Connecting Art

2 Dec

How many times have you heard the phrase ‘…with a nod towards…’, ‘…heavily influenced by…’ or ‘…has borrowed from…’? We hear this in galleries and when reading about Art and Design but how are these connections formed and why? The process of connecting is inevitable because Art surrounds and influences us in our daily lives through what we see. The girls in school use similarities and differences between artists and designers as starting points for their investigations. As a teacher, it is interesting to see how this process unfolds in the classroom and through independent study.

 

Graphics and Advertising are perfect examples of how ideas interrelate and share characteristics. Consider the Warhol influence in a Marmite poster where the famous jar is repeated four times, mirroring the classic compositional device used by the Pop artist in his ‘Elvis’ series below. U4N and U4H girls are currently using Pop Art devices in their ‘Animals’ project with Mr Laubscher.
marmiteelvis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can also use Christian Dior as an example where a perfume advertisement for ‘Dune’ borrows ideas and dual meanings from the photographer Bill Brandt, both using the female form to signify the curves of pebbles, features or sand dunes on a beach. Dior’s woman is an abstraction of the coastal landscape. A surreal image is created, as the eyebrow and lash are the only clues we have to identify it as essentially feminine. The scent is evocative of a dune, signifying open air and freshness. As a viewer and potential consumer we are lured into this world of persuasion that plays on our daydreams, offering us an improved alternative to what we signify in life. Our desire makes us momentarily envy and fantasise about an improved self-image; it is precisely this process that motivates consumerism. Dior and Brandt investigate form and shape and their ambiguities. Additionally, both play on the Surrealism of Dali who also used human forms to play tricks on the viewer.

 

christian-dior bill-brandt-beach-los-angeles-1959 bill-brandt-interlaced-fingers

 

Artists frequently rely on what has come before them and, whether working as solitary practitioners or grouping with contemporaries to form Movements, we see these connections through subject matter, techniques or concept.

Monet and Renoir worked alongside each other harmoniously and were prominent Impressionists. They both painted scenes of Parisian life, for example at La Grenouillere, where their visible brushwork on the surface of the canvas is seen now to be an accepted style but was rejected by critics at the time. Whilst we can celebrate the similar approach in technique by these two friends, a marked difference between them is their choice of palette. Renoir was the only Impressionist who favoured the use of pure black.

 

‘La Grenouillere’ 1869

pierre-auguste-renoir-la-grenouillere-1869-oil-on-canvas  claude-monet-la-grenouillere-1869-oil-on-canvas

Pierre Auguste Renoir                                                 Claude Monet

 

I remember an exhibition at the Tate Modern which played beautifully on the idea of similarities, and influence. Despite some work in the rooms having no obvious connection, upon closer inspection relationships emerged. ‘Waterfall Line’ was exhibited in a room entitled ‘Richard Long and Claude Monet’ in the ‘Landscape/Matter/Environment’ display. I liked the fact that the audience were invited to search and explore connections between subject matter, materials and processes. It made me think about some works that I had seen hung differently in the past (previously in different galleries) that were now playing with or against each other in the same space. The two pieces which illustrated this point for me personally were one of Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’ 1916 and Richard Long’s ‘Waterfall Line’ 2000.

 

claude-monet-waterlilies-oils-on-canvas-after-1916

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Claude Monet ‘Waterlilies’ Oils on Canvas after 1916

 

‘Filling the canvas, the pond becomes a world in itself, inspiring a sense of immersion in nature. At times verging on abstraction…’ (Tate Modern on Monet’s ‘Waterlilies’).

 

richard-long-waterfall-line-2000-river-mud-on-emulsion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Long ‘Waterfall Line’ 2000 River Mud on Emulsion

 

‘…the artist slung white river mud, scrubbing and wiping it with his gloved hands to create a swirling, striped pattern resembling the trace left by an enlarged and simplified paintbrush…allowing the mud to splatter down the broader strip of black background below… A line of solid white expanding into millions of tiny dots at the very base of the work…resembles the intense spray at the base of a waterfall, where liquid hits a surface of strong resistance and is shot back upwards.’ (Tate Modern).

