Archive for June, 2017

Inspiring Futures presents Enterprise Week

23 Jun

Enterprise education is not an attempt to get students to go off into the world of business and set up their own company, although in some cases students have gone on to do so. It is more about facilitating them in their development of the necessary skills required to move into the work place. This might include elements of business or marketing but it might not.

 

At Northampton High School we have developed, through our Inspiring Futures Programme, a set of exciting events that enable students to build on their transferable skills and to fully prepare themselves for life after school. This year we kicked off this inaugural three day event with the Year 10 annual Future Focus Day.

 

The students met Susannah Poulton who works for the UK Department of Trade. Susannah explained in vivid terms how important Modern Foreign Languages are in the business world and Mrs Hill, Head of Languages helped by taking part in a spot of spontaneous interpretation, much to the astonishment of many of the girls!

 

 

 

Later in the day Charlotte and her team from Sykes and Co, a tailored recruitment firm based in Towcester, delivered a rich and detailed seminar on interview technique, setting up some entertaining role play situations. Finally, came a presentation and discussion session from three very close friends of the school, Mark Bradley, Katie Fisher and Sally Hadfield, all with daughters in various year groups and all with amazing personal work and life stories, to bring a taste of how varied and fascinating modern career paths can be. We were also lucky enough to hear from Hannah Cooper  from Liz Male Consulting who explained her role with Social Media in business. This was particularly interesting as her role has not long been in existence, highlighting the extremely dynamic world of work that our girls will be moving into.

 

 

On day 2 we were joined by Lucy and Ilga from Bright Green Enterprise and the Year 10’s were joined by girls from 6.1 in a fun filled and competitive task to design a charity that would focus on specific communities in Tanzania. This form of Social Enterprise is something that is very close to the hearts of students and staff at NHS because of the large amount of charitable work that goes on in school throughout the year. The groups worked together closely and the two year groups made an excellent partnership bringing in ideas from a range of viewpoints. The winning team was a charity that focused their efforts on upcycling bicycles and sending them to Tanzania to improve transport opportunities for their given community, having identified this as a need of the people who lived there. Yambike was the chosen name and the overall work from this group just clinched the win.

 

 

 

The final day saw a similar structure with the same team from Bright Green Enterprise joining us to bring  together the Year 8 and Year 6 students  to create some ethical designs of products that would make a difference. We were thrilled with the team work, the ideas and the final pitches from all teams. The innovation that the girls demonstrated and the support that they gave one another was truly inspiring. The day started out with the older girls  taking the lead and supporting the Year 6’s to put forward their ideas. However, because of the hard work of our Year 6 staff in terms of enterprise education, by the middle of the day, the Year 8’s were finding that they were learning just as much from their younger peers as they were teaching them. A very clever pen, aimed at increasing literacy and numeracy where education is limited, was the well deserved winner of the day, although the other teams were also strong and the final decision was an extremely difficult one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enterprise education is a high priority for the Government in the UK and something, which we take seriously at Northampton High School. The transferable skills that our girls gain through such activities are invaluable and serve them well in their academic studies as well as when they leave us at the end of Sixth Form to embark on the next stage, be it higher education or the work place. By allowing them to develop these skills, we endeavour to give all our students the best possible start to life outside of school and make sure that they are equipped to face the challenges that they might meet in the future.

 

We would like to extend thanks to all who were involved, guest speakers, staff and students alike, who made this event so successful. We very much look forward to developing this further next year and seeing what new ideas the girls bring to the table.

 

Rebecca Kneen, Deputy Director of Sixth Form & Head of Careers

Preparing for the labyrinth of life

22 Jun

Looking back at the GDST Annual Conference last week, I am spoilt for choice in possible themes to pick up on in my blog.  Under the banner ‘A good time to be a girl?’ we explored a huge range of topics – from fairy stories to the ‘Frozen’ film script, dolls to directorships, mindsets to money.

 

One phrase really stuck in my mind, though, courtesy of keynote speaker Dame Helena Morrissey, Boldness in Business Person of the Year and inspiration behind the 30% Club (promoting women on boards in FTSE Top 100 companies) – preparing for the ‘labyrinth of life.’

