School Blog


Science week; what is time?

This year, Science Week has the theme of Time. I googled the word ‘time’ and there are so many different uses of the word, from ‘once upon a time’ to ‘time management’ and many philosophical concepts in between. I settled on a theme of ‘once upon a time’ for my whole school assembly and shared with the young audience my personal timeline that led me to this current moment.

Along the way I shared the choices I have made and the consequences, both good and bad that those choices had, but all came good in the end. Looking back at the timeline whilst writing the assembly made me think about all the good memories in my school days, both primary and secondary and how important it is to make the most of the time you have in school, taking all the opportunities on offer.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of delivering a Science Week assembly to the Junior School, which is one of my favourite assemblies as the pupils are all so keen and focussed on your every word. The STEM Ambassadors in Junior School helped with the assembly, and we taught the girls how to make an egg float, tie dye some milk and stab a potato with a plastic straw – all practical experiments they can do at home in a short period of time. It has also been an absolute pleasure to spend time with Years 3 to 6 in my lab in Senior School this week, concocting Harry Potter science spells. The girls’ expressions of awe and wonder at interacting with chemistry were a joy to behold.

So far it is only Tuesday in my week and we have put time in a line, shared a timeline, thought about good times, made the most of time in school and used a short amount of time to show some awesome experiments. Many uses of the word time and many uses of time itself.

On Tuesday I had the pleasure to take some Year 13 students on their final trip with Northampton High, and we ventured to Cadbury World.  How is STEM related to Cadbury World, I hear you ask? Well, everywhere: In the manufacturing process, in the factory’s health and safety, in the psychology of the advertising and in the physics of the machinery needed to make a million Creme Eggs.  We were also treated to an interactive timeline of the development of the Cadbury factory and the movement to fair wages and a 5-day working week. Some of the girls were surprised this had not always been the case, and that ‘in the olden days’ you worked all day, every day. Who knows where the Year 13’s timelines will take them after their time at Northampton High?

There have been mini science experiments in the Junior School foyer on a daily basis, which have captivated parents and girls alike. Lots of challenging questions being asked about how long a boat can float and how we can make a Skittles colour wheel just from water and the brightly coloured sweets.

We concluded Science Week with talks led by students past and present. Alexa Dykes – who left 4 years ago – gave the Reach Lecture on her time at the High School and her lasting message to the current students was to reach for your goals and even if you do not make it at the first attempt, to keep trying and use your time here wisely, seeking support, taking the trips, participating in the clubs and preparing yourself for future challenges. On Friday morning, Senior School was treated to a student-led assembly on #Women in STEM and their pathways for the future, and how time management and having a good time fits into their plans.

In summary, we have ventured down the rabbit hole of time and had a wonderful time exploring!  We have investigated, trialled, explained and discovered many uses and meanings of time. I hope your daughter will be able to tell you about some of the Science Week-related experiences we have shared.

Mrs Hodgetts-Tate
Head of Science Faculty


Technical innovation in assessment and the use of AI

As part of the wider support for the 25 schools in the GDST, the Trust has specialist teams offering training and advice on areas as diverse as health and safety and educational trips and visits. As you might expect, I work closely with the Innovation and Learning team directed by Dr Kevin Stannard, whose work (including ‘Why (and how) girls thrive in girls-only schools’) may be known to some of you already. 

You might consider this part of the GDST to be the ‘academic’ directorate, which would be correct, as they do maintain the overview of educational provision and achievement across our schools. However, the choice of words in the title ‘innovation and learning’, to me, speaks volumes about the priorities and values of the team working under Dr Stannard.

This week I attended a conference of other academic deputy heads and colleagues with responsibility for innovation and educational technology (edtech). There were two areas of focus; developments in public examinations incorporating digital technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) in schools, but with a focus on assessment specifically. We were joined by speakers from the main examination boards as well as experts from the wider assessment sector. 

You may have read that a number of exam boards are trialling digital assessments currently, with the AQA board initially planning to introduce a limited number of modern language GCSEs using on-screen technology in the next academic year. AQA has also developed an adaptive assessment for Maths that can help teachers save time when diagnosing learning gaps from earlier years. The OCR board too has come on board with this concept and has plans in place to make its Computer Science qualifications available online from 2025. Interestingly, though, some of these developments appear to have been pushed back by at least a year as the boards seek Ofqual approval for the changes.

The case for on-screen assessments has perhaps become clearer since the pandemic, but moves towards this as a principle go back many years, with exam boards initially setting up working parties in the 2000s. The benefits of the approach have been widely understood in the world of work and there are effective digital assessments taking place in many areas of professional life already. The technology is tried and tested in this respect. However, concerns about the viability of running digital assessments still prevail within the education sector.

This is in spite of the positive views students have of the potential for digital assessments to improve their experience of testing. AQA has conducted research specifically into this, leading to a report which points to 68% of students agreeing that increasing digital learning and assessment would be a beneficial move. Young people mention reasons such as this being truer to the digital world they are growing up in, the reduced risk of examiner bias based on handwriting ability, improvements in accessibility for SEND pupils and, tellingly, the environmental benefits of reducing paper use and avoiding the mass transportation of exams.

The role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also a hot topic in the world of assessment, as it is in many other areas of education. Currently exam boards put a huge amount of time and energy into the production of examinations for the range of subjects offered, and also place a high premium on the security and integrity of these papers. This is because the production of the papers is enormously time consuming and costly on a human resources level. However, AI can effectively create multiple versions of exams with minimal time and resources expended, so this becomes less of an issue and papers can be replaced as needed. We see this already in place in many areas, with the driving theory test, for example, existing in ever-changing versions so that it cannot effectively be rote learned. 

A further benefit of this approach is that exams can be administered in a more adaptive manner. Students do not need to take the paper at exactly the same time and the logistics of finding suitable spaces and resources to be provided simultaneously is less of an issue. Notably, SEND pupils can be given assessments that not only match their learning styles but operate in a way that supports their personal needs more effectively too.

While most examinations will still be paper based for the next few years at least, there is no doubt that a change will come. Ofqual has very reasonable demands of the assessment authorities to ensure that pupils are not put at a disadvantage and that the validity of examinations is not undermined by any changes. They are certainly not rushing into this. However, while this approach is understandable and honourable, it is equally important not to underestimate the value that a change could offer to many students. Our world will only become more digitally focused and young people will not thank us for holding them back.

Mr Rickman
Deputy Head Academic


The importance of positive female role models: Beyond Celebrities!

International Women’s Day 2024

On this International Women’s Day, I would like to put the spotlight on female role models in a slightly different way. It is undeniably vital for young women to have positive female role models for a multitude of reasons, spanning personal development, societal progress, and the cultivation of a diverse and inclusive culture. First and foremost, positive female role models provide young women with tangible examples of success and achievement. These role models showcase that women can excel in various fields, from academia and business to sports and the arts. By seeing other women break barriers and reach new heights, young women are encouraged to aspire to greatness themselves, fostering ambition and self-confidence. Each year, pupils will recommend women who they look up to. Beyoncé Knowles, Michele Obama and Olivia Coleman being some of the most popular.

Positive female role models contribute to the creation of a more diverse and inclusive culture. By showcasing the richness and diversity of women’s experiences, these role models celebrate the unique talents, perspectives, and contributions of women from all backgrounds. This diversity not only enriches our collective understanding but also fosters empathy, understanding, and solidarity across communities. Dr. Lee’s recent assembly, where she highlighted the remarkable journey of Mercedes Gleitze, serves as a poignant reminder of the profound impact that positive female role models can have on young women.

Mercedes Gleitze’s story is one of perseverance, resilience, and triumph over failure. Born into a relatively modest background, daughter of a teacher and a baker, Mercedes did not have the privilege of huge wealth or social status. However, what she lacked in material resources, she made up for with sheer grit and determination. Despite facing numerous obstacles along the way, she remained steadfast in her pursuit of achieving her goals. Her unwavering resolve propelled her to achieve remarkable feats in swimming, setting multiple records in the sport of endurance and long distance swimming, and after 8 attempts, successfully swam the British channel on October 7, 1927. She became the first woman to complete this challenge and completed several other noteworthy swims, subsequently to this, including swimming the Straits of Gibraltar, the Northern channel (between Ireland and Scotland), conquered many other international bodies of water, and became the first person to swim to Robben Island and back to Cape Town. 

What makes Mercedes’ story so compelling is that she defied the odds stacked against her. When her trainer warned her about the cold sea and extreme fatigue, stating it was a challenge even for the strongest men, Mercedes responded, ‘Well, thank God I’m a woman’. She refused to be bound by societal norms or limitations, forging her own path to success and refused to give up after setbacks and failed attempts. When faced with claims that her success in the English Channel had been a hoax and her integrity was questioned, she remained determined to prove to the disbelievers that she was the real deal. Her journey serves as a beacon of hope for young women everywhere, showing them that greatness knows no boundaries and can overcome hurdles or barriers placed in their way. Regardless of background or circumstance, anyone can achieve their dreams with perseverance and determination.

Gleidze’s story is certainly one to remember, however, in a world where the media often glorifies celebrities and public figures, it is sometimes easy to overlook the everyday heroes, the women in our lives who quietly inspire us with their resilience, determination, and kindness. These unsung heroines, our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, teachers, coaches and friends, play a vital role in shaping our identities and aspirations. Their stories of triumph over adversity resonate deeply with us, providing a source of motivation and empowerment.

Miss Robinson’s initiative to encourage students to reflect on positive female role models in their own lives is a commendable one. It prompts us to look beyond the glitz and glamour of celebrity culture and recognise the unsung heroines who shape our daily lives. These women may not grace the covers of magazines or command millions of followers on social media, but their impact is immeasurable. They are the ones who quietly inspire us with their strength, compassion, and resilience.

In solidarity with this initiative, I would like to share my own example of a positive female role model: my friend, Laura Cooper-Wortley. I am blessed to have a number of inspiring females in my life, from whom I could choose. However, I have chosen Laura because, as well as being genuinely inspirational, she is significantly younger than me, a fact that often means we are less likely to recognise someone as a role model. 

Laura has worked in a number of roles for a variety of companies in the time that I have known her, but she has always worked. Her expertise is in the health care sector, and perhaps that is an indication of the type of person that she is. Alongside working in an industry that is challenging and requires long hours, over the last few years, Laura has been completing a history degree in her spare time. In addition, she has planned her own wedding (and the majority of mine!) and navigated the ups and downs of buying and renovating a house in the village where she grew up. She is the proud owner of two of the bounciest dogs you are ever likely to encounter, and they take up a good deal of her time. Last year she decided that this was not sufficient and took up golf, dedicating many hours to practise and quickly becoming proficient enough to keep pace with her husband who has been playing for the last 25 years! 

As if this combination of achievements were not enough of a demonstration of resilience and pushing for more, in 2022 Laura recognised a significant need in her local area and set up a registered charity to tackle period poverty. This venture has grown rapidly and her charity, A bag for Flo, now serves communities across Daventry, Northampton and Towcester, with the possibility of it moving to neighbouring counties in the coming months. It has developed to include maternity products for new mums and this is a current area for expansion. If you would like to know more about ‘A bag for Flo’, or would be interested in supporting them in any way, please follow this link to find out more –

On top of all of this, Laura also deals with her own health concerns, successfully managing an auto-immune disease that periodically forces her to drop everything and simply be for days at a time. How she manages to keep so many balls in the air at one time and manage her health and still have time for cups of tea, trips to the garden centre and dinners at the driving range with friends, I will never know. One thing I do know, however, is that she is an inspiration for me and many others and she is a fantastic role model for women in a huge number of different ways. 

So whoever they may be, family member, friend or celebrity, positive female role models serve as mentors and guides, offering valuable advice, support, and encouragement to young women navigating their own paths. These role models provide invaluable insight and guidance, helping young women overcome challenges and make informed decisions about their futures. Beyond individual growth, positive female role models play a crucial role in driving societal progress. By challenging stereotypes and defying traditional gender roles, these role models pave the way for greater gender equality and inclusivity. Their presence in leadership positions and influential roles sends a powerful message about the capabilities and contributions of women, inspiring broader societal change and breaking down barriers for future generations.

In conclusion, the importance of positive female role models cannot be overstated. They serve as beacons of hope and inspiration, guiding young women through life’s challenges and empowering them to realise their full potential. While celebrities may capture the spotlight, it is the everyday heroines, the women in our own lives, who truly make a difference. I look forward to seeing who our pupils choose to recognise as their own positive female role models over the coming weeks. So, let us celebrate their contributions and honour their legacies by striving to be positive role models ourselves. Together, we can create a world where every young woman feels empowered and supported to achieve her dreams.

Miss Kneen
Deputy Head Pastoral


Pupil wellbeing and pupil voice

Last week was Children’s Mental Health Week (5-11 February 2024) and the theme this year was ‘My Voice Matters’. The event is run and organised by the children’s mental health charity Place2Be, and the theme focuses on encouraging children and young people to feel confident that they can express themselves.

The charity says that allowing young people to speak up has a positive impact on wellbeing and that children who feel that their voices are heard are more connected to their communities, which can raise their self-esteem. Demonstrating to young people that their views and experiences matter improves their sense of belonging and helps them feel like valued members of the school community. It promotes feelings of empowerment and agency and is a vital way to understand and meet the needs of pupils. It also means that wellbeing initiatives are more likely to become part of the fabric of school life.

In practice, achieving this requires more than handing out surveys designed by adults once a term. It also means going further than just asking the ‘usual suspects’ for their opinions. Rather, there are many ways for all children’s and young people’s voices to be heard when they feel they need to express something. Taking a whole school approach and championing a culture of openness and dialogue around mental health and wellbeing is the foundation to creating an environment in which children are empowered to speak. The opportunities at Northampton High for inviting and hearing pupil voice are numerous and woven through every aspect of the school.

Firstly, and fundamentally, the ethos of the school supports the importance of pupil voice, as pupils are known as individuals, are personally supported in their educational and pastoral journey through school, and every pupil has the opportunity to be heard, on any topic, every day.

We have a structured, sustainable approach: Meaningful pupil voice initiative is more than just a one-off event or meeting; it’s a sustainable process that’s integrated into the school’s culture. This requires a structured approach, with clearly defined processes and regular opportunities for students to express their thoughts and ideas.

Our school is organisationally structured in a way to provide dedicated and focused support to pupils – from the class teacher and form tutor structures to the Heads of Year roles, from the Wellbeing Practitioner, Mrs Giordano (fondly known as Mrs G) to the School Nurse, Mrs Dunkley, and Nurse Assistant, Mrs Brown, there are adults in school with expertise to support the mental health and wellbeing of all students. Throughout Children’s Mental Health Week, the team delivered assemblies, drop in sessions, visits from The Lowdown, a local mental health charity providing free and confidential support services for 11-25 year olds in Northamptonshire; there have been lunchtime ‘walk and talk’ mentoring sessions, opportunities to express feelings of wellbeing via an anonymous sticky note collage, and much more.

Inclusivity is key and is at the heart of meaningful pupil voice. Every student, regardless of background, should have equal opportunities to be involved and express their views.

Pupils’ views and insights are invited and considered in a plethora of ways in the day to day of school life. Just a few examples are as follows: Learning Ambassadors take on research and feed back their findings on the curriculum and the teaching and learning practice in the classroom. School Council members meet fortnightly,  representing their classes and forms to discuss issues students are facing, ably led by a member of the Student Senior Leadership Team (SSLT). Eco Team members from across the age groups discuss sustainability initiatives and look to make a difference on the immediate and wider environment. The School Lunch Committee discusses menu choices and food preferences. A new student group of ‘Undivided Champions’ has been established this academic year, comprising representatives from every form group in the Senior School to discuss issues and themes around diversity and inclusion, again led by a dedicated member of the SSLT.

The first meeting of the Undivided Champions last week was inspiring. Students introduced themselves, and then quickly opened up to explore and discuss diversity and inclusion-related issues close to their hearts – expressing a desire to learn more about neurodiversity, an enthusiasm to build on the annual Cultures Day in the summer, raising stress management around exams and academic validation, requesting a permanent venue for prayer and quiet contemplation – just some of the themes voiced. Rich insights into the topics that matter to them as individuals and to their peers.

By keeping student voice at the heart of the school community, we not only keep pupil wellbeing central to life in school, we contribute to:

  • an improved sense of belonging and community in the school
  • an improved sense of identity for students
  • developing students’ confidence and self-esteem
  • providing a safe space for students to share lived experiences, and
  • identifying issues or specific students who are having difficulties and who may need further support

Why is creating a sense of belonging important? Research shows ‘a sense of belonging’ is important for pupils’ learning, wellbeing and behaviour. Pupils who have a ‘sense of belonging’ in schools tend to be happier, more confident and perform better academically according to research by UCL Institute of Education (IOE).

It is associated with academic success and motivation. There is much research to back this up; research indicates a sense of belonging is positively associated with academic success and motivation (Freeman, Anderman and Jensen 2007). Students who feel they belong are more likely to see the value of required work and have higher self-belief in their chances to succeed on their course (Verschelden 2017). Becker and Luthar (2002) found this is especially important for the performance of adolescents coming from ethnic minority and lower socioeconomic backgrounds. It affects students’ wellbeing: Empirical studies have linked perceptions of school and belonging to positive psychological outcomes, including positive emotions, feelings of self-worth and social acceptance (Pittman and Richmond 2007, Wilson et al. 2015). More broadly, Maslow (1968) found that proper, adequate and timely satisfaction of the need for belonging leads to physical, emotional, behavioural and mental wellbeing.

Belonging is the sense of being somewhere you can be confident that you will fit in and feel safe in who you are. Strategies to create a sense of belonging in school can be shown to be linked to: increased student motivation, improved academic achievement;  reductions in student absenteeism; increased staff wellbeing and motivation and other positive social outcomes including health and wellbeing. The study also concludes that where schools are places of belonging, the benefits are far reaching for staff, as well as students.

In UCL’s IOE research, “The emphasis is on relationships. Interventions are purposeful. The aim is to create a sense of place, belonging and agency. We found that intentional whole-school practice can help create a climate of welcome and belonging in school for all.”

For the past four years, we have gathered insights from students in Year 5 to Year 13 in the ‘Undivided Student Survey’ which asks pupils about their views on the school in six distinct areas:

  1. ‘Me’ – about belonging, respect around the culture, faith and background of the pupil;
    2. ‘My peers’ – about belonging to peer groups and having someone to spend time with;
    3. Teachers and staff – positive role models, approaching teachers for help, adapting lessons to pupils with different learning styles;
    4. ‘My school’ – equality of backgrounds and beliefs, value and opportunity for pupil voice and actions from pupil voice;
    5. Making a difference – supporting diversity and inclusion in the school community; 6. ‘Your experience’ – understanding of the personal impact of school’s culture and the student experience

This year’s survey was concluded this week (12 February), and we aimed to reach (or exceed) the 75% response rate of 2023’s survey. Last year’s results were heartening, and reflected the importance we, as a school, place on developing and maintaining an inclusive and equitable community, with pupil voice at its heart. The highest scoring questions in 2023 were,

  • ‘I feel accepted at my school’
  • ‘When  I think about the students at my school, they come from a variety of backgrounds’
  • I feel that my culture faith and background are respected in school’
  • ‘I feel that my culture, faith and beliefs are valued equally in my school’
  • ‘Pupils come up with creative ideas and solutions to problems’

This year’s results will be shared with us next month, and we look forward to hearing the outcomes. Every pupil at Northampton High has a voice and is heard; pupil voice is central to our pupils’ wellbeing and sense of belonging, and sits at the core of our school ethos, our practice and our actions.


ETS Student Undivided Survey findings, 2023
Every Voice Matters, Confidence through competence, Imogen Barber, 6 February 2024
What (actually) is Meaningful Pupil Voice? Smart Schools Councils, Greg Sanderson, 13 February 2023
Pupil voice, Anna Freud Mentally Healthy Schools, 2023
Research shows ‘a sense of belonging’ is important for pupils’ learning and behaviour, UCL IOE – Faculty of Education and Society, 24 November 2020
How well do we listen? My Voice Matters, Place2Be, February 2024

Mrs Wilmot
Director of Marketing & Admissions


Globalisation and Languages: Yet more reasons to be a lifelong learner!

If you ask my A level Geography classes to outline the cause of Globalisation, I am confident they would be able to describe a range of different factors, all of which would be convincingly linked to the start of the process that we know as globalisation. Diligent students would perhaps first offer you a definition of globalisation along the lines of, ‘The movement of people, goods, capital and information between countries with few to no barriers.’ They would discuss the rise of the internet and fibre optic cables, connecting us to remote parts of the planet in mere seconds. Some might talk animatedly about the developments in commercial air travel, connecting us physically for work or for pleasure, allowing us to traverse the globe and see the wonders that it has to hold. Others might delve a little further back to the 1950’s and the birth of containerisation, enabling transport of anything and everything from tropical fruits to the latest electronics. Those who are really showing off may go back further still and touch on geographies of exploration and the colonial era of the 16th century. They would explain the role that western European explorers played in finding new lands and making contact with new communities of people. And to be honest, I’d be pleased with this as the content for any good A level answer!

Beyond that however, there is substantial evidence to suggest that ancient maritime practices in the Pacific, may have dated as far back as 3000BC. The Austronesians traversed the Pacific and much of the Indian ocean right up until 1200AD, taking with them their heritage, their culture and their knowledge of the sea and their natural surroundings. This then must be a very good example of early globalisation. But I am left wondering if the start of globalisation is even simpler than this. A more human approach perhaps, and some might accuse me of being overly romantic here, but maybe the first examples of globalisation were simply those points where someone bothered to learn to communicate with someone outside of their familiar surroundings. An attempt to learn a new language or signal to one another to reach some form of mutual understanding. 

This year, encouraged by my Dad, who is himself a natural linguist, I have started to re-learn German, a language I first learnt when I was in year 8 but, regrettably, discarded when I reached GCSE. My father has always been good at languages. He studied them at university as part of a Theology degree, learning Latin and Ancient Greek. From there, he has taught himself German, and enough French to get by, occasionally dabbling in either Italian or Spanish depending on the Kneen family holiday destination each year. It brings him genuine satisfaction to be able to successfully converse with someone in another language and I have always considered him to be a lifelong learner.

So, inspired by this, a few weeks ago I downloaded Duolingo (other language apps are available!) and made a fresh start on the German language. I must admit that I am really only at the very start of this journey, and the introductory phrases are more about getting to know the sounds and patterns that form within the language, than being able to communicate freely in conversation. At least, I hope this is the case as I am not entirely sure when I will need the phrase, “Mein Elefant ist sehr schön”, (my elephant is very beautiful!). I am loving it so far though, and there is something rather addictive about challenging yourself to learn and retain more and more. If you can get past the initial hilarity of some of the phrases, my current favourite being, “Meine Eule spielst immer Schach”, (my owl always plays chess!), then you start to make progress rather quickly. In dedicating just 10 or 15 minutes per day, I have already accrued a range of new words and phrases and, to coin a phrase from Dr Lee, I am definitely ‘10% prouder’ than I was before I started. 

I have always told myself, rather unhelpfully, that I don’t have an ear for languages. This is mostly an excuse to cover my own disappointment in myself that I don’t speak another language well, and also offers something vague to say to students when they ask me if I speak another language. In reality, this is one of those things that we tell ourselves sometimes, when we are looking for a reason why we have not succeeded in something. I have conversations with pupils every day, about the need for them to be resilient, to persevere with their learning and to try new things or at least have a go at things that previously they have found to be a challenge. The irony of these conversations is not lost on me and so my resolution for this year is to persevere and demonstrate my own resilience in learning.

Languages have an important link to globalisation because globalisation promotes cultural exchange and understanding. Learning a language allows individuals to immerse themselves in different cultures, understand diverse perspectives, and appreciate the richness of global heritage. This cross-cultural understanding is crucial in a globalised world where people from different backgrounds interact. Diverse perspectives and backgrounds are valued, and learning languages enables individuals to engage with people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, fostering a sense of inclusivity and promoting diversity. Learning a language is also a key aspect of being a global citizen. It involves not only understanding other languages but also appreciating diverse cultures and having a sense of responsibility towards global issues. Language learning contributes to the development of a global mindset and fosters better global relationships. Globalisation has led to increased international trade and business interactions. Companies operate on a global scale, and employees who can speak multiple languages are valuable assets. Learning languages relevant to international business can enhance career opportunities and improve collaboration in a globalised workplace.

So perhaps, in this ever globalising world that we live in, now is the perfect time to learn a language, and certainly a significant reason why we value language learning so highly at Northampton High School. But there is another side to this coin, and another reason that globalisation may inspire us to learn new languages.

One of the downsides to globalisation as a process, is that it can cause something called cultural erosion. Essentially, this is the stripping away of one culture to make way for another culture to sit in its place. There are many examples of this, and again my A level students will have a range of anecdotal points to make here (or if they don’t I assume they are all now scurrying off to their textbooks to remind themselves!). My Dad’s own cultural heritage is Welsh, and about a year ago he decided, in a bid to do his bit to promote a language that is spoken by very few, to learn the language for himself. To give this some context, in 2021, only around 17.8% of Welsh nationals actually spoke Welsh. Globally the number equates to just over 538,000 people in total. In comparison to English, with 1.4 billion people speaking the language globally (that’s nearly 18% of the global population), the number of Welsh speakers is very few indeed. 

In addition to the modern foreign languages that are on offer in school, I am always thrilled to hear about students who have chosen to formally study languages that are spoken at home by family members. Over the years, students here have taken GCSE’s in Mandarin, Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Persian and Arabic to name just a few. The effort and determination demonstrated by those students to independently persevere with a language is really something to be proud of and we would always encourage students to maintain those strong connections to their own cultural heritage through language.

So, what will your next step in languages be this year? Pupils at the High School have access to a range of online resources to boost their opportunities for practising their languages. Quizlet and Language Gym are used extensively and our GCSE and A level students also have access to Kerboodle Active Learn. There are lots of other apps out there as well. Duolingo, is the one I have chosen and it does have a free version that you can try out, to see if you get on with it. This might be a great extra to have in your back pocket and could really boost your performance in your chosen languages. Dare I say it, it may even give you a refreshing break from scrolling through TikTok!