Both are huge pieces that consume you but nearly one hundred years separate them. Both share nature as subject matter but palette choice, application speed and style reveal their position in Art History and yet I felt their connection through their dimensions and the expressive semi abstraction which dominate both compositions. You get lost in the mark making. It was thrilling and underlined the fact that you cannot appreciate Art fully unless you view it in the flesh.

Film also plays a part in this game of influence and one of my favourite examples is the Design connection between two unlikely relatives. Fritz Lang’s ‘the False Maria’ futuristic robot in his 1927 film ‘Metropolis’ and George Lucas’ C-3PO in ‘Star Wars’.

 

maria-from-metropolis-1927

george-lucas-c-3po-from-a-new-hope-1977

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Maria’ From ‘Metropolis’ 1927       George Lucas’ C-3PO from ‘A New Hope’ 1977

 

Bringing this back to school life, the girls at Northampton High School frequently connect their work to historical and contemporary sources, the Edexcel assessment objectives demand it at GCSE and A Level. Many of our painters who connect with Francis Bacon are asked to research Eisenstein’s woman screaming in ‘Battleship Potemkin.’ 1925.

 

battleship-potemkin-and-study-for-the-nurse

Left: Still from “Battleship Potemkin,” directed by S.M. Eisenstein, 1925. Right: Study for the Nurse (detail), Francis Bacon, 1957

 

The nurse shot in the face with broken spectacles from the Odessa Steps sequence in the film inspired Francis Bacon as above but also influenced his ‘Pope Innocent X’ in 1953, which in turn derives from Velázquez just over 300 years earlier.

 

pope-innocent-x-francis-bacon-1953

portrait-of-innocent-x-diego-velazquez-c-1650

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pope Innocent X, Francis Bacon, 1953     Portrait of Innocent X, Diego Velázquez, c 1650

 

Erin Barton included the C-3PO/Metropolis connection in her GCSE examination book and Julia Wardley-Kershaw is currently connecting Kraftwerk stage shows with lines and shapes in dance, architecture, nature and sculpture. This is what makes the Arts so exciting. We play around with relationships and enjoy the process of looking for new paths whilst not forgetting the origins and influences of the older, well-trodden routes.

 

 

Mel Beacroft. Head of Arts Faculty

Challenging the shift to gated communities of the mind

2 Dec

p1250697croppedWould you spot a large, potentially life-threatening animal standing in front of a shop window as you walked along the high street?  If this sounds like a foolish question, think again.  Researchers have found (and I owe this insight to Kenneth Tharp, our excellent guest speaker on Awards Evening) that the majority of people who walk down the street talking into their mobile phones fail to notice an actor in a gorilla suit standing in plain sight as they pass by and have estimated that the walker’s perception of the outside world in such a situation is reduced by 90%.

 

 

gorillaShould we be concerned by this? It might be argued on the other side of the coin that, while reducing our appreciation of the world around us, we are actually giving our proper attention to the world the mobile is beckoning us into – a world which may well be more congenial than the one we find ourselves in physically.  Perhaps the sound of a friendly voice, the sight of a welcoming face or simply the influx of information from Google or Outlook does more to help us to negotiate the next stage of the day than the sights and sounds of the street.  Surely, too, the likelihood of encountering a real killer primate in the high street may be safely discounted (though the chance of meeting a life-threatening large mammal in the shape of a mugger may not, of course).

 

I wonder.

 

donald-trumpReflecting on the turbulent events in the news recently, including of course the outcome of the US presidential election, I have been struck by the evidence of increasing fragmentation in the societies we know well in the West.  The power of Mr Trump’s campaign sprang, in large part, from the force of his unreasoned attacks on his political opponents in what he characterised as a complacent political elite.  His self-professed virtues as a politician were his identity as an outsider, with no attachment to what he presented as outdated liberal views, and his very unwillingness to engage in conventional debate.  These traits have incensed his liberal critics.

