The Crucial Role of PSHE in Education
At the heart of every educational institution lies a commitment not only to academic excellence but also to nurturing well-rounded individuals equipped to navigate life’s challenges. This commitment finds its embodiment in the often underappreciated yet profoundly impactful subject: Personal, Social, Health, and Economic Education (PSHE). Today (Friday), our school celebrated its inaugural annual PSHE day, delving into an array of crucial topics vital for the holistic development of our students.
In assembly on Monday, I acknowledged to the students that PSHE is not always their favourite subject and that events such as this one, are often met with a chorus of groans and some olympic grade eye rolling! We are aware that students often find PSHE lessons difficult. Not because the content is too much for them to access, but because the nature of a good PSHE lesson opens the floor for discussion on some challenging and, often, uncomfortable topics. I invite you to imagine yourself now in a room full of your peers, discussing issues on sex and relationships, consent, self harm, discrimination against those with protected characteristics or pornography to name just a few. Now think back to how you would have experienced that as a teenager. Our societal expectations and tolerances for such topics are often still to view them as taboo, restricting the ability of young people to discuss them freely and openly, and therefore the role of PSHE in school is vital.
Exploring these themes in a safe and non judgmental environment is crucial for children and teenagers. So much of the information they receive on these topics is thrust at them from a variety of online sources, many of which are largely inaccurate, to put it mildly, and some of which can be fundamentally harmful to their understanding of the realities of adult life. PSHE offers them the chance to experiment with concepts and allow themselves the thinking time to consider their own thoughts and feelings towards them without pressuring them to reach a solid conclusion. PSHE debunks myths about life that they may have been exposed to via social media or “playground gossip”. And PSHE supplies them with the tools they need, like reasoning, debate and empathy, to navigate the increasingly tricky waters of the outside world.
Some of the topics we have covered in this week’s PSHE day, are topics that we feel are important to our students for their ongoing social development and to better equip them to manage personal challenges that they may experience at some point in their future. Whilst we wish smooth sailing in life for all of our students, we must acknowledge that this is not always the case. Inviting experts into school to discuss some of the grittier areas of the curriculum ensures that our students have an opportunity to consolidate prior learning in the most valuable way. The following themes have formed significant elements of the day:
- One of the primary pillars of PSHE revolves around mental health and self-care. Discussions around self-harm and managing one’s wellbeing are indispensable in today’s world. Our students engaged in conversations that not only fostered understanding but also provided coping mechanisms and support networks for those in need.
- In an age where digital realms dominate, addressing harmful online content, including the exposure to pornography, is imperative. Empowering our youth to navigate the internet safely and responsibly is part of our duty as educators. The PSHE day was a platform to illuminate the potential dangers and promote strategies for responsible online behaviour.
- Understanding consent is paramount in fostering healthy relationships. The sessions on this topic were aimed at instilling respect, boundaries, and the importance of mutual agreement in all interactions. Addressing issues related to sexual violence within this context, further empowered our older students to recognise and combat such behaviors.
- Financial literacy stands as a fundament of adult life. Equipping our students with the knowledge and skills to manage their finances ensures they step into the world beyond school as prepared and confident individuals. These discussions on finance during the PSHE day opened doors to understanding budgeting, investments, and responsible financial decision-making.
Central to the success of these discussions are the skilled professionals who guide and shape these sessions. Lucienne Shakir, Deana Puccio Ferraro and Satveer Nijjar are experts in their fields, adept at tailoring their discussions to be not just informative but also accessible and age-appropriate. Their contributions were invaluable in making the day a resounding success. I must also thank Mr Pietropaoli, our dedicated PSHE Coordinator, who has carefully crafted the arrangements for this day to take place. Without his hard work, this day would certainly not have been so successful. In his letter to parents earlier this half term, Mr Pietropaoli commented,
“The PSHE curriculum plays a vital role in the holistic development of children and teenagers. It goes beyond traditional academic subjects to address the crucial life skills, values and knowledge of which our students need to thrive in today’s complex world. A varied PSHE curriculum encompasses topics such as mental and physical health, relationships, financial literacy, personal safety and much more. Research has consistently shown that a robust PSHE program can have a profound impact on the well-being and future success of our students.”
His commitment and passion to the ongoing development and success of PSHE as a subject is commendable and we eagerly await further progress in this area of school life.
Moreover, the active involvement of parents as contributors added a unique dimension to the discussions. Their insights and experiences added depth and relatability to the topics covered, reinforcing the collaborative effort between home and school in nurturing well-informed and responsible individuals. As we reflect on the success of this inaugural PSHE day, we eagerly anticipate planning future events. We extend our gratitude to all contributors and especially to the parent contributors whose participation added an extra layer of value to the day. Looking ahead, we invite individuals passionate about PSHE topics to join us as volunteers for upcoming events. Your valuable contributions could shape the minds of our future generation. As a parent, if you have expert knowledge on a topic that would be useful for our students, please do reach out to us and we will be delighted to discuss options for your involvement within our PSHE programme.
In conclusion, PSHE is not just another subject in the curriculum; it’s a cornerstone in the foundation of our students’ lives. By addressing these vital topics, we empower young minds with the information and tools they need to navigate the complexities of the wider world confidently and responsibly. I am incredibly proud of our students and the incredible young adults they go on to become, and I know that our commitment to PSHE continues to help make their success in life possible.
Deputy Head Pastoral
Why girls only from the very start?
Your daughter only has one opportunity to benefit from an excellent education and getting the foundations right is fundamental to facilitating her future success. A parent’s school choice is pivotal to their child’s happiness and, whilst getting it ‘right’ can feel like a heavy burden, here at Northampton High School we are confident in making this decision as easy as possible for you. Making the right choice and allowing your daughter to benefit from an education that is ‘Made for Girls’ is likely to be the best gift you can give to her as parents.
As the leading all-through girls-only school in Northamptonshire, everything we do is purposefully tailored to support girls in their educational journey and in their future endeavours. We are proud members of the Girls’ Day Schools Trust (GDST) and as such benefit from the strength of a 25-school network that is united by a girls-first philosophy and a mission to ensure girls learn without limits and strive for gender equality.
Whilst increased societal focus on the gender gap has led to some improvements, we know that girls’ lived experiences are different to those of boys, and that this must be reflected in certain areas of girls’ education and learning design.1 This is why Dr Kevin Stannard, GDST’s Director of Innovation & Learning, states, “In a more equal world we still need single-sex schools because, while society and coeducational schools are more gender-blind, they are still far from gender-equal.” 2 We believe your daughter deserves to be seen, heard and guided, without gender stereotypes and expectations, right from her very first moments in Reception.
We know girls benefit from lessons that promote collaboration and that they are deeply inspired by strong, positive role models who, through the delivery of a curated curriculum, give them space to explore and flourish.3 Girls need a learning environment that is focused, emotionally safe and provides a space in which they can speak, be heard, challenged and supported. Northampton High Junior School is built with these fundamentals at its core.
Our pupils develop a genuine self confidence that they then have the skills to execute in a positive manner. As the Girls’ Futures Report shared, “There is plenty of evidence that the ‘confidence gap’ can be closed, but it takes effort. It takes design.” This is why “GDST schools are girls’ schools by design: founded on the belief that success is best achieved by educating girls separately in distinctive, girl-friendly environments.”
Every girl. Every day. Our small class sizes mean we know our girls as individuals and ensure each learning and pastoral need is met, allowing students to flourish on a journey owned and directed by themselves. Our job, as expert staff in girls only education, is to guide this journey along a pathway that is sprinkled with high quality experiences. At Northampton High Junior School, students’ days are bursting with opportunities, from Forest School sessions in our own onsite forest, swimming lessons in our 25m pool, science lessons in our laboratory, Art and DT lessons in our art studios, a broad co-curricular offer, termly trips and a well-planned, challenging curriculum; all delivered by teachers who are experts in girls-only education. Our Junior School formula is developed using a strong evidence base and its results speak for themselves when you meet our pupils.
If you are keen to explore what your daughter can gain from joining our Junior School community, we would be pleased to invite you to see us in action. We firmly believe that choosing a school that is ‘Made for Girls’ is a gift for which your daughter will be eternally grateful, and we would love to welcome her into our Reception.
1 Girls Day School Trust, The Girls’ Futures Report
2 Dr Kevin Stannard, Why (and how) girls thrive in girls-only schools
3 The GDST Difference
Nurturing Inspiring Futures: a holistic approach to careers education
In the rapidly evolving landscape of the 21st Century, careers education is no longer solely about finding the right job; it has become a dynamic process aimed at equipping students with a versatile skill set that transcends the boundaries of specific professions. To do it well requires a holistic approach that not only provides relevant information and guidance, but also fosters essential skills to ensure adaptability in the face of a job market increasingly impacted by artificial intelligence (AI). This is why careers education appears under the Learn section in the Northampton High School approach wheel, as a keystone of our academic provision, cutting across all areas of learning.
It is a pleasure to introduce our new Careers Coordinator, Wendy Forsyth, who will be known to many of you as a member of the Maths faculty. Mrs Forsyth comes from an engineering background and runs the popular ‘problem-solving maths’ elective in the Sixth Form. This course focuses on the kinds of skills needed in mathematics to develop solutions to some of the most important issues facing the world today. She is also a tutor in the Sixth Form and has worked closely with students and other staff members to help them choose the best courses at university to enable them to achieve their ambitions for the future.
Mrs Forsyth writes:
Having been a Sixth Form tutor for many years, I have always enjoyed helping students explore their next steps. I am therefore very excited to be taking on the role of Careers Coordinator across the school.
Careers education is about so much more than simply deciding what job you want to do. As a school we understand the need to prepare our students to succeed and to be ready to lead in an ever-changing world. A recent survey by the British Council said that two thirds of Primary School children will enter careers which do not currently exist. The rapid developments in the realm of AI will further change the nature of employment.
Academic knowledge is still very important, but equally it is essential that young people are aware of their transferable skills and seek opportunities to develop them. With this in mind, we prefer to think more broadly and we call our suite of activities and guidance opportunities ‘Inspiring Futures’. The Inspiring Futures programme is wide ranging, incorporating PSHE lessons, external speakers, enterprise days and specific advice and guidance events. If you’d like to know more about this, do feel free to contact me by emailing email@example.com.
So, we firmly believe that careers education should encompass a broader perspective, emphasising the importance of acquiring transferable skills that can be applied across various domains. But what does this mean in practice? Rather than focusing solely on the technical aspects of a particular job, we feel that students need to develop critical thinking, creativity, communication, and problem-solving skills. These abilities form the foundation of adaptability, enabling individuals to navigate through unpredictable career trajectories and embrace emerging opportunities.
Incorporating real-world experiences into the curriculum is another crucial aspect of effective careers education. Every subject area in school offers resources and invaluable insights into different industries, helping pupils make informed decisions about their career paths. Through the GDST Innovate and Lead programmes in the Sixth Form, students can also access diverse work environments, which not only aids in identifying personal preferences but also cultivates an understanding of the future job market.
Furthermore, the role of technology in careers education cannot be overstated. With increasing automation and AI formats in the workplace, the skills demanded by the job market are undergoing a paradigm shift. Integrating technology-related coursework and fostering digital literacy via our Digacy programme in school are essential components in preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow. This not only ensures that pupils are equipped to embrace technological advancements but also promotes a mindset of continuous learning, a critical attribute in an era where the pace of change is unprecedented.
To ensure that pupils have the best information and guidance, as schools, we must collaborate closely with industry experts, keeping our resources updated to reflect the latest trends and demands. Career support should extend beyond merely suggesting professions based on current market trends; we also need to focus on cultivating students’ self-awareness, helping them understand their strengths, values, and interests, laying the groundwork for a fulfilling and adaptable career. We do this through our ePortfolio programme based on our ‘360-degree Me’ concept that encourages students to reflect on what has made them who they are today and to consider who they would like to be in the future.
As Mrs Forsyth has mentioned, predicting specific jobs can be challenging due to the rapid pace of technological innovation. However, we can anticipate a growing demand for roles that bridge the gap between human capabilities and advanced technologies. Jobs in fields such as artificial intelligence ethics, digital health management, sustainable energy consultancy and virtual reality experience design are likely to emerge as prominent career options.
In conclusion, careers education is undergoing a transformative shift from a narrow focus on job placement to a more holistic approach that prioritises adaptable skill development. By providing students with a diverse skill set, real-world experiences, and a technology-infused curriculum, we believe we can empower them to thrive in an ever-changing job market. The key lies not only in preparing students for specific professions but in nurturing a mindset that embraces change, fosters continuous learning, and positions individuals to navigate the uncertainties of the future with confidence.
Deputy Head Pastoral
To remember is to be able to ‘bring to one’s mind an awareness of someone or something from the past’. In other words, it is the act of summoning the past into our consciousness. This act of remembrance is a potent force, capable of evoking both happy and sad memories. Arguably it is our particular set of memories that make us uniquely who we are, filled with the people and experiences that have defined us. So, remembering may be shaped with both thanksgiving for the good things, a sadness for those things over which we had no control and a remembrance of bad things that we wish not to repeat.
All these aspects of remembrance are present as we look ahead to Armistice Day, the day on which we remember that on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the conflict of WW1 ended. Many will be wearing poppies in remembrance and observe the two minutes silence. This act of remembrance is special in that it is a collective act of remembrance marked by the whole nation and etched into our identity. Even though WW1 has faded from living memory, the importance of remembering the sacrifices made in that war is paramount, as we are reminded, “Lest we forget”. Sadly, it was not the war to end all wars, as others have followed and some continue even today. While thankfully many of us will never know what it means to be in combat firsthand, we are the beneficiaries of those who do. There are few if any families who will not have been touched by the effects of war in their family histories. So, this week, we remember, because it is our duty and failing to do so risks the repetition of history’s gravest mistakes.
The theme of remembrance weaves through the winter season, a time when our culturally diverse community celebrates significant milestones in their calendars. Some may already be knee-deep in preparations, while others are just beginning to sense the impending festivities. Yet, the clock is ticking on preparing for festivals including Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas. A recent supermarket trip felt like navigating a slalom course around pop-up stacks of chocolate selection boxes and table crackers – further prompting our subconscious that December is just around the corner. In the coming days, different faiths and communities will celebrate the power of light over darkness, good over evil, and the sheer excitement of families enjoying firework displays across the country.
We have already had timely reminders, with Halloween during the half term break and Fireworks Night behind us and the changing of the clocks providing that all important extra hour in bed. Further signs will soon follow and before you know it, you are sitting down to watch the newest John Lewis advert which has become for many just as much of a festive tradition as picking out a Christmas tree, putting up the lights and opening the latest door on the advert calendar.
Being part of the school community is a blessing as this half-term although busy and may feel like, at times, a whirlwind, it is also teeming with excitement, adventure and joy for both students and parents. There is much to look forward to, including our inaugural Parent and Staff Quiz Night, the annual Christmas Fayre with its many exciting attractions, the Junior School Christmas Craft Workshop and celebration evening, House Plays which stands as the grandest house event of the school year and the spectacular Christmas concert, to name but a few. This half-term is always busy, but we know the students really do love this time of year at school.
As the march towards the end of the calendar year starts in earnest, we can’t wait to welcome you into school for some or all of these events, and share moments with your daughter that will last a lifetime. Then in the years that follow, you can reminisce and remember the joy and connection that define this remarkable season.