Parents, you are not off the hook here. What will your next steps in languages be? Perhaps you already speak multiple languages yourself. Do you have room for one more? What about the languages your daughter is learning at school? Challenge her to see who can learn the most vocabulary in a set amount of time, or who can create the most bizarre but grammatically correct sentences! The most important thing is to try and have fun with it. Enjoy learning and engage with it for as long as you are able. And whatever it is we choose to learn, in a world where globalisation means that the speed of information sharing is exponential, can any of us really afford not to be lifelong learners?

Miss Kneen
Deputy Head Pastoral



Nurturing lifelong learners: from grades to growth

When I wrote my last blog before Christmas, it was to introduce some changes to our reports; moving towards developmental language in the way we reflect on pupil achievements and progress. Since then I have had a number of engaging conversations with parents about the rationale for this change, which relates to a philosophy of learning without limits and continual improvement that is well embedded in policy and practice at the High School. If you can bear with me, I hope I can shed some light on what I consider to be a fascinating area of educational theory.

Educationalists have long been aware that the pursuit of grades risks overshadowing the essence of learning for itself. However, by emphasising the development of skills, prioritising a culture of continuous improvement and drawing on insights from educational specialists such as Professor John Hattie, I believe we can foster genuine understanding and lifelong learning among our pupils.

John Hattie is rightly renowned for his groundbreaking meta studies, based on countless other research programmes, where he details over 250 areas of influence by order of their positive or negative impact (or effect size) on pupil learning and achievement. These include areas like ‘prior knowledge’, ‘classroom discussion’, ‘homework’ etc. In his research, Hattie has consistently emphasised the need to shift the focus from grades to feedback for improvement. His work highlights that effective teaching and learning are not just about achieving high marks; instead, they involve cultivating a deep understanding of the subject matter and the ability to apply knowledge in various contexts.

The highest effect size (ES) on achievement according to this list of influences, at 1.44, is for ‘student expectations of their own performance’, or ‘self-reported grades’, as Hattie originally called it (2012). This is a high effect size indeed: Hattie refers to an ES of 0.4 as being the ‘hinge point’ when positive change really starts to happen. For comparison, ‘feedback’ has an ES of 0.75. So what exactly does ‘student expectations’ mean as a concept within Hattie’s taxonomy and how does this link to feedback more generally?

In reality, ‘student expectations of their own performance’ can be defined as a ‘branch’ of feedback, and refers specifically to the feedback that students give their teachers about what they, as students, think they are going to learn or discover from the work they are about to do. It could involve expectations about the levels they might achieve, or conceptions of understanding they will have after the learning/testing has taken place.

The concept involves dialogue between teachers and students about students’ expectations and then requires the teacher to encourage learners to set suitably high standards to enable them to exceed these expectations, and to follow it up with further discussions after each assessment. The reason it is so effective is that, having performed at levels beyond their own expectations, students gain confidence in their cognitive or learning ability, rather than simply enhancing their subject knowledge.

One crucial aspect of this shift is to underscore the development of skills rather than fixating on a graded outcome, i.e. students should be encouraged to see each assignment, test, or project as an opportunity to review and enhance their skills and understanding, rather than merely a means to an end. Emphasising skills development fosters a mindset that values the learning journey, allowing students to appreciate the inherent value of acquiring knowledge beyond the confines of grades.

So, we believe that continuous improvement should be at the heart of the educational experience. Hattie’s research underscores the significance of viewing assessments first and foremost as tools for improvement. Teachers can implement constructive feedback, guiding pupils on areas that require attention and encouraging them to view challenges as stepping stones toward improvement.

But what makes grades so very unhelpful in achieving the above? We see a crucial concept from Hattie’s research as being the idea of ‘learning without limits.’ This principle challenges the false notion that academic ability is fixed and encourages teachers to develop an environment where pupils believe in their capacity for growth. When young people recognise that their effort and dedication can lead to improvement, they become more invested in the learning process. However, unfortunately, the evidence suggests that when students see a grade, they stop focusing on the feedback teachers are giving for improvement.

According to educational psychologist Alfie Kohn, ​‘Never grade a student while they are still learning’, as there is an assumption that the learning has been completed once a grade is achieved. Another educational psychologist, Ruth Butler, looked into the efficacy of different feedback approaches. This was via a comparison of grade-only marking, comment-only marking, and comment and grade marking. The findings were that the pupils who had comment-only marking achieved a 30% improvement in their scores across the research period. Offering both comments and grades led to the same outcomes as just giving a grade, highlighting the danger that grades can negate the benefits of feedback.

In conclusion, encouraging pupils to think effectively about what and how they learn requires teachers to focus on growth and not grades. To transcend the boundaries set by grades, we must create a culture that values independent effort, curiosity, and perseverance. Collaborative learning experiences, where students engage in meaningful discussions and share diverse perspectives, contribute to an environment that nurtures a love for learning itself. And when pupils feel supported and encouraged to take educational risks, they are more likely to focus on the learning process rather than fixating on grades. 

At Northampton High, by modelling our assessment and reporting processes on a developmental philosophy of continual improvement, we hope to demonstrate our belief in the pupils and allow them to believe in themselves.


Hattie, J. (2012) Visible Learning for Teachers, Routledge

Kohn, A. (1994) The Truth about Self-Esteem, Phi Delta Kappan, 76, 272-283

Butler, R. (1988) Enhancing and undermining intrinsic motivation: The effects of task-involving and ego-involving evaluation of interest and performance. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 58(1), 1–14.


Mr Rickman
Deputy Head Academic


Drama: Beyond Curtains

“All the world’s a stage on which we present ourselves constantly, in an ever shifting range of roles and personas. Drama is the rehearsal room for the presentation of ourselves” -Shakespeare’s Canon programme.

Creative minds, the ability to adapt oneself to a variety of situations and the skill of public speaking are what drives society forwards. A subject which unites these skills is Drama. Despite Drama being offered in many schools for a number of years, it still does not have the same status as other subjects. This article will challenge the stereotype that Drama is simply performing a play. In fact, through this article, the reader will see that it offers more skills than conventional subjects.

To begin, Drama allows people to develop their creativity which is vital for the development of a student’s learning. Creativity allows students to express themselves and enables them to invent ideas. The opportunity for students to explore their learning by ‘constructing’ ideas in the world around them, lays the foundations for good mental wellbeing and an ability to think critically. The New Zealand Curriculum describes Drama as: “A creative environment that asks students to use their imaginations to invent worlds and portray characters either through improvisation or through a thought-out, rehearsed production.” (National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement) This, over time, would prove advantageous to the overall education of a student as, through the medium of Drama, they are pushed to use their intellect and explore ingenuity.

Secondly, Drama allows us to adapt ourselves to any situation. This was researched by Kevin Brown, Associate Professor of Theatre, University of Missouri. Brown states that: “Theatre is a cultural space where society examines itself in a mirror…It helps us understand how our minds and the minds of others work.” (Kevin Brown The Top Ten Reasons Why Theatre is Still Important in the Twenty-First Century). This evidences the  idea of empathy – the ability to place yourself in another person’s shoes. In a society where mental health is an increasing topic of conversation, Drama allows students to play a part in raising awareness of it, as it explores situations from different perspectives. A Drama technique known as ‘method acting’ allows the actor to replicate the feelings and emotions of another character to better understand them.

Linking to the idea of adapting oneself is the study of ‘kinesics’. The term ‘kinesics’ was coined by Dr. Albert Mehrabian. Mehrabian was interested in studying the ways in which we use our bodies to communicate, both intentionally and unintentionally. In his research, he found that non-verbal movements, such as facial expressions, gestures, posture, and eye contact, played a significant role in how we interact with one another. This research shows how important our actions are when presenting ourselves. Therefore, Drama is already teaching the fundamentals of how to ‘survive’ in all aspects of society, for example in a professional setting, such as a job interview.

Finally, Drama explores the art of effective communication. In the study, “Arts Education in Secondary Schools: Effects and Effectiveness,” it was said by both students and teachers that: “The skill of knowing when to speak, and in what manner, was useful in many different situations, such as public speaking, group discussions, and job interviews.” Communication skills allow for a growth in confidence which benefits the student massively in all areas of their life. This idea challenges the fact that people who succeed in Drama are always confident; rather, it is quite the opposite as acting is the ability to be someone you are not, which allows for the best success. In a school setting, teaching these expressive skills allows for a collaborative atmosphere as students grow the confidence to express their own opinions and build on the ideas of others.

In conclusion, Drama, although not a conventional subject, provides the skills in life to present yourself in a professional manner and adds the ability to critically think in group settings. Personally, Drama has enabled me to thrive in confidence and allows me to develop a better understanding of the community around me. This has helped me to empathise and communicate with people from a range of backgrounds and experiences. Not only is Drama a means of entertainment for society but it also provides the fundamentals of a working society. Let’s raise the profile of drama!

Caitlin A
Year 12 Drama Ambassador


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.

Miss Kneen
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