Head

 

References

Flanagan, Cara; in Psychology Review, Volume 1.3, February 2006

de Bono, Edward; Teaching Thinking, Penguin, 1976

Claxton, Guy; in Creative Teaching and Learning, Volume 6.2, May 2016

Claxton, Guy; Educating Ruby: What our children really need to learn, Crown House Publishing, 2015

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Reading

13 Jun

p1220942When I was at school reading came under the banner of  a ” good thing” and other than the set texts in English lessons we were left pretty much to our own devices. Fast forward to the second decade of the 21st Century and things have changed in many ways. One of the most striking changes has been the expansion in books produced for children and young adults; the range, number and quality available today for the average young person would have delighted the teenage me. From fantasy stories to dystopian fiction, historical fiction, adventure, crime and thrillers, as well as titles which deal with many of the issues which young people face today, the choice is pretty much endless.

 

What has also become clearer is how much of a “good thing” reading actually is.

 

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Young people who enjoy reading very much are three times as likely to read above the level expected for their age compared with young people who do not enjoy reading at all (34.9% vs. 10.7%). Similarly, young people who read outside class daily are five times as likely to read above the expected level for their age compared with young people who never read outside class.  The National Literacy Trust

 

It seems obvious that if you enjoy something you will improve and the more you practice the better you become.

 

Whilst having a wide choice of material is a positive position to be in, the challenge within a school environment is to encourage progression, both in the type of material the girls read and in terms of complexity of language. At Northampton High School we have our own reading scheme to encourage and support girls in their reading but like many schools we also try and vary the reading opportunities available.

 

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the UK’s oldest and most prestigious children’s book awards. Often described by authors and illustrators as ‘the one they want to win’ – they are the gold standard in children’s literature.’www.carnegiegreenaway.co.uk

 

 

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Shadowing the Carnegie Award on an annual basis is one of the ways in which we provide a varied reading diet for our keen readers.  Mrs Halstead (English Teacher), a group of hugely enthusiastic girls and I began meeting on Monday mornings after Easter. The eight book shortlist this year being one of the strongest we have seen and our aim to choose the winner. The girls award marks out of ten for plot, characterisation and style for each book and we then total all marks awarded at the end of the process to discover who are our winner is. Our recent track record is a good one, having chosen “The Bunker Diary” by Kevin Brooks as the winner two years ago and “Buffalo Soldier” by Tanya Landman correctly last year. The skill being in awarding marks objectively regardless of our personal preference, though sometimes our favourite has taken the main prize!

 

The girls have been impressive in these sessions, last year taking part in a streamed debate with other Girls’ Day School Trust schools. The girls prepared well and their confidence visibly grew as the session went on, defending and supporting their views in an effective manner.

 

These are some of the comments we have had so far about the shortlisted books this year:

 

the-lie-treeThe Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge: comments on the plot – “It takes a while to get going but once it started I couldn’t put it down!”

 

 

one  One by Sarah Crossan: comments on style – “I don’t think that she should have written it in verse. It made it difficult to read and didn’t add anything to the story. She didn’t create mood very well, I thought it too light and easy in places for the themes”

 

 

 

 

 

five-children Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders: comments on characterisation – “Amazing” Comments on the plot – “gentle and composed on such a harsh topic”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake: comments on the plot – “The plot in the real world was fine however I felt that it kept being interrupted by the fantasy line which damaged the flow”

Find out more about the shortlisted books at http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/shadowing.php

 

The award winner will be announced on Monday 20th June so we plenty of reading time still left, but at the moment (late May) Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders is a definite contender!  The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge won the overall Costa Award last year and should be strong competition though, so we will have to wait until the end of June to see if we pick the winner again!

All short listed books are available to borrow from the School Library.

 

Ms Anne Buxton, Librarian

Real Life Experiences Versus Online

20 May

sonia I remember my A Level History lessons with fondness. My teacher brought History to life in class by showing students her many slides of archaeological digs to ancient lands such as Israel, Greece and Egypt. This inspired me to visit some of these places throughout my life as an adult. I did not just want to read about them in a book but wanted to experience them like nothing else can, a chance to connect, understand, and explore objects, perceptions, feelings, and innovative thoughts. Seeing a picture can’t ever replace material engagement with an object. We can’t anticipate the kinds of questions we’ll want to ask of objects in the future, so a digital record should never take the place of an object or image. There’s no replacement for the real thing.