 

melanie-phillipsOn the other hand, Melanie Philips, in a deliberately provocative article in ‘The Times’ in the immediate aftermath of Mr Trump’s shock victory, argued that the opponents of the Republican president-elect, by vocally despairing of a democracy which allows such a candidate to gain power by placing voting power in the hands of the uneducated and unfit, were showing themselves to be as bigoted and illiberal as the man they were criticising.

 

 

A liberal democracy, such as that of the USA or Britain, depends for its health and strength on two things which are currently being undermined:

 

– an absolute belief in the importance of one-person-one-vote, even if this means allowing people with unpalatable views an equal say in the electoral process with people with whom one happens to agree, and even if this means losing to them in an election.

 

– an equally absolute belief in the power of reasoned argument and debate to overcome false, flawed and wicked ideas with reason and truth.

 

 

If, as citizens and voters, we arrange our lives in such a way that we only ever encounter people who are like us and agree with us, people whom we are happy to like and be liked by on social media, whose shopping and leisure tastes and interests resemble our own, we will quickly lose our appreciation of the value of genuine diversity.  Moreover, the application of algorithms to our searches and preferences online quickly reinforces the synapses of our tight social networks.  Pretty soon, we will find ourselves inhabiting a self-referencing echo chamber and calling it the world.  From here it is a short step to losing our faith in the power of reasoned argument – and, with it, our attachment to democracy itself.

 

T S Eliot remarked that ‘humankind cannot bear very much reality’ and it is often true that the real world – what Ken Robinson has described as ‘the world that exists whether or not you exist’ – with its crises and conflicts, its brutality and banality can often seem too ugly to engage with.  Yet, by filtering out the real world – whether literally by staring at our mobiles (ear plugs in) as we walk down the street or metaphorically by limiting ourselves to associating only with people who don’t challenge us –  we risk losing 90% of the grandeur and excitement to be found in the world too.  We may prefer not to engage with that stranger standing on the street corner but, in acting on that instinct, we lose the chance to hear and appreciate the busker’s voice and we are deaf to the lyrics of her poetic protest song.

 

‘Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing either your temper or your self-confidence.’  As Robert Frost’s aphorism reminds us, our purpose in school is to challenge the creation of what I call the gated communities of the mind.  The events of 2016 have shown that our mission is more important and urgent than ever before.

 

Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress

 

Sources

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/but-did-you-see-the-gorilla-the-problem-with-inattentional-blindness-17339778/

 

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/trumps-opponents-are-the-bigots-and-

“If not me, who? If not now, when?”

18 Nov

‘Feminist’ can be perceived as a bit of an ugly word. Associated with protests and man haters, it has earnt itself an unjustly harsh reputation and is now often used as a rather derogatory term against women who, in some cases, merely express an opinion on the issues of rights or gender equality. A misunderstanding of the word has caused a fear of those who would identify themselves as feminists, conjuring up stereotypical images of angry women with hairy legs or prompting others to make snap judgements and incorrect assumptions about their sexuality. Hairy legs and sexuality are just two of a long list of completely irrelevant connections to the word, so why are they there?

 

germaine-greerGermaine Greer “We are not feminists because we hate men, we are feminists because we love and respect men and we don’t understand why they don’t always return that respect” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon typing ‘feminist’ into a google search, I was immediately bombarded with images of the above as well as numerous pictures of female protesters in various different stages of undress. Is this really how the world views feminism? Dismayed and irritated, I confronted my sixth formers and upper fifths with the issue and was greatly relieved to find that this is not how they viewed things. Many said that they associate the word as positive but several girls highlighted the fact that many people often interpret it incorrectly. For those still unsure, feminism is simply the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. In other words, men and women are equal and should be treated as such. So despite the negativity of the internet that I had experienced earlier, if my 17 year old students have a more positive outlook on feminism, then perhaps there is hope yet.

 

Another common misconception is that feminists are all women. Perhaps because of the obvious link to the word ‘female’ and the fact that the most famous feminists, such as Germaine Greer, have been women.

