Archive for May, 2017

Education for Centurions

19 May

During the autumn term, I was fortunate enough to attend a conference where the keynote speaker was Lord Jim Knight, Chief Education Advisor at TES Global, visiting professor at the UCL Knowledge Lab and a member of the House of Lords. He served as an MP from 2001 – 2009, during which time he was a minister for rural affairs, schools and then employment before becoming a cabinet minister.

 

 

His speech was entitled “Education for Centurions” where he considered the prospect of those students who are now starting school living into their hundredth year and beyond. With such longevity, people will be working longer, and changing professions more frequently; some of the careers our students will pursue haven’t even been invented yet! He talked also about lifelong learning, where the current model of three separate stages of education, employment, and retirement will be replaced with continuous learning and working, with an overlap also between working and retiring. I would also add that I hope to be learning well into my retirement! Lord Knight’s message was simply this: that in a world of lifelong learning we must pass on to our students a passion for, and a joy in, learning.

 

Our challenge therefore as educators today is to prepare our students for this future. Adaptability, resilience, creativity, taking risks, embracing change – these are all qualities that our future workforce must possess in order to start afresh in a second or third career and reinvent themselves in another professional role. Lifelong learning will not be sufficient in this new model of overlapping learning and employment. If one is to continue to enjoy a balanced personal and professional life, embracing the changes that will come it, is a lifelong LOVE of learning which we must nurture in our students today. There is nothing more satisfying as a teacher than to have students who are engaged in and beyond the classroom and who have a passion, not just for the subject but also for learning new skills, experimenting with new ideas, extending their knowledge and improving their own personal best, whether in an MFL classroom, a science lab or on the sports field.

 

I have spent a fair bit of time recently accompanying my two sons to numerous university open days as they each make their choices for the next stage of their education pathway. What has struck me is the changing face of assessment at many of these institutions. Having listened to what employers want, assessment programmes have been developed accordingly. Employers are looking for so much more than the ability to pass exams; they want good communication skills, the ability to work collaboratively and the resilience to bounce back. University assessments are increasingly being designed to reflect this need, with collaborative tasks, podcasts and presentations alongside the more traditional end of course formal examination. Assessing performance and skills is becoming more popular and presents another challenge for us as secondary school educators: the need to prepare our students for those formal public exams at the ages of 16 and 18, but also to look beyond this to what employers require of the workforce of the next generation and to prepare our students accordingly.

 

As teachers, we also consider ourselves to be a community of professional learners, constantly seeking to improve our skills, extend our knowledge and develop our craft in the classroom. We recognise that a good teacher never stops learning, whether that is by enrolling on a professional development course, undertaking a project in school, working with colleagues or sharing good practice. On more than one occasion recently I have had to bite my tongue when, on one of the aforementioned university open days, lecturers told the assembled sixth formers and their parents that one of the main differences between their teachers at school and their university lecturers was that the latter group are actively engaged in research, whereas their teachers are not. This is just not true! Increasingly, schools are engaging in action research as part of the professional development of their staff. One aspect of my new role as School Consultant Teacher  involves me conducting my own action research project and there are now a number of staff currently engaged in evidence based professional development here in school, working on projects which will directly benefit and impact on the learning of our students in our classrooms. Our students will be used to a member of staff or an inspector coming to observe a lesson, for a variety of reasons. They will be less used to groups of teachers in their lessons, but this is now happening more frequently in school as our teachers engage in action research as part of their own joint professional development. Using the Peter Dudley Lesson Study model, colleagues are working collaboratively on a number of different initiatives to enhance our students’ learning experience. So far girls have been willing participants and have welcomed staff into their lessons, recognising that we are lifelong learners and also passionate about what we do, thus modelling the behaviour and attitudes we want to instil in our students. In an age where artificial intelligence is developing rapidly, the world needs teachers like never before: passion for and involvement in lifelong learning is as crucial for the professional learning community here at Northampton High  as it is for our future centurions whom we seek to educate and inspire.

 

Mrs Deborah Hill, Head of Languages Faculty and School Consultant Teacher

 

Sir Jim Knight’s keynote speech, Firefly conference November 2016

The 100 year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott.

Peter Dudley:  www.lessonstudy.co.uk 

A (birth)day to remember

12 May

The topic for my blog this month chose itself.  Tuesday 2 May was the School’s 139th birthday and, reflecting on the day, I was struck by how, though in many ways (as birthdays tend to be) it had been a special day, in essence it was a typical day in my life as head of this extraordinary school.

 

Here, then, are my reflections about ‘life in a day’ at Northampton High.

 

Kick-off ushered in a celebratory Assembly and, this year, I chose to present 78 slides with 78 facts about 1878 for the school, town, country and world.

 

What surprised us?

 

In the first place, how long ago 1878 seemed in some ways – perhaps most telling was the fact that school fees were £1.40 per term!  Other aspects, however, seemed surprisingly modern or, at any rate, familiar – the first recorded music and the first movie were made in that year, for example.

 

We marvelled at how much has changed in those 139 years – most notably perhaps in the role and status of girls and women within British society.  How astonishing, for example, to learn that it would be another four years before a law was passed to allow married women to own property.  The central role of the High School, a pioneering girls’ school, and also of the GDST, founded six years earlier still, is something that a birthday gives us a timely reminder to recognise and feel proud of.