 

 

 

andy_warhol_wpap_by_junxlittledevil-d7ccbmo   andy-warhol-ashmolean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently I spent a day at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford visiting the Andy Warhol exhibition. Coming face to face with artworks of an inspirational artist whom I studied at school enabled me to understand more about his reasons for creating his art work and his interpretation of popular culture and consumerism. This experience broadened my knowledge and appreciation of the art work which made me think about how young people learn new material not just in class but through technology.

 

 

Teachers of young people are in a prime position to encourage them to widen their life experiences beyond the classroom and experience real life by bringing the classroom teaching alive and broadening their thoughts, feelings and ideas. We offer many school trips to cultural and science museums, art galleries and many more. The power and influence of ‘being there’, a real life experience compliments the curriculum taught and more importantly, enriches the learning of any student.

 

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A reproduction of an artefact, whether it’s a photograph or a digital version of it, for example, can travel much further than the artefact itself. It can be in many places at once and so dramatically enrich the conversations that surround it. You lose something when you are engaging with a work of art or a specimen on a computer screen. You can’t walk around it, or touch it, or see how light plays upon its surface. It can be hard to appreciate the scale of something – whether it’s incredibly delicate or whether it dominates the room.

 

Digital life is so much part of society’s way of interacting with people and the world around them. This experience and way of living is only a way but not the only way. According to Jim Taylor, PhD ‘The power of prime’, a Psychology Professor at the University of San Francisco, believes that wired life is not real, meaning experiences are created by technology with the aim of ‘simulating an experience’. He goes on to explain that,

‘The problem with this “low-resolution” life is that, though it shares similarities to real life, it lacks the high resolution and the granularity of real life…..There is always something between us and our experiences’.

 

Susan Greenfield, a noted British neuroscientist, broadcaster and member of the House of Lords, who has studied the impact of new technology on people believes that, ‘for all of its appearance of freedom, technology puts us in a box, a very bright, shiny, and fun box to be sure, but a box nonetheless. You may think those dropdown menus give us options, but what they really do is limit choices that limit our thinking, imaginations, and actions’.

 

At Northampton High School, we encourage girls to be bold, creative, confident and competent women who have the skills to think, question, take risks and broaden their learning experiences.  Real life enriches our sensory experiences through sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance, movement, temperature and emotions. Technology has come a long way replicating these through visual graphics and sound but these are artificial and are they enough?

 

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So, what do you plan to do on the weekend or on your next holiday? Visit a museum, art gallery or walk the streets of the ancient town of a foreign city? ‘Why we go to museums, or art galleries, travel to distant lands doesn’t really matter as much as what we get out of our visit. We may go to see a famous artwork, and end up meeting someone special. We may go to get out of the rain and come face to face with an artefact that changes the way we think, or lifts us somehow; something that sets us on a wholly new journey of discovery. Make it a real experience.

 

 

Sonia Margareto,

Head of Pastoral Care

Inspirational Women’s Day

18 Mar

helen-stringer-high-res-2-200x300 For Queen Elizabeth II to appear alongside Angelina Jolie is not a common occurrence (although, as the photograph shows, it is not unprecedented) but their names were linked in an interesting way on Tuesday as we, alongside thousands of other schools and organisations, took time out of our busy schedules to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD)

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So, what do the Queen and Angelina have in common?  Read on to discover more.

 

IWD, as it has become known, is now a global phenomenon with its own website, partnerships with a number of corporations (from Accenture to Western Union) and even a link with the World Association of Girl Guiding.

 

We may wonder why it is important to have an IWD – after all, we don’t have an equivalent for men!  (Actually, we do.  International Men’s Day falls on 19 November and is recognised in 70 countries worldwide but, inaugurated as recently as 1992, it has gained nothing like the traction of IWD worldwide.)