 

prince-harry daniel-ratcliffe benedict

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

emma-watsonBut, in her speech to the UN, Emma Watson spoke openly about the gender inequalities faced also by men. She said, “we don’t often hear about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes”, but those challenges are there for men, unable to express their true self, just as much as they are for women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My musings on feminism over the last few months have stemmed predominantly from the furious political battle, raging on the other side of the Atlantic. Thousands of American citizens have voiced their opinions about both candidates for a multitude of reasons and one of the most dominant arguments to span both the Democratic and Republican voters include the issues of Gender and Sex.

 

Since the results of the US presidency were announced last Wednesday, we have seen a torrent of social media posts about the concerns that many US citizens have about women’s rights. Many would argue that the USA have elected a chauvinist (amongst other rather unflattering adjectives), which could be significantly detrimental to the progress for global women’s rights that have already been made. However, I want to put more of a positive spin on the US election and highlight some of the details that the media has conveniently forgotten to mention.

 

 

hilary-clintonLast week Hillary Clinton lost the US election for Presidency. This is a fact and in my opinion, a great shame, although as President Obama wisely identified over the weekend, “no one ever said democracy would be easy”. But I don’t want to focus on her loss. I want to focus on her incredible achievement. Women have put themselves forward for Party Nomination since the 19th Century, when Elizabeth Woodhull attempted to represent the Equal Rights Party in 1872. Since the early 1900’s there have been only 10 separate females who have actually been General Election Candidates, Clinton being one of them. But Clinton,  is the only woman to have ever won the presidential nomination of a major party, in her case, the Democratic Party.

 

Regardless of her overall defeat in the 2016 election, Clinton continues to chip away at that thick ‘glass ceiling’, showing women across the world that they can make a difference. Fifty years ago, men and women alike would have scoffed at the idea of a female president. But as Clinton points out, if we don’t try we will never know. As women, we should never be afraid to fail. A failure is not something to be ashamed of, it is something to learn from. We should however, be very afraid to never try. One of the most surprising statistics to come out of the election was the number of women who voted for Trump because they did not believe that a woman’s place is in the White House. It is therefore not just criticism from men that women must overcome, but criticism from ourselves.

 

In striving for progress rather than perfection, Hillary Clinton has paved the way for the next generation of women to move up the ranks to positions of seniority, not necessarily for presidential election but for life in general. For that next promotion at work, or election to member of parliament, if we don’t try we will never know. Emma Watson argued that “It is time that we all see Gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are.” Celebrating and supporting each other, regardless of religion, gender, sexuality or race is the only way that we will ever reach our true potential.

 

Back in September we took the girls in 6:1 to Cambridge for the day to hear from a number of speakers and take part in various workshops. Our headline speaker was Hayley Barnard who spoke of the importance of using failures as learning points to move forward. She also gave the great advice of “if you don’t ask, you won’t get”. This links well with the idea of ‘if you don’t try you will never know’.

 

The message that I want my students in school to take from this is that as women, we are often the under-dog. This does not mean that we should shy away from challenge and allow our male counterparts to assume roles of responsibility over us. It also does not mean that we should see ourselves as in direct competition with men, fighting for the right to call ourselves the best. It means that we should face those challenges head on, supporting those around us, regardless of gender. Now is your time to take to the global stage and continue the journey of great women who came before you. Whether your strength is academics, sports, the arts, etc…. your time has come to make your mark. Do not dwell on the failures, but learn from them and move forward. Pick yourself up when you fall and adjust to face the next challenge more effectively.

 

So remember in those moments of self-doubt, that we all experience from time to time, ask yourself, just as Emma Watson did,

 

“If not me, who? If not now, when?” (Emma Watson, 2015).

 

Miss Rebecca Kneen, Deputy Director Sixth Form

The science of education

4 Nov

img_0794lrIn 2009, after a year’s work, the Science Council agreed the definition that

“Science is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural

and social world following a systematic methodology

based on evidence.”

 

 

 

Whether or not you agree wholeheartedly with this wording, the scientific methodology is both beautiful and practical: objective observation and measurement, evidence, formulation of a hypothesis, experimentation or observation, conclusion drawn from facts or examples, critical analysis and finally verification and critical scrutiny.  If we are entering a “post-truth” world, our students need to be armed with all the tools they need to separate fact from fiction.  Science is by no means the only subject in which Northampton High School girls are trained to do this, but the scientific method provides a concrete framework around which to build those crucial thinking skills.

 

image_previewInterestingly, the Science Council’s definition includes the “social world”.  Schools are certainly a social world; so should scientific research methods be applied to education?  The University of Cambridge think that not only is there is a place for Science in education but also for Neuroscience and in 2005 opened the Centre for Neuroscience in Education.

 

 

 

In addition, the Centre for Educational Neuroscience was established by University College London, Birkbeck University and the Institute of Education as a research centre with the aim of combining the expertise of researchers in child development, neuroscience, and education at the three world leading universities. The website states


cropped-cen_logo_trans_wide“Education is about enhancing learning, and neuroscience is about understanding the mental processes involved in learning. This common ground suggests a future in which educational practice can be transformed by science, just as medical practice was transformed by science about a century ago.”

 

But how is the gap between university-based academic research and the day-to-day craft of teaching bridged?  “We need better systems for disseminating the findings of research to teachers on the ground,” was Dr Ben Goldacre’s response when asked by the Department for Education how to improve the use of evidence in schools.  A variety of bodies have taken up this challenge including the GDST who have set up a Research Learning Community project to give teachers the opportunity to become research engaged and establish effective evidence-informed interventions that can be employed to improve girls’ confidence.

 

The teacher in me and the scientist in me are thrilled by the potential huge benefits to the staff and students of Northampton High School and beyond.

 

Mrs Rachel Fenn, Subject Leader Chemistry

 

http://sciencecouncil.org/about-us/our-definition-of-science/?gclid=CKarw8T4hdACFasy0wodhp0Pcw

https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2016/sep/19/the-idea-post-truth-society-elitist-obnoxious

http://www.educationalneuroscience.org.uk/?page_id=169

http://www.badscience.net/2013/03/heres-my-paper-on-evidence-and-teaching-for-the-education-minister/

Entertainment or exploitation – what should we make of modern Halloween?

1 Nov

halloween

 

 

p1250224The latest of Mr Attwood’s now-legendary Pumpkin Assemblies on 3 October heralded the start of preparations for Halloween while the switch back to Greenwich Mean Time last weekend has created the early dusks which best suit Halloween rituals.

 

 

The popularity of Halloween as a festival in the UK has increased exponentially since the start of the millennium, largely as a result of growing American influences on our popular culture. For several reasons, however, Halloween has as many detractors as enthusiasts.  Some deplore the apparently unquestioning adoption of a transatlantic festival as just another example of the British susceptibility to American cultural borrowings.  Others decry the flagrant commercialism of an event which provides opportunistic retailers with a chance to cash in during the traditional shopping lull between the summer holidays and the pre-Christmas spending spree (beginning now, of course, on ‘Black Friday’).  Some practising Christians condemn Halloween as a form of dabbling with the occult and some psychologists have argued that it is too frightening for young children and causes them psychological damage.

 

While noticing the retailing frenzy building up and watching the ping-pong of opinion play out in the news media (as I write, for example, the newspapers carry headlines about the latest attacks in the clown craze), I ask myself ‘what might the educational value of Halloween be?’

 

Looking again at the four lines of attack, a counterpoint for each is ready to hand.  While we may feel uneasy at the speed with which fashions in popular culture change, especially when they do so through imports, we may remind ourselves that one generation’s import becomes the next generation’s tradition.  Just think of the Christmas tree, for example. Halloween has overtaken Guy Fawkes’ Night in popularity in the UK, which – by upstaging a festival with its roots in anti-Catholic xenophobia – may have its positive side in today’s multi-faith society.

 

pumpkinsTrue, Halloween is a bonanza for sales of the tacky and the synthetic, with UK spending on its paraphernalia increasing about 30-fold since 2001.  On the plus side, however, it brings with it opportunities, increasingly rare in our time-poor lives, for families to share a crafting session together as they construct jack o’lanterns and for children to go and play outside after dark – and even to meet the neighbours.

 

While some extreme excursions in Halloween mayhem undoubtedly tap into dangerous undercurrents of occultism, the festival itself has its roots firmly planted in mainstream Christianity – in the vigil on the evening (or ‘even’) before All Hallows or All Saints Day, which marked the beginning of a two-day period dedicated to remembering the dead.

 

And this dimension of Halloween may be the most valuable to us, beyond the mere pleasure of the party. As Atul Gawande has so persuasively argued in his recent book ‘Being Mortal’, we live in an age when dying and death have become taboo subjects, banished from sight in a sanitised world.  Might it be that Halloween provides a unique shared cultural forum in which fears and feelings about death can be safely explored?

 

The recent backlash against Sainsbury’s ‘Dark Side’ promotion of axeman costumes for three year olds reminds us that for retailers, as for writers and film directors, there is a fine line between entertainment and exploitation in the world of ghosts and ghouls, and the potential for things to be taken too far is ever-present.  However, provided the tall tales and antics, the imagery and the influences at work remain true to the feast’s time-honoured traditions, the customs of Halloween can provide the kind of serious fun, with a message and a meaning, that we associate with the best lessons.

 

Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress

 

Sources

http://www.cityam.com/227637/halloween-2015-could-be-worth-as-much-as-400m-to-retailers

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/halloween_1.shtml

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/721389/Sainsburys-customers-horrified-at-shocking-and-offensive-Halloween-kids-costumes

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/10/29/halloween-have-things-gone-too-far/

Atul Gawande, ‘Being Mortal’

Welcoming back our alumnae

21 Oct

jo-head-and-shouldersIn a month we will be celebrating at our Awards Evening the events and achievements across the school from the past year and in particular welcoming back our recent leavers, the Class of 2016. This year we are hosting an inaugural reception for them before before Awards which will be the first time that they come back into school as our alumnae rather than pupils. As a school, and as part of the Girls’ Day School Trust, we see our alumnae as a core element of the school, integral to our history and also playing a part in our future.

 

Class of 2016

Class of 2016

 

OGA Lunch 2016

OGA Lunch 2016

Northampton High School has over 2000 alumnae on its database and many more who we know will be in touch with each other from their school days. We are committed to staying connected and aim to keep strong ties with our former pupils, former staff, parents and friends through events, reunions and keeping them up to date with news from the school. We love to hear from our alumnae and find out what they have been doing since they left us but they also play a much greater role with many coming back to give talks, provide careers support or even just to share memories with us of their time at the School. Our Old Girls and Associates are a dedicated group who run a very successful Annual Lunch and produce a big annual newsletter which goes to all alumnae and friends of the school on our database. The next lunch will be on the Saturday 28 January 2017, all welcome.

 

 

gdst-an-300x133

When they leave the High School, girls are not only an alumna of Northampton High but also part of the Girls’ Day School Trust Alumnae Network, the largest organisation of its kind in the country. Established in 1994 as the Minerva Network, and renamed the GDST Alumnae Network in 2011, it has over 70,000 members involved in a wide range of activities all over the world. Members benefit from networking both socially and professionally, face to face and online. It brings together alumnae based in the UK and overseas, making connections, sharing news, passing on careers and university expertise, hosting professional and social events, and helping alums link to old and new friends alike – from their old schools and from others.

 

GDST women share many characteristics, but the Network is composed of people from many different paths in life – City bankers, stay-at-home mums, charity workers, entrepreneurs and more. The diversity and size of the community are what help to make it special. It is a unique network and can provide opportunities to contact women at university and doing different careers across the world.

 

 

First impression of the new buildings in 1992 by a L4 pupil

First impression of the new buildings in 1992 by a L4 pupil

We have very exciting times ahead in the history of Northampton High and we are looking forward to seeing our alumnae who we are already in touch with and reconnecting with many other former pupils to mark some key milestones. Next year we will be celebrating 25 years on our Hardingstone site. The school moved here in 1992 with the building opened by the Queen on 16 October. We will be inviting our alumnae who left this site (Class of 1993 to present day) to come for an afternoon on 14 October 2017 of ‘sharing memories and fun’ with a chance to tour the school, chat to old friends, staff and former staff and we hope as many as possible will be able to join us.