 

How neatly and exactly this, to my mind, sums up the message we should be imparting to young women today.

 

A labyrinth rather than a road – because life as we actually live it is not really linear and, too often, seeing it as an arrow point to happiness and success sets us up for disillusionment and discontent.

 

A labyrinth rather than a playground – because the landscape ahead of today’s young women contains harsh landscapes that must be traversed as well as picturesque plains to be relished, and to pretend otherwise is to do our students a great disservice.

 

A labyrinth rather than a maze – because, in a maze a wrong turn can leave you stranded and really lost but in a labyrinth you are sure to get to the heart of it (journey’s end, if you like) if you only keep going through its twists and turns, with patience and purpose.  Labyrinths, such as the beautiful example on the floor of Chartres Cathedral, are ancient devices to encourage us to pay attention and are physical representations of the idea that the truth and direction of a person’s life will unfold over time.

 

Where can this insight lead us?

 

The theme of preparing for the labyrinth offers such rich possibilities and Dame Helena was, of course, only able to offer a few of her thoughts about how it might best be done.  Three in particular really resonated most with me – the value of involvement in sport, the importance of connecting with current affairs and a tip for avoiding the ‘wall of worry’ that can hold women back.

 

Sport hones the character even as it tones the body, teaching us how to lose and fail, how to depend on others and become dependable, how to dig deep under pressure and set self-interest aside for the good of the team.

 

All of this is demonstrably good for girls and young women – ‘74% of employers say that a background in sport will assist a professional career for women’ and ‘96 % of the highest ranking female executives played sports and 55% of them at university level or higher.’

 

Engagement with current affairs gives us a valuable perspective on our own concerns and acts as a necessary corrective to the superficial media commentary, so prevalent in young people’s lives, that is so apt to present complex issues as simple (usually with a clear villain to blame).  By looking outwards beyond ourselves, we also develop the levels of empathy that enrich our own understanding of ourselves as fabulous – and flawed.  Current affairs are always on the agenda in school and, for parents keen to find a launch pad for engagement at home, ‘First News’ provides an excellent starting point.

 

Finally, Dame Helena’s advice for young women who may feel trapped in a circle of impossibility, blocked by a ‘wall of worry’ or daunted by the prospect of crashing up against a glass ceiling was beguilingly simple and brilliantly counter-intuitive– ‘leap before you look.’  For those embarking on the ascent of a career ladder, the prescription for a dose of boldness was timely indeed.  According to research commissioned by the 30% Club, ‘women’s more cautious approach to applying for jobs or promotions: 20% of men will apply for a role despite only partially meeting its job description, compared to 14% of women’ holds them back professionally.

 

A hesitancy about defining ambitions also limits women’s progression in the workplace relative to their male counterparts – the same report found that ‘over half (52%) of male managers had a ‘fair idea’ or ‘clear ambition’ to work in a particular role, compared with 45% of women managers. Fewer women than men (50% vs 62%) expected to become managers.’

 

Taking one’s courage in one’s hands and stepping out before the path ahead is completely clear – a method which, labelled as ‘act and learn’, is familiar to all educators – may be the best (and only?) way to make the most of the extraordinary journey that is the labyrinth of life.

 

Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress

 

Sources and references

Report on the GDST Conference: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/family/private-school-chief-girls-feisty-give-credit

On sport: Read Mrs Hackett’s blog from which I have taken her favourite statistics: http://seniorblog.northamptonhigh.co.uk/2016/09/30/the-rio-olympics-what-will-be-the-legacy-for-girls/

On current affairs: https://www.firstnews.co.uk

Report on ambition and gender: https://30percentclub.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/ILM_Ambition_and_Gender_report_0211-pdf.pdf

Opening the lid on Mental Health

16 Jun

In a recent education update that landed in my inbox, I was particularly taken by a document published by the House of Commons. [1] The Health and Education Committees have worked together to produce a report on the role of education in children and young people’s mental health. Indeed, the topic of the mental health of young people has (and rightly so) been a very hot one in the media recently, helped by the openness of the younger generations of the Royal Family.

 

As educators, we tend to find that, whatever the latest initiative is to support young people, the words ‘….they should teach that in schools’ strike a rather discordant note. After all, between the ever more rigorous demands of the curriculum, GCSEs, A Levels, university entrance tests and interviews, delivery of high quality sport, drama and music, how do we begin to fit in financial education, healthy living, online safety and the myriad other excellent ideas into the school day.  That is not to suggest these aren’t really important matters; they very much are but teachers are not trained in these areas, never mind wondering where we might squeeze in that lesson on loans and interest rates!

 

A recent article in the Independent [2] newspaper, suggested a range of “Life skills that should be taught in schools but aren’t”. Amongst them were: how to cook a roast dinner, managing your tax affairs, sexual values, respecting boundaries and being in tune with your mental health.

 

It is the latter of these that particularly struck me and on which, more anon. Although I interrupt this thought with a further one which ponders how many of those listed were skills which we would previously have seen passed down through generations and communities. What role has been played, in losing these skills, by the perceived lack of community in our lives? – but that is perhaps a blog post on its own.

 

So to return to the topic of mental health and the role of education, I feel both hugely positive on the one hand and somewhat frustrated on the other.  On the one hand we are more open about the mental health problems which face some young people and they are, themselves, more able to articulate these problems to peers and adults. In addition, parents and professionals are more comfortable with the topic, on the whole, than we would have seen in the past, making the taboo lessened if not totally quashed.

 

The flipside to this is that we have opened Pandora’s box without fully realising the consequences or putting a safety net in place to capture its contents. According to Greek mythology, after the contents of Pandora’s box were released, only Hope was left in the bottom when she closed it up again and, in this myth, we can see an explanation of why, when all else in life could seem to be bleak, we still always have Hope.

 

The aforementioned House of Commons report made certain recommendations and I feel proud that Northampton High School is a step ahead on this.  Strengthening the training of staff in mental health first aid was one recommendation and I am pleased to say that we trained sixteen teaching and non-teaching staff in Mental Health First Aid earlier this year in an attempt to ensure we have a whole team of staff to cascade knowledge and work hard with our students, in recognising signs of distress. If you are interested in what this training entails, I have included a link at the end [3] and Ms Margareto discussed it in her blog post in March. The report also welcomes the Government’s commitment to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHEE) mandatory in schools.  Through not only our Radically Enriched Curriculum (REC) periods, but through the interactions, conversations and activities in tutor time, we already lead the way in this area.  A final major recommendation of the report was that links between schools and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) should be strengthened and here is the safety net for the opening of Pandora’s box. Staff can do so much to support young people in need in school, but fully trained and experienced professionals are vital and it is to be hoped that funding into these specialist services will be a priority of our new Government.

 

In conclusion, I firstly cannot overlook the role of 21st Century life on the mental health of young people; we have only scratched the surface of the possible consequences of social media, an ‘always switched on’ generation of young people, sleep deprivation and harmful online content; this again is a post in its own right and understanding the role of these issues in the mental health of young people will make a big difference. In the meantime, we have much of the Hope from Pandora’s box to keep us going. We can also give thought to the balance in our school day of subject-specific education against life skills and co-curricular matters and the external influences upon young people’s mental health.

 

Adèle O’Doherty, Deputy Head (Pastoral Care and Guidance)

[1] https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhealth/849/849.pdf

 

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/life-lessons-taught-in-school-6-experts-personal-finance-sex-education-pshe-peter-tatchell-chef-food-a7522476.html

 

[3] https://mhfaengland.org/

Good news is no news

9 Jun

The recent emergence of concerns about the prevalence of ‘fake news’ has reminded us, if we needed reminding, that the news is and always has been constructed for us to consume rather than being an objective reality that is simply reported.

 

What does this mean for us as parents and educators?

 

We urge young people to embrace active citizenship by taking an interest in current affairs and familiarising themselves with political processes and beliefs, reminding them of the importance of using their right to vote responsibly.  Exactly how we should prepare them for these vital responsibilities in an age of ‘fake news’ is far from obvious, however.

