Archive for March, 2016

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)











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.





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



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.


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.




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?






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;



“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