 

We were struck, too, by how little has changed, in other ways. (In 2017, as in 1878, Afghanistan is a region of conflict which preoccupies Britain.)

 

One thing that is eternally unchanging is the girls’ love of cake!  And, with that in mind, we invited our new Head Girl, Sally Croker, and the youngest senior pupil Olivia Russell plus birthday girl Lilli Trimble to cut a cake while all the girls knew that they could look forward to a cupcake at break.

 

Besides eating cake, at break time I met two U4 students to talk about their Open Homework. The theme of the year for this much-loved annual custom – dreams – had been chosen by the girls and it allowed free rein to creativity and imagination as well as analysis and speculation.  Several of their impressive pieces are currently on display in the Science foyer and they make a fascinating exhibition.

 

Another reason for me to feel proud of our work.

 

At lunchtime, I welcomed Miss Yvonne Chapman into school.  Miss Chapman was Deputy Head under Miss Lightburne, retiring in 1993.  She was instrumental in preparing the new site for occupation and remembers battles to ensure sufficient space for lockers for all the girls.  On such apparently small but actually significant details, the ease of school life depends.

 

Afternoon tea (and I should emphasise that my day is not always a catalogue of meals!) was spent with Mrs Makoni and Ms Shawatu, who were visiting us from Arundel School for Girls in Zimbabwe, on a visit coordinated by Ms Heimfeld.  It was fascinating for us to compare notes on the challenges and excitements of being involved in girls’ education in Zimbabwe and Britain respectively.

 

In many ways our situations are very different, with the economic problems in Zimbabwe dwarfing our difficulties.  However, there were also a surprising number of commonalities.  Uncertainties over Brexit, for example, are reverberating as much in Harare as in Hardingstone, as Mrs Makoni considers the ramifications for her school of changes in relations within the Commonwealth in a post-Brexit world.  Her mission – to prepare young women for the world-as-it-will-be – is the same as ours and requires her, like me, to keep an eye always on the unfolding future.

 

The evening brought the annual Sports Presentation Evening with a rich line-up of performances (Molly Roberts-Crawford giving a dazzling display on trampoline and Y4 dancers showing their moves with panache and joy), inspiring stories (not least from our guests Caitlin McClatchey and Fran Wilson, and from our own home-grown star Ellie Robinson) and awards.  Here was a celebration of guts and determination as well as talent and skill.

 

 

 

 

By the time of the final whistle, then, I could look back and enumerate  the vital ingredients of my ‘life in a day in school’ – the interplay between history, the Here and Now and visions of the future, the power of innovation blended with the guiding light of tradition, the daily routines and endeavours which propel us forward with the help of so many dedicated individuals, the big picture pixelating into the small but vital details, the work of looking beyond our walls and borders and of making connections, of honouring old friends and forging new friendships to build a powerful network to underpin the future success of our girls.

 

Tuesday 2 May 2017 was, for me, a day to remember – just like every other.

 

Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress

Out of School Hours

5 May

Activity at Northampton High School does not come to an end at the close of the school day or indeed at the end of a term. The school is lucky to have an extensive site and great facilities that it is keen to share with the wider community.

 

The school Sports Centre incorporates a fitness centre and fitness studio, swimming pool, tennis courts, squash courts, netball courts, sports hall, an all-weather pitch and an extensive sports field. For more information e-mail: sportscentre@nhs.gdst.net

 

The community gym is open every evening and on Saturdays and Sundays for members. As well as the fitness suite there is also a programme of fitness classes on offer each week and you can book the squash, tennis and badminton courts.  Although membership is for over 16 year olds there are opportunities for a family swim on a Sunday and family use of the tennis courts.

 

 

The sports facilities are also used extensively by a wide variety of local swimming, football, hockey, badminton, tennis and netball clubs as well as local primary schools who make use of our swimming pool during the school day.

 

During school holidays for pupils and children in the wider community, we host Kings Camp http://www.kingscamps.org a charitable organisation that run sports activity camps and Mad Science Camps http://www.madscience.org/ .

 

 

A Saturday morning in term time will see the NMPAT Queens Cross Centre in operation at the school running sessions in music, art and drama http://www.nmpat.co.uk/out-of-school-activities/regional-music-and-performing-arts-centres/queens-cross-music-and-performing-arts-centre

 

The school hall offers an excellent community venue for events but is also a regular venue for groups such as Masque Youth Theatre Company, https://masqueyouththeatre.co.uk/about/venue/

 

and Northampton Bach Choir http://www.northamptonbachchoir.org.uk/

 

 

Other groups using the facilities range from the NCT, Blood Donors, Rotary events, The Diocese of Peterborough, SANDS and private functions.

 

The school is proud to be able to offer its facilities for use beyond the school day and term. The site is open from 7 am until 10 pm during the week all year round and 8 am until 6 pm at weekends. Community use of the facilities in this way is mutually beneficial and many of our pupils and their families participate in these clubs and groups. Pupils enjoy being able to bring their friends and siblings along to their school to share in the activities and facilities on offer.

 

Anne Headley, Director of Finance and Operations