School Blog


Out of School Hours

Activity at Northampton High School does not come to an end at the close of the school day or indeed at the end of a term. The school is lucky to have an extensive site and great facilities that it is keen to share with the wider community.


The school Sports Centre incorporates a fitness centre and fitness studio, swimming pool, tennis courts, squash courts, netball courts, sports hall, an all-weather pitch and an extensive sports field. For more information e-mail:


The community gym is open every evening and on Saturdays and Sundays for members. As well as the fitness suite there is also a programme of fitness classes on offer each week and you can book the squash, tennis and badminton courts.  Although membership is for over 16 year olds there are opportunities for a family swim on a Sunday and family use of the tennis courts.



The sports facilities are also used extensively by a wide variety of local swimming, football, hockey, badminