Professional Development at Northampton High School

27 Jan

Imagine: being paid to teach and learn. I think we all can, because we all are, eventually.

 

The nurturing of inquisitive minds and genuine life-long learners, beyond necessary and vitally important examinations, is a cornerstone of any true educational establishment. We expect our students to learn and to reflect on their learning. We expect our students to be willing to take educational risks: trying a more challenging task for example, not leaving revision to the last moment!

 

It follows then, that as teachers we are, and must be, learners too. As learners, we must reflect on our own practice, to ensure that we fulfil the changing needs of our charges, as well as to promote positive role-models of educational risk-taking and innovation. We must be open to new ideas and new approaches. Like any good learner, however, we must also be critical; we must ask for evidence of the value of new initiatives or new educational theories, and our students should never be guinea pigs for new fads. Fear not however; your daughters are in safe hands and there is plenty of healthy scepticism surrounding any swift panacea for all of education’s challenges.

 

Continuous professional development will be familiar to parents from all walks of life and it is perhaps reassuring to know that this is no less the case for staff at Northampton High School. This academic year saw the introduction of a new CPD (Continuous Professional Development) Hub, the purpose of which was to promote structured discussion, collaboration and debate within its staff, across Junior and Senior School teaching staff as well as support staff.

 

The first September INSET day included a carousel of workshops led by staff, for staff:

  • The Emotional Barometer; a way to understand and manage feelings positively
  • OneDrive; a practical guide to storing and sharing electronic resources easily, including integrating them into Firefly.
  • Philosophy for Children; using enquiry based learning.
  • Starters and Plenaries; a showcase of practical suggestions from different curriculum areas.
  • VESPA; the A Level mindset programme, useful when coaching A Level classes or tutees.

 

The new REC period has also opened up more opportunities for staff to meet. Training and collaboration has got underway in a number of areas, such as Action Research, Lesson Study, GCSE Pod and Firefly, among others.

 

A regular Staff room Challenge has also been a feature of break-times, with educational articles circulated and commented on over tea and coffee, as well as via Firefly; there have not been too many sparks flying! Passion is great though. Why not read one of the articles, about expectations?
A twilight training session in late November showcased a fascinating workshop on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, led by the new School Counsellor, Sarah Hanlon. There was also a workshop on Growth Mindsets, which explored practical applications for this increasingly popular and well-researched educational theory, which essentially holds the premise that intelligence is not fixed and that praise should be offered for effort rather than outcome.

 

These are just a few of the adventures which have been taking place aboard the NHS ship, which proudly hoists its Green Flag and sails with great confidence into the future, serving its girls and celebrating their success and endeavour.

 

Jonathan Williams

CPD Hub Coordinator

Reflecting on climate change in 2016

20 Jan

More than once Dr Stringer has stated that climate change is the defining challenge of our times. Personally I couldn’t agree more, but in 2016 the media focus (perhaps understandably) has been on the seismic political shifts on either side of the Atlantic. However, with the official confirmation that 2016 was the hottest year on record (breaking the record for a third year in a row) now seems an apt time to reflect on reports linked to climate change in 2016. Analysing the various climate related stories from the previous year reveals grounds for optimism in terms of our progress towards slowing (and eventually reversing?) the warming trend, as well as reasons to be much more pessimistic.

 

Initially announced at the end of 2015 the historic Paris agreement, signed by 194 countries, has provided a renewed global framework for managing climate change, whereby countries have committed to trying to limit global warming to no more than 2o (the more ambitious 1.5o target already seems improbable given that we have already warmed roughly 1o since the Industrial Revolution). During 2016 countries began to formally ratify the agreement, with the UK becoming the 111th to ratify the agreement in November; at the time of writing 125 countries in total have ratified the agreement, taking the treaty past the 55 signatories needed for it to become legally enforceable. Of potentially greater significance was the fact that both the USA and China have now formally ratified the agreement, submitting their proposals for cutting carbon emissions and helping to fund mitigation strategies in developing countries.  China’s ratification sent a strong signal to the developing world as they committed to peaking their carbon emissions in 2030. The USA famously refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol (a forerunner of the Paris agreement), fatally undermining its impact; the symbolism of the USA ratifying the agreement sent a clear, positive message to other countries. Perhaps the Paris agreement will form the foundation finally for effective, coordinated global action to tackle climate change?