 

The following year, 2018 marks our 140th Anniversary and even more celebrations and activities will be happening to mark this important year in the school’s history.

 

 

If you are a former pupil and are not currently part of our alumnae network please register your details here and we’d love to hear from any alumnae about what they are doing now, please email Jo Fitzroy-Ezzy j.fitzroy-ezzy@nhs.gdst.net or get in touch with her at the school address.

 

I leave you with the words from the first verse of the school song written to commemorate the School’s Jubilee in 1928:

 

Northampton High School! Name we love,

Long may we hold her dear.

Come one and all join in our song.

With love and ringing cheer.

 

Jo Fitzroy-Ezzy, Development Director

The Rio Olympics – what will be the legacy for girls?

30 Sep

jo-hackett-2-croppedAs I sit here pondering how to welcome a Paralympic champion back into school and how to celebrate her phenomenal achievements, I start to wonder what will be the legacy from her performances and those of all the other exceptionally talented individuals at both the Olympics and Paralympics. There is no doubt that Ellie Robinson has surpassed all expectations, even her own, by winning a Gold and a Bronze medal in Rio in the S6 swimming classification, but what do her achievements mean to everyone else? Yes, the whole school has been behind her, yes we are exceptionally proud of her, yes we love her ‘gangster poolside entry’ but what will the legacy be?

 

Perhaps she will inspire others to strive to achieve their goals and feel that they can achieve against the odds? Perhaps she will encourage younger pupils to develop their swimming by swimming in the same pool that she has? Perhaps her success will remind people of avenues that sport can open up or the risks that we have to take in order to achieve at the highest level in any field?

 

 

capture

 

 

img_1021hr-cropped

ellie-robinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alongside this success perhaps we need to consider how we can inspire the young women of our generation of the benefits to taking part in sport and exercise. It is a worrying statistic that a third of girls aged between 8 and 16 think that vigorous exercise is socially unacceptable. Why? Sport has been all over social media for the summer of 2016. So can the success from Rio highlight how sport can help in all aspects of life. It was a wonderful opportunity to see that if you work hard, develop as a team and take risks anything is possible. One of the main Olympic highlights was the gold medal for the GB hockey team, not just because of the development as a team but also as this is one the major sports played by all girls in their time at school. Their victory showed that self-belief goes a long way. Sam Quek said the following before the women’s hockey final;

 

That gold is ours. We know we can take this all the way, if it’s between heart, skill and passion, then I don’t think we can be beaten.

“Ever since we landed in Rio, I’ve known this was going to be something special. We’ve put everything into training, we’ve left nothing to chance, we’re an incredible unit and that will be enough. We will win gold.”

 

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The Olympics is a chance for women’s and men’s sport to be on a level playing field, however, out of the 69 medals won by team GB at the Olympics only 24 of these were won by women, only 35%. Why is this? Sport for a number of girls is still not ‘cool’ and in a society where social media is the way forward we need to consider how to motivate our young performers of the future. Laura Trott explains that the reason she got into cycling was that her mum used to cycle to lose weight so she went with her. Is image the main driving factor for women in sport?

 

Jessica Ennis-Hill, Eleanor Simmonds, Laura Trott are all names which we have seen so often in the press who have had such a positive effect on the ethos of women’s sport and what it is possible for women to achieve. They are all ordinary people who have pushed themselves and strived to achieve a goal that at times would have seemed impossible, but they didn’t give up. Is this not the biggest message for people to take from the Olympics and possibly even more from the Paralympics? Nothing comes easily and everyone in order to achieve in every field has to be prepared to take a risk and fail. In order to win you have to be prepared to lose, however, winning takes on many different forms. Perhaps this is the legacy from the summer of 2016, we are as proud of Ellie Robinson for her 4th place swim as we are for her gold medal swim.

 

Maybe we should all be more like Ellie and take every opportunity that is in front of us and make the most of it regardless of social media, friendship groups, what is on the television or any other excuses. Be like Ellie, and go for it!

 

Mrs Jo Hackett,

 

Director of Sport

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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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