 

Reports, such as that by the World Economic Forum – published, ironically enough, on International Men’s Day 2015 – may go some way to explaining why IWD is growing in prominence with each passing year.  The Report concluded that, since women globally currently earn on average about 54% of the wage of their male counterparts for similar work, at the present rate of change, it may well take until the year 2133 to close the gender pay gap.   Even in the UK, ranked 18th in the world for pay parity, the gap currently stands at about 14%.  Put another way, this means that women in the UK in effect work for free in comparison with their male co-workers from 9 November each year.  IWD may be said, therefore, to be dedicated to ensuring its own eventual demise as unnecessary, which may rescue it from the charges of tokenism levelled at it by some feminist critics.

 

sylvia1-300x192The event, in fact, has a long history; the first recorded Women’s Day, organised by American socialists to commemorate a strike by the Ladies Garment Workers’ Union in New York, took place as long ago as February 1909.  The date of 8 March was first chosen in 1914 after British Suffragette leader Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square on that day.  From the very beginning, then, IWD was associated with the struggle for economic and political equality.  In 1917, for example, women in St Petersburg, holding an IWD demonstration, played a crucial part in the world-changing events of the Russian Revolution.

 

 

 

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A second dimension, however, to IWD is its aim to ‘celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women around the world’ in a bid to address the relative lack of visibility of women in many areas of life – for example, in boardrooms and at the Bar, in professorial chairs and at operating tables.  Relative lack of visibility, I say, because there are millions of women today who are doing tremendous work and acting as inspiring role models to their contemporaries.  One such is Louise Pentland, a blogger/author and Northampton High School alumna, who came to add ‘a sprinkle of glitter’ to our Book Week in February. Louise has recently been chosen by the United Nations as one of their Change Ambassadors with a remit to campaign for gender parity, adding her distinctive voice to the thousands who are using social media for gender barriers to be torn down.

 

 

p1220399-300x225This is why, at Northampton High, we chose to celebrate IWD 2016 as INSPIRATIONAL Women’s Day, by asking the question ‘Who is the most inspiring woman of our times?’  In Senior School, our special Assembly opened with Rebecca Thomas and Natasha Wilcockson performing their own arrangement of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ for cello duet.

 

 

 

 

 

p1220393-300x200To launch our search for the Inspirational Woman of 2016 we heard four students, Rosie Saxton, Elisa Hemeng, Priya Lakkappa and

Victoria Eden speak, with eloquence and conviction, in favour of their nominees – 7/7 attack survivor Gill Hicks,  German Chancellor Angela Merkel, educational activist Malala Yousafzai and actor and humanitarian campaigner Angelina Jolie respectively.  Meanwhile, in Junior School, the Year 6 girls collaborated to compile a list of women who inspired them, coming up with a dozen names from many walks of life – sport and the silver screen, politics and philanthropy – and different generations (Meryl Streep alongside Jessica Ennis-Hill, for example).

 

Then came the Big Vote – the excitement of polling and waiting for the final result.  Which brings me back to Queen Elizabeth II and Angelina Jolie, who shared the honours as Junior and Senior School winners respectively.  And which only goes to show, reassuringly, that there is no identikit role model for Northampton High girls and that inspiration comes in many forms.  Isobel Carman used the IWD video booth, set up by Ms Heimfeld during the week, to pay a moving tribute to her courageous mum and the Reception girls nominated Mrs McCue, our own Catering Manager, following what was clearly an inspiring tour of the school kitchen with her. Finally, I should add my own roll call of inspiring women –  my colleagues Mrs Drew, Mrs Fordham, Miss Fraser, Ms Heimfeld, Miss Hurst, Mrs Li-Lakkappa and Mrs Wrightson, who did a great deal to make the day special.

 

Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress

 

Sources

http://www.internationalwomensday.com/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34842471

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/nov/18/women-will-get-equal-pay-in-118-years-wef-gender-parity

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Women%27s_Day

http://www.tubefilter.com/2016/03/02/youtube-partnership-with-united-nations-global-production-initiative-female-empowerment/

Philosophy For Children (P4C)

16 Mar

Socrates said that “The unexamined life is not worth living” and here at Northampton High School this is one of our fundamental aims to ensure that our students develop their thinking skills as thinking is life.

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The P4C or “community of enquiry approach” has been shown to develop this still further as it is very adaptable; which is why it is used in adult groups as well as schools, and for recreational as well as educational purposes.