 

Of course, politicians have always tried to manipulate the news – I think of Henry VIII censoring Catholic broadsheets during the Reformation.  The scandal of government aide Jo Moore’s memo on 9/11 – saying that the attacks on the Twin Towers made it a good ‘day to bury bad news’-  was only the most blatant example of a tendency by the powers-that-be to massage the message.

 

However, the proliferation of news and commentary via social media feeds – filtered to targeted audiences but unfiltered for quality – has added new layers of complexity to the task of separating wheat from chaff in a data-saturated world where reportage, commentary, opinion and speculation are all blended together into a baffling brew.

 

One L5 student at a recent tea party put her finger on the crux of the problem when she said, ‘which sources can we trust?’

 

Let us not be nostalgic sentimentalists.  Lies were told and truths withheld in the past, of course.  In 1957, Harold Macmillan hid the truth about an accident at the Windscale nuclear plant that threatened to create a catastrophe on a par with the Chernobyl disaster of almost thirty years later.

 

In fact, the opening up of access to information ushered in by the internet is potentially a great force for good in the development of informed citizens.  It seems inconceivable that a cover-up on the scale of Macmillan’s could succeed nowadays.  At the same time, however, it requires of our young citizens critical faculties, which do not come ready-made.  This places a large onus on schools and parents to nurture the necessary interpretive skills to separate fact from fiction.

 

At school, we encourage discussion and debate – in lessons, clubs and societies, events and visits – in a bid to make school a lively Academy, just like Plato’s in his day (though more inclusive!), for the formation of an educated citizenry. An engagement with the democratic process (such as through this week’s mock General Election) promotes a better understanding of the pressures and limitations on politicians today and counteracts the sensationalists and conspiracy theorists occupying the darkest niches of the Net.

 

By and large, however, our students do not have much faith in the ability or even the willingness of their leaders to surmount the challenges of today and tomorrow. Moreover, they are genuinely anxious about the state of the world, seeing the threat from state-sponsored terrorism (from North Korea, say) or from randomised hate crimes, such as those recently in Manchester and London, as shadows which cloud their daily lives and threaten their futures.

 

Unlike their parents and grandparents, they do not have the benefit of the long view to put these events into perspective – the memory of nuclear stand-offs during the Cold War or the everyday realities of British city life during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, for example.  Moreover, they do not have the benefit of traditions of investigative reporting on the part of news producers and of sustained background reading on the part of news consumers.   (This means that, if you have got this far in my blog, you are bucking the very trend I am describing!)

 

Another dimension to this issue, less often remarked on but, in my view, just as problematic, is the tendency of news coverage to focus on the negative and the sensational at the expense of the positive if unglamorous.  In 2016, the battle to eradicate malaria from Sri Lanka was won and an historic peace deal was brokered in Colombia after the longest civil war in modern times.  However, these are not the things which come uppermost to mind when surveying the headlines of the world’s news last year.

 

Good news is simply not as compelling as bad news – and tends to be relegated to the innermost pages of the newspaper or that frothy item to round off a bulletin before we segue into the weather forecast (often another cause for gloom).  Little wonder, then, that young people see little to cheer them – or encourage them to have faith in the political process – in their news feeds.  Only by digging beneath the surface, a discipline as well as an investment of time, can we hope to reach the balance and breadth of reporting that counterbalances fakery, doom-mongering and sensationalism.

 

Is it over-optimistic, I wonder, to see, in the inclusion of so many column centimetres about the collective effort to help the traumatised victims by neighbours, bystanders and also well-wishers across the world in the coverage of the atrocity in Manchester, a glimmer of hope for the future?  What I am sure of is that the level of engagement among our students in the mock General Election (and I write this in the heat of debate before the outcome is known) is a reassuring sign that the kind of attachment to the democratic process, that forms the only realistic bulwark against the success of terrorism, is alive and well among the next generation of voters in this corner of the UK at least.

 

Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress

 

Sources:

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1358985/Sept-11-a-good-day-to-bury-bad-news.html

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7030281.stm on Windscale

www.searo.who.int/srilanka/areas/malaria/sri-lanka-defeats-malaria/en/

www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/01/colombias-government-formally-ratifies-revised-farc-peace-deal