 

Of course an instant rebuttal to the above would be to consider the potential impact of the inauguration of President Trump on America’s climate policy, particularly in the context of his infamous ‘Chinese hoax’ tweet. At this point it is worth stating that the anthropogenic forcing of climate change is no longer seriously debated, with 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agreeing that climate warming trends are likely to be the result of human activities (for the pedants that seize on the word ‘likely’ as a reason for inaction I refer them to this argument by David Mitchell). The election of such a senior politician espousing climate denial is clearly unhelpful in tackling climate change, but perhaps it is not as important an event as some fear (in a climate context that is; the geopolitical implications of President Trump are to my mind terrifying). For a start China has simply reaffirmed its own commitment to sustainable growth and now talks openly about replacing the US as the global climate leader; China has genuine ambitions to be recognised as a global power and its politicians seem to recognise the extent of the threat posed by climate change, so perhaps their rhetoric will be matched by reality? Secondly there are strong centres for positive action within the US, most notably the large state of California, with their Governor, Jerry Brown stating ‘We’ve got the lawyers and we’ve got the scientists and are ready to fight’. Thirdly, and perhaps more fundamentally, even Trump will struggle to completely revive the fortunes of the coal industry; investors aren’t stupid and Goldman Sachs’ warning that ‘peak coal is near’ and ‘the industry does not require new investment’ probably means the point from which we will permanently be burning less of this most polluting of the fossil fuels is not too distant.

 

Indeed evidence that progress in addressing global emissions is being achieved was the reported third year in a row without an increase in carbon emissions, therefore does this mean 2016 represented a more positive turning point in the fight against climate change? Unfortunately, the answer is almost certainly no, with one reason being that much of this was attributable to a decline in demand for Chinese manufacturing, with the likelihood of a concurrent increase in emissions again once demand increases. More fundamentally, was 2016 the year we began to realise we had focused too much on carbon dioxide? Scientists have now discovered that over the last 10 years there has been a rapid rise in methane concentrations within the atmosphere; this is relevant because methane is twenty times as potent as carbon dioxide in terms of its greenhouse effect. Unlike carbon emissions we do not have such clear monitoring strategies for methane.

Methane concentrations are higher in the northern hemisphere because both natural- and human-caused sources are more abundant there. Photograph: AIRS/Aqua/Nasa

 

At this point it seems important to cover two fundamental geographical concepts; these are positive feedback loops and tipping points. Positive feedback is where an initial change in one direction causes additional changes in the same direction (for example interest on a savings account used to cause the money to grow, causing more interest to be paid on the savings). Within climate change a number of positive feedback loops exist, with perhaps the best example being the melting of the permafrost as a result of the accelerated rate of climate warming in the Arctic. Melting of the permafrost releases methane trapped in the peat for thousands of years, causing further warming and therefore further permafrost melting. Scientists worry that soon we may reach a climate tipping point, whereby so many greenhouse gases have been emitted that positive feedback amplifies the warming to such an extent that runaway climate change (more than 2oc warming) is unavoidable.

 

Observations of the Arctic sea ice in 2016 provided a stark reminder that our polar regions are already changing more quickly than most scientists predicted; in November it was predicted that the North Pole was a staggering 20oc warmer than average. Whilst this will surely prove to be an anomaly, the implications for a significant reduction in sea ice this year help to further highlight positive feedback as the warming temperatures melt the sea ice and will probably lead to a record sea ice minimum next summer over the Arctic Ocean. This will reduce the albedo effect (reflection of incoming solar radiation), thus enabling further warming of Arctic waters; a further example of positive feedback.

 

So was 2016 a positive year for climate change or are we now all doomed? (I use this hyperbolic term as it is so often the way the question is phrased to me). Clearly I don’t have a crystal ball, but I feel confident enough to assert we are not doomed. To clarify, by we I mean those of us lucky enough to live in this benign mid latitude climate. A warming world seems likely to bring more unpredictable weather, more heatwaves, more frequent and powerful storms (but not hurricanes) to our shores. This will bring more flooding, more water shortages and very significant challenges for agriculture, but should not pose insurmountable obstacles to a developed economy.

 

However if geography is taught properly it should remind us that the world is unequal and that the impacts of climate change in tropical and particularly sub-tropical regions are predicted to be much more severe; it has been reported that climate change could, for example, make the Middle East and parts of North Africa uninhabitable, surely driving refugee movements that dwarf any historical precedent. What 2016 taught me was that whilst we are responding as a species to climate change the planet is also responding, amplifying our changes – these changes will continue even as we cut emissions; regardless of whether 2016 was positive or negative for climate change the need is as urgent as ever to go further and faster in cutting emissions (of all greenhouse gases), whilst we still have a world our children would want to inherit.

 

Mr James Earp, Head of Humanities

 

A hobby, an interest, a passion

6 Jan

Time spent on recreation is never wasted time, it is extremely important time. The opportunity to recreate oneself in preparation for the normal routine is what allows us to fulfil the normal routine on a daily basis. The range of recreational activities on offer to adults nowadays is huge and, as I ponder on my own choices, it makes me aware that there have been many influences in my decisions and equally raises my awareness of how many young people I have influenced in my career in education.

 

All teachers will pass on their own passions unwittingly to their students. It is impossible to curb your enthusiasm and I have observed many colleagues reach an outstanding level when they are teaching something that clearly inspires them. Children are very good at responding to enthusiasm; even someone’s favourite subject will be uninspiring if taught without passion, pace and energy.

 

The best teachers will try to remain neutral on the question of their favourite subject or topic, but children are no fools and I am sure, if asked, would be able to read the tell-tale signs during the week.

 

“My teacher always allows us to ask lots of questions, she always tells us stories about her own experience, the explanations are always so clear, we always seem to spend longer on X..” etc.

 

Thinking about my own time in school I recall that there were teachers who were inspirational to my friends but I just didn’t catch the bug. I was motivated by other factors, namely praise and success. The people who inspired me were excellent role models but they had the advantage over my Physics and French teachers in that they could easily find reasons to praise me. My personal talents were best suited to those activities, success came easily and I became an empty vessel which my inspiring teachers could fill with knowledge, drawing out all of my potential.

 

The opportunity to socialise with like-minded people can also be a contributing factor to our choice of hobby. Certain people are drawn to activities which promote opportunities to meet new people regularly, for some they prefer small groups with regular and consistent contact, others prefer individual activities which allow space to focus and time to concentrate. Regardless of the activity, being in a group or alone, there is always the opportunity to talk about it with people who are equally passionate. Dinner tables around the country would be considerably quieter if the topics of hobbies and interests were banned.

 

Many people are influenced in recreational choices by other family members and it is of course nice when siblings share a passion, although it can lead to rivalry and the removal of board games from the home! It is highly likely that children will be encouraged by their parents to enjoy an activity that can be shared. This is common and only causes an issue when the child is taking part when they would rather be doing something else. I agree completely with a friend who willingly wakes up early every morning to take his daughter swimming before school on the premise that the alarm clock is beside her bed and that she wakes him up.

 

The environment in which the activity happens can also be a strong factor. There are those who adore the outdoors and resent free time spent indoors. Some people love being in water, some in the sky, a library can appeal as can a sports field, a fast pace or a slow pace; the list is very long. It can sometimes take many years for a perfectly matched environment to be experienced, which leads to what I see as the most important factor for schools and parents to remember – variety.

 

Variety of opportunities is most certainly required throughout childhood to enable young people to find their passion. It must be evident in the curriculum so that the classroom experience is wide ranging and full of opportunities for passions to develop. Outside of the classroom there needs to be a co-curricular offer which is balanced across the most common recreational fields including Creative Arts, Sport and  Music. Ensuring this alongside passionate teachers and leaders is a recipe for the correct recreational decisions to be made and all of the positive benefits they will provide in the future.

 

Many people will move between hobbies and new passions will be discovered as people mature and travel, however the process most definitely starts in school and is an important aspect that we must never disregard.

 

Ross Urquhart, Head of Junior School

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

“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/

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.

 

 

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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?

 

 

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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

The 360 Degree Challenge and the Radically Enriched Curriculum at Northampton High

24 Jun

img_0884lr Cara Flanagan in Psychology Review comments that ‘it is not high self-esteem that brings about good academic performance’, rather ‘it is the belief that you can acquire the necessary skills to be successful’. This sums up much of current thinking about how students can develop resourcefulness, responsibility and independence and avoid the pitfalls of a fixed mindset by developing a range of positive learning styles and dispositions.

 

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In fact, these ideas are not a particularly new concept, in his seminal 1976 work Teaching Thinking, Edward de Bono explains that thinking and learning is about ‘knowing how to deal with situations […] planning, decision-making, looking at evidence, guessing, creativity’ as much as it is about ‘exploring experience and applying knowledge’. At Northampton High we want to support all this by fostering our students’ ability to devise and control their own learning. We aim to enhance their understanding of what drives and motivates them, for example, through our 360 Degree Me programme, which encourages them to look at themselves from all angles, as learners and individuals with distinct ambitions and potential.

 

 

 

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Last year’s 360 Me Day proved effective in altering the students’ perceptions about what is really important to them personally, so this year we wanted to go a step further and challenge them to take responsibility for managing the learning experience for themselves. The result has been our 360 Challenge Day to take place in July at Wicksteed Park in Kettering, a charitable trust whose cultural and historic significance in the area offers rich educational possibilities for this project.

 

 

 

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Lead organiser and Head of Biology Russell Attwood says, ‘the focus of the day will be developing the attributes that are so important for school and life in general, such as resilience, teamwork, independence, planning, time management and leadership’. Students will be working autonomously in the Park on thematic projects that they have chosen themselves, in small groups from the same House. Each group will have pupils from across Key Stage 3 which will give them the challenge of collaborating with others and Year 9 students will be given the responsibility of taking the lead and supporting the younger girls. In the weeks leading up to the project each group has been given time to plan every aspect of their day: from what they need to wear and bring with them, what and where to eat, to how they will find the information for their projects and ultimately their presentations to the rest of the House.

 

 

guy-claxtonWhat would we like the students to gain from their experiences at Wicksteed Park? I would say that character and grit would appear fairly high up on the list of hoped-for advantages, along with a deeper sense of how they learn to adapt and cooperate. In terms of outcomes, we do not expect every project to be an outright triumph in terms of preparation or execution, but for learning to be really successful, according to Professor Guy Claxton, there needs to be an element of ‘uncertainty and experimentation; having a go, seeing what happens and gradually improving’. This process is essential for personal growth and develops character, which is hugely important in helping students achieve self-reliance in their learning.

 

A single day of challenge, albeit as part of an ongoing commitment across the school to the education of the individual student via the 360 degree philosophy, will not suffice to embed the ‘crucial attitudes and capabilities’  Claxton refers to. For this reason, we have looked to develop our wider curriculum to help create a more creative and self-reliant community of life-long learners in our school. To do this we have subtly adjusted the timetable, without having to change the overall timings of the day, through what we call the Radically Enriched Curriculum (REC). This new REC period after lunch has allowed us to reposition PSHE lessons and opens a new window for co-curricular activities where we can stretch and challenge student outlook and ambition. The timing also allows for a community of learners within the staff, with regular slots for peer-led training, discussion groups and working parties. As an important side effect, we have also been able to match up the Junior and Senior School timetables more efficiently, which we hope will lead to even more opportunities for innovative cross-phase and transition activities.

 

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Leona Heimfeld, Stretch, Challenge and Creativity Coordinator, comments that her personal challenge ‘is to stretch the students beyond their own expectations’. She explains that this involves building ‘complexity of character, developing skills not easily learned in the curriculum-based classroom: the thrill of collaboration, the social responsibility of group work, physical and vocal self-confidence, the power of creativity and imaginative spontaneity’. The programme is geared towards providing a series of unique projects that mesh in with students’ ambitions for the future and links with our careers programme, Inspiring Futures. There is also a hugely important role for pastoral wellbeing in Leona’s opinion: ‘My studies have shown that creative projects offer much needed opportunities for de-stressing, with time to daydream and ponder reflectively’.

 

Essentially, by approaching this from a whole-school standpoint we give students and teachers opportunities to work together as equals. Assessment is not an agenda item within REC, so the focus is entirely on what is important to the educational process within a cooperative, flexible and yet individualised framework. We believe this will deepen the students’ enjoyment of learning through an appreciation, or ideally, a love of difficulty and challenge, a readiness to experiment and a real understanding of how to criticise and improve their work without being self-critical or negative about their potential for success. The idea of silencing the inner critic was a hot topic at this year’s Girls’ Day School Trust Conference where outgoing Chief Executive, Helen Fraser, called on students to release their ‘inner cheerleader’ instead. Likewise, for teachers, this approach is designed to encourage them to review their whole attitude to pedagogy beyond the REC programme, increasing student freedoms and allowing them to make as many decisions as possible to shape their own learning experiences.

 

tanya-byronProfessor Tanya Byron, writing in the foreword to Claxton and Lucas’s book Educating Ruby: What our children really need to learn, comments that we need to rethink our school systems ‘to help our children get ready for the challenges and opportunities they will face’. At Northampton High we take this role very seriously; we do encourage our students to take the 360 degree view and, in fact, this is the approach we expect everyone in the school to take when it comes to intellectual self-image. To paraphrase Professor Claxton himself, we are not in the business of ‘grinding out results’, we are an open-minded community of learners and we wish to be a mill of aspiration, individuality and creativity. These are the attributes that will get our children ready for the future.

 

 

Henry Rickman

Deputy Head

 

References

Flanagan, Cara; in Psychology Review, Volume 1.3, February 2006

de Bono, Edward; Teaching Thinking, Penguin, 1976

Claxton, Guy; in Creative Teaching and Learning, Volume 6.2, May 2016

Claxton, Guy and Lucas, Bill; Educating Ruby: What our children really need to learn, Crown House Publishing, 2015

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Reading

13 Jun

p1220942When I was at school reading came under the banner of  a ” good thing” and other than the set texts in English lessons we were left pretty much to our own devices. Fast forward to the second decade of the 21st Century and things have changed in many ways. One of the most striking changes has been the expansion in books produced for children and young adults; the range, number and quality available today for the average young person would have delighted the teenage me. From fantasy stories to dystopian fiction, historical fiction, adventure, crime and thrillers, as well as titles which deal with many of the issues which young people face today, the choice is pretty much endless.

 

What has also become clearer is how much of a “good thing” reading actually is.

 

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Young people who enjoy reading very much are three times as likely to read above the level expected for their age compared with young people who do not enjoy reading at all (34.9% vs. 10.7%). Similarly, young people who read outside class daily are five times as likely to read above the expected level for their age compared with young people who never read outside class.  The National Literacy Trust

 

It seems obvious that if you enjoy something you will improve and the more you practice the better you become.

 

Whilst having a wide choice of material is a positive position to be in, the challenge within a school environment is to encourage progression, both in the type of material the girls read and in terms of complexity of language. At Northampton High School we have our own reading scheme to encourage and support girls in their reading but like many schools we also try and vary the reading opportunities available.

 

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the UK’s oldest and most prestigious children’s book awards. Often described by authors and illustrators as ‘the one they want to win’ – they are the gold standard in children’s literature.’www.carnegiegreenaway.co.uk

 

 

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Shadowing the Carnegie Award on an annual basis is one of the ways in which we provide a varied reading diet for our keen readers.  Mrs Halstead (English Teacher), a group of hugely enthusiastic girls and I began meeting on Monday mornings after Easter. The eight book shortlist this year being one of the strongest we have seen and our aim to choose the winner. The girls award marks out of ten for plot, characterisation and style for each book and we then total all marks awarded at the end of the process to discover who are our winner is. Our recent track record is a good one, having chosen “The Bunker Diary” by Kevin Brooks as the winner two years ago and “Buffalo Soldier” by Tanya Landman correctly last year. The skill being in awarding marks objectively regardless of our personal preference, though sometimes our favourite has taken the main prize!

 

The girls have been impressive in these sessions, last year taking part in a streamed debate with other Girls’ Day School Trust schools. The girls prepared well and their confidence visibly grew as the session went on, defending and supporting their views in an effective manner.

 

These are some of the comments we have had so far about the shortlisted books this year:

 

the-lie-treeThe Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge: comments on the plot – “It takes a while to get going but once it started I couldn’t put it down!”

 

 

one  One by Sarah Crossan: comments on style – “I don’t think that she should have written it in verse. It made it difficult to read and didn’t add anything to the story. She didn’t create mood very well, I thought it too light and easy in places for the themes”

 

 

 

 

 

five-children Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders: comments on characterisation – “Amazing” Comments on the plot – “gentle and composed on such a harsh topic”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake: comments on the plot – “The plot in the real world was fine however I felt that it kept being interrupted by the fantasy line which damaged the flow”

Find out more about the shortlisted books at http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/shadowing.php

 

The award winner will be announced on Monday 20th June so we plenty of reading time still left, but at the moment (late May) Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders is a definite contender!  The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge won the overall Costa Award last year and should be strong competition though, so we will have to wait until the end of June to see if we pick the winner again!

All short listed books are available to borrow from the School Library.

 

Ms Anne Buxton, Librarian