 

The approach has been implemented here at school as the aim behind it is to develop resourcefulness in the use of language by putting enquiry into the heart of the educational process, teachers begin to ask more open and genuine questions, whilst students become more confident in expressing their puzzlements and in developing their interests.

 

But developing a community of enquiry requires more than just concentrating on better questioning. It is equally important to develop reasoning and reflection, both in public and private. And these bring into play, among other things, emotions and the thoughtful expression of emotions.

 

In essence the process is multifaceted and profoundly personal. It presents an intellectual challenge to our girls, but also a social and emotional one. It encourages open-mindedness, and creates conditions for change.

 

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Philosophy for Children promotes a forum for open dialogue in which participants are not content to exchange ideas and opinions as if they were bits of information. This term the U4th have been involved in looking at development in Sub-Saharan Africa, they have asked questions, sifted arguments and explored alternatives. Above all, they try to understand each other and the role disease is playing in the development of this area.

 

Mrs Langhorn, Senior Teacher

Is sport considered to be a risk too far in modern day society?

4 Mar

jo-hackett-300x225Whilst contemplating this blog I have started to think about the place of sport in our lives. We all know the physical benefits of sport and are often subject to healthy lifestyle campaigns about regular exercise, informing us that all adults should take part in 30 minutes of pulse raising activity daily and high intensity exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes 5 times a week. Those of us doing this are less likely to suffer coronary heart disease or osteoporosis and so on. Yet in today’s society 80% of women are not taking part in the recommended levels of sport to stay healthy. Is sport considered to be a risk too far in modern day society?

 

 

 

 

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I started to think about the idea of risk taking and sport as a vehicle for this. Look at Beth Tweddle one of Great Britain’s most celebrated Olympic gymnasts who made the decision to participate in the reality television show ‘The Jump’. During the show she suffered a serious injury resulting in back surgery having fractured one of her vertebrae. She is making inroads on her road to recovery, but this begs the question, was this area of sport and this challenge one step too far? In this instance we are looking at extreme sports, and we know that sports people are on the whole ‘adrenaline junkies’;  when they have finished competing at a high level will they always be seeking the next challenge? But is this why they are so successful? Do they assess the risk and decide that it is manageable? When anyone steps into the field of competitive sport there is a huge risk and the possibility that, despite all the hard work and training, you will play your best of your ability and still not be successful. Is this a life lesson that we all need to learn? It makes me think of the quote by the world’s most famous basketball player Michael Jordan;

 

 

 

michael-jordan I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’

 

Perhaps this is what sport teaches us. It is okay to take a risk and to fail, or to rephrase this, in order to win you have to be prepared to lose. Consider the thought that obstacles don’t have to stop you, if you encounter a wall think about how to climb it, go through it or walk around it. Is it this attitude and way of thinking that bring us to the following findings; that female executives say participation in sport helps accelerate leadership and career potential and that 74% of employers say that a background in sport will assist in the professional careers of women? A more recent study showed that 96% of the highest ranking female executives played sports and 55% of them at university level or higher. There is even a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a bigger salary as an adult. In addition to this, recent research has shown that for every 15 minutes of regular exercise that young people take part in, their academic performance increases by a quarter of a grade. It was even possible that children who carried out 60 minutes of exercise every day could improve their academic performance by a full grade.

 

So why do we take part in sport. is it to do better in exams? Is it for the ‘love of the game?’ Is it because our parents did? All of these reasons could be yes, but in the whole world of sport and life remember the following;

 

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“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” –Vince Lombardi

 

“The glory of sport comes from dedication, determination and desire. Achieving success and personal glory in athletics has less to do with wins and losses than it does with learning how to prepare yourself so that at the end of the day, whether on the track or in the office, you know that there was nothing more you could have done to reach your ultimate goal.” – Jackie Joyner-Kersee

 

Mrs Jo Hackett, Director of Sport

Reversing Gender Stereotyping may be childs play after all

24 Feb

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The launch this month of a new-look, curvaceous Barbie model has reignited the long-running debate about the effect of such (role) models on our girls.  For many of the 57 years in which Barbie has been a major part of the doll-collecting scene, her proportions have been a subject of controversy.  Does she contribute to the ‘thin’ culture which encourages an impossible ideal of femininity and drives girls and young women into extremes of self-consciousness and risky behaviour with food?  Some experts believe so, and, on Barbie’s 50th birthday seven years ago,   Professor Janet Treasure,  an expert on body size and image at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London gave her expert opinion that, “The promotion of dolls with such a body shape, and other things like size zero, have wider public health implications, like an increased risk of eating disorders.”

 

 

 

 

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Surprisingly little research has been done on the actual impact of dolls’ shapes on attitudes among girls and young women to gender and to their sense of themselves.  It is easy to see the ethical problems with any experiment designed to test such a hypothesis using real children as ‘lab rats.’  However, a growing body of evidence is accumulating to confirm a link, such as the 2006 study, reported in the journal ‘Developmental Psychology’. In this study, 162 girls, 5 to 8 years old, were told to look at images of Barbie dolls, Emme dolls (which have more realistic body shapes) or no dolls.  Later, they answered questions about body image.  The younger girls who looked at Barbie reportedly had lower body esteem and a “greater desire for a thinner body shape,” after playtime, the researchers wrote.   Certainly, campaigning groups, such as Let Toys be Toys, have claimed that the persistence of deeply gendered attitudes in the workplace – highlighted in studies such as the 2013 survey which found that two thirds of those questioned thought men make better mechanics, electricians and plumbers than women, and 64 per cent would rather buys flowers from a female florist – is rooted in the blue-for-boys-pink-for-girls segregation of the nation’s toy shops and the prominence of the classic Barbie, with her cinched waist and feet moulded to require high-heeled shoes, as a must-have element of a girl’s collection.

 

I asked a group of Year 10 (L5) girls, who happened to be taking tea with me this week, for their thoughts on the topic.  While they welcomed the idea of broadening the range of Barbie types, they were reassuringly robust on the question of influence.  They saw no evidence, either in themselves or in each other,  of any lasting impact of skinny Barbie on their self-image or their values.  Grace summed it up nicely; ‘when I was young I wanted my Barbie to be a mermaid but that didn’t mean I wanted to grow up to be a mermaid!’  Another point made was that it was the influence of the media, rather than Barbie herself, which had made the doll into a symbol of warped and warping femininity.  Barbie, after all, began life as a toy for a real girl, Barbara Handler, and was created to replace two-dimensional paper dolls in a bid to add greater realism to the dressing-up experience but her life, after launch, as it were, was not her own.

 

barbie-doll-300x282 While this is surely too important a question to be left to the vagaries of the marketplace, there are positive signs that, even there, a change is in the air.  Admittedly, the launch of the range of new Barbies – with four body shapes, including curvy, seven skin tones and 24 hairstyles – may be a shrewd commercial move to create a larger-than-ever range of dolls for consumers to collect.  Could it also be, though, a sign of a new, healthier attitude to the contents of our daughters’ play box?

 

 

 

 

 

 

lego-300x225 The fact that manufacturer Mattel’s redesign comes after a 43% decline in sales for the classic Barbie models since 2013 suggests that parents are increasingly voting with their credit cards against the impossible perfectionism embodied in classic Barbie’s physique and, in 2014,  Lego, which has recently put great effort into diversifying its products, overtook Mattel as the leading toy manufacturer.

Only time will tell whether curvy Barbie will capture the imagination of girls as completely as her skinny classic cousin has done for decades.  Anecdotally, the case looks promising;  “These ones look like people that walk down the street,”  observed 8-year old Lela in a recent focus group on the new range presented by The Guardian.  And her verdict? “They’re funner.”

 

Perhaps the launch of new Barbie – codenamed ‘Project Dawn’ by Mattel – really will herald the dawn of a new age of sanity in doll design.  In a month which also saw the release of figures showing a sharp increase in recourse by women to cosmetic surgery (with record numbers of procedures being carried out in the UK last year, 91% of them on women), we can only hope so.

 

Sources

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7920962.stm

http://www.livescience.com/53617-why-barbie-doll-lego-diversity-matters.html

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/28/barbie-curvy-makeover-mattel-sales-diversity

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10498316/Nows-the-time-to-end-the-boys-and-girls-toys-gender-divide.html

http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk-cosmetic-surgery-figures-reach-record-level-1-4023744#ixzz40SBQZATD