As we take our first steps into a new year, a year in which we will celebrate 140 years of the School’s work, I use this platform to reflect on our academic year so far and to look ahead to some of the highlights of the term ahead.
A digital report from Senior School by Mr Rickman
It has been a busy term for technology in school with Mr Rittler and his team working hard to replace the computers that power the interactive whiteboards in the classrooms. These fast machines are now being linked to CleverTouch boards, which offer many exciting opportunities for students to interact with the displays in class. Mrs Hodgetts-Tate in Science has been leading the way with this technology and the screens have now also been fitted in the Maths and Languages classrooms. In October we relaunched the school virtual learning platform, Firefly, giving it a fresh new look and improving the way teachers use the site to set and collect in homework, or prep. Using our links to OneDrive and Google apps for education, pupils can now collaborate with each other and share work directly with their teachers. Parents can also keep track of the prep that is being set, as well as other information about their children, via the parent portal on Firefly. If you have not yet accessed the service, please see instructions in the attached document. My assembly in November touched on the important issues of online safety and how students should use their own devices in school, as well as showcasing the ePortfolios students have been creating since the summer term in 2017. ePortfolio websites built on the GDST Google platform are a great way to allow students to curate their online presence while showcasing their achievements and progress in school. In January, U4 pupils will start to design and build their own ePortfolio websites, joining the students who have already made them, from L5 through to the Sixth Form. Finally, from the technological viewpoint, I’m pleased to say that our uptake of GCSEpod more than doubled over the term. This is a service designed to help students learn and revise for GCSE courses in small audio-visual chunks, via their digital devices and in class. Our group of GCSEpod champions in U5 ran an assembly for younger girls and were recognised by the company for their work in supporting other students. Meanwhile, Mr Donaldson, Head of History, has been selected to join the writers and his first ‘pods’ will soon be available on the system. GCSEpod is an excellent support for learning for all students in U4-U5 and instructions for signing up are available on Firefly.
From Sixth Form, Mrs Cantwell reports…
For 6.2, the slog of the Autumn Term is behind them, meaty chunks of their academic courses are now covered and the hours spent refining UCAS applications are beginning to bear fruit in the form of university offers. Eleven students are waiting to hear if their applications to Oxford and Cambridge have been successful for courses including Linguistics, Engineering and Philosophy and Maths at Cambridge and Classics, French and Music at Oxford. Our eight medics, vets and dentists are waiting for the results of recent interviews and others are planning to follow other NHS alumnae to study, for example, Law at Leeds, Engineering at Imperial and Geography at Newcastle, Politics and International relations at Bristol and Theoretical Physics at Durham. Others are breaking new ground, with applications for Fashion Design at the University of the Arts, English and Film Studies at Exeter, Sports Product Design and Technology at Loughborough and Interior Architecture at Oxford Brookes, to name but a handful.
An emerging trend is the growing popularity of the apprenticeship route with a number of students exploring the option of completing a degree while earning and experiencing the world of work without the burden of student debt.
6.1’s, in their turn, have embraced all the opportunities available to them with great enthusiasm and positivity. They are looking forward to the chance to stand for election to new 6th Form Leadership and House Leadership teams later this term. The superb House Plays and the reports from House Charity Leaders and the Deputy Head Girl (Charities) in the Celebration of Giving on the last day of term offered snapshots of the impressive work our student leaders do.
Our students are enjoying the opportunities provided by the new linear A-levels, leaving time and flexibility to explore other areas of interest through the 6th Form Electives programme. Many have chosen an EPQ, Extended Project Qualification, allowing them to research an area of interest and develop skills which will be greatly beneficial once at university. Others have chosen from a range of MOOCs, Massive Open On-Line Courses, offered by universities across the world or taken the Politics and International Relations, Film Studies, Art History courses or joined the Social Enterprise Changemaker programme.
Some interesting nuts and bolts… As you know, Parentpay was introduced at the beginning of the Autumn Term as a more flexible method for you to pay for school extras. This has proved to be very popular with parents and the majority are now signed up and using the system effectively. If you require any further support with the system, please contact our Finance Manager Bo Kuzniewska firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to help.
The school facilities have always been available to hire out of school hours but, from January 2018, we hope to make this easier to book by using Schoolhire as a platform to manage bookings and payments. If you are interested in booking school facilities, please refer to https://nhs.schoolhire.co.uk/. Please remember that as a parent you are very welcome to join our Sports Centre Community at a preferential rate.
This will enable you to participate in a wide range of fitness classes, and use the swimming pool and fitness facilities out of school hours. For further details, view our full facilities here.
Active in the community
Our new Outreach Coordinator, Ms Heimfeld, gives a round-up of current events…
There have been fantastic Outreach programmes run in Autumn Term, including Sixth Form Volunteering, an Expressive Arts Enrichment Day, Femsock attending the National Council of Women Conference, hosting the English Speaking Union ‘School’s Mace’, and Screen Northants filming ‘Reverberations’ in the Science corridor and Dining Hall. Just before Christmas, U5 visited Age UK to sing carols and bring Christmas cheer and a group of students participated in the Hardingstone Living Nativity.
Looking ahead, on Friday 19 January, the Head Girls’ team are organising a Pizza and Quiz Night for students, parents, staff and local pensioners. Annie Loveday Hill will be conducting opera and vocal exercise classes in the new year and Go Code Academy will be running tech camp and holiday coding workshops in February half-term.
As we approach the School’s 140th Birthday, we are launching a project entitled WHEW! – Women Helping to Empower Women. We would like to have a positive impact upon the future lives of 140 young women in our community. The first phase of the programme is a Summer Steam Extravaganza with 14 primary schools bringing 10 students each to a day of science, maths, engineering and arts. The second phase of WHEW will be 4 weeks of Saturday Masterclasses in the Autumn of 2018 for these 140 girls, stretching their potential and encouraging career ambition. A key focus for WHEW! is the opportunity for our own students to mentor young women in the community and to take organisational roles within the events.
And looking beyond
It gives me great pleasure to report two prestigious awards for the School in the area of internationalism. The first is an International School Award (Foundation Level). The International School Award celebrates exceptional work in international education through, for example, fostering an international dimension in the curriculum and helping young people gain the cultural understanding and skills they need for life work in today’s world. The second is our success in being selected as secondary school category winner from entries across 42 eTwinning countries in a competition organised by the British Council, entitled ‘Don’t judge a person by a face.’ Many congratulations to our Languages Faculty on both these achievements.
The power of the network One of the highlights of last term was our Awards Evening, when the CEO of the GDST, Cheryl Giovannoni, came to present the prizes and congratulate the students on their achievements. In her speech, Cheryl spoke about her commitment to ensuring that the GDST is as effective as possible as a movement for positive change for girls and young women, building on its pioneering origins. Her message is one that is gaining traction, not only in our schools but also in the wider world. In October, for example, Cheryl was named in the Evening Standard’s Power 1,000, being cited as one of the most influential people in education (follow the link here to read more https://www.standard.co.uk/news/the1000/the-progress-1000-londons-most-influential-people-2017-social-pillars-education-a3653956.html)
Her message – that now is THE time for us to bring transformative change for girls and young women – sent me back to one of my favourite quotations, from Barack Obama, which I included in my start-of-term Assembly to the senior girls and which I use to sign off, with all best wishes for the year ahead, my newsletter to you. Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.