Archive for September, 2017

A week is a long time in politics

22 Sep

My interest in Politics led me to contact a local MP, Chris Heaton-Harris, who kindly offered me the opportunity to do work experience in Westminster, with him and his team. On the week commencing the 11th September, I set off on my travels to London and the unknown. My work experience was based in Portcullis House, and upon my arrival I was struck with a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself; it was slightly overwhelming. After passing through security, I was led on a whistle-stop tour of Parliament by Chris’ intern. Central lobby to Westminster Hall, you name it, we covered it. For the rest of my first day, I was trusted with a couple of constituent cases and some research which Chris needed completing. After a brief introduction to Sajid Javid (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government), I ended the first day with a trip to the public gallery in the House of Commons to watch the second reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill. After having had a taste of the ‘London life’ and finding a love for commuting, I was eager to return the following day.

 

Tuesday was a whirlwind of research and more tours. One of the highlights for me was seeing the House of Lords and learning how the dynamics work. After eating in the Jubilee Cafe for lunch, I attended an extremely interesting talk on North Korea. My third day was by far the most interesting and the busiest day for me. Another tour entailed Her Majesty’s Robing room, and on our travels, I was lucky enough to see the Speaker’s Procession take place. I was fortunate enough to go to Prime Minster’s Question Time at 12 o’clock and watched from the VIP Gallery, above the opposition. Witnessing Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in action was a memorable point for me as there was a certain excitement humming in the air through the session. Shortly after, we ate lunch in Bellamy’s – a favourite of Jeremy’s, I was told. So it was only fitting that he walked in just as we were sitting down to eat. After much debate around our table as to what he was going to eat for lunch, I was lucky enough to get a selfie with Mr Corbyn once he’d eaten. He was surprisingly shorter than I thought he was, and acted more like a grandfather than a politician. During Wednesday afternoon, Chris’ office attended a political action committee meeting regarding online VAT fraud. Representatives from Amazon and Ebay attended and were questioned about whether they were making profit from illegal sellers on their websites. To then read about this in papers such as the Times, the Daily Mail and the Independent the following day was quite surreal for me (the back of my head also featured in one of the Daily Mail’s article images).

 

After a lively Wednesday, I appreciated the slightly calmer Thursday to finish my week of work experience. I completed research projects I had been working on during the week and thanked Chris and his team for teaching me so much over the four days. I urge everyone to carry out some form of work experience whilst still in school, as it can offer many opportunities and open many doors. I was incredibly lucky to be involved in so many different events and cases over such a short time span and felt that my time in Westminster helped to develop my personal competencies and skills, as well as allowing me to discover new skills and learn valuable life lessons.

 

Shefali Nandhra, 6J2

No surfaces without depths

8 Sep

‘You can’t have depths without surfaces’

 

The phrase comes from journalist, Linda Grant.  She was talking about clothes but, it seems to me, the thought applies equally to brands.  The brand (what you see on the surface) is important because it is often the first (and sometimes the only) aspect of an organisation that you can judge before you have in some way committed yourself to an association (say, by buying).

 

However, the brand has to express authentically the depths of an organisation – its heritage for example and its value –  or else it falls flat.  We can all, I suspect, think of brands that fail to resonate with target markets because there is too much of a disconnect between the surface message and the reality beneath.

 

A brand, then, is about so much more than logos, colours and fonts – and one might truthfully say that ‘you can’t have surfaces without depths.’

 

The approach of a big birthday, celebrating 140 years of Northampton High School in 2018, prompted us to revisit our brand and to consider how well it was encapsulating the depths of our school – its history and core values, its current record and standing, and the lived experience of its students, staff and associates.

 

The rebranding project itself was a fascinating undertaking and, as a non-specialist, I felt privileged to be on the inside of such a complex, dynamic process.  Many people – students, staff, parents, alumnae, governors and external advisors – contributed to the research and development phases and our discussion and debates (and, occasionally, disagreements!) took us to the very heart of what the School means to all of us.

 

Here, then, is the fruit of our labours.

 

 

We chose to return to a crest as the central symbol of the School in order to reconnect with an important part of our heritage.  However, this is the traditional crest with a contemporary twist.  The rose and crossed keys, both part of the original crest, reflect the fact that the School has been part of the life of Northamptonshire (rose of the shires) for generations and that, for many of those years, it had an active connection with the diocese of Peterborough.  Besides this, keys are, of course, an excellent symbol for education, being a visual shorthand for the work of unlocking potential and opening the doors of knowledge and understanding, opportunity and enhanced life chances.

 

The Charles Rennie-Mackintosh-inspired motif (upper left quadrant), a new element, reminds us of the historic connection with Derngate in general and No. 78 in particular.  The reference to an iconic motif of modern design – and an aesthetic that was years ahead of its time – also parallels the emphasis in our own philosophy and that of the GDST on being revolutionary pioneers in girls’ education.  When the High School was founded, it was still relatively rare to educate girls beyond a basic level.  That pioneering tradition persists in the way we embrace innovative methods, for example in using digital platforms and social media, to enhance our students’ life prospects.

 

Finally, the Eleanor Cross symbolises our proud place in the heart of Hardingstone for the last 25 years.  It also neatly references the qualities of learning and leadership for which Eleanor of Castile, Edward I’s much-loved queen, was renowned.  A powerful woman in a tough, male-dominated world and a patron of learning, she is an apt role model for our times.

 

Heritage and pioneering courage, strong links to our community and a commitment to educating and empowering women – these, then, are the messages conveyed in our re-imagined crest.

 

Alongside the visual symbol, we wanted to find a single phrase that distilled the unique essence of the education we offer.  There were many things we could have chosen but, ultimately, it boiled down to one simple, compelling article of faith:

 

We believe in our girls

And they believe in themselves

 

as the key to their success and the essential ingredient that we contribute towards that success.

 

Qualifications are hugely important – yes, undoubtedly

 

Wonderful opportunities to learn new skills and broaden horizons matter – equally, yes, of course

 

These we take as read.

 

But, beyond these, the confidence to be oneself and to stride out into the world with integrity and self-possession – this is the key to fulfilment as well as success in life.   Without it, the qualifications and skills alone mean relatively little.  Our belief in our girls, which stems from our knowledge and appreciation of them as individuals, makes all the difference in the world as they learn and grow in pursuit of their dreams.

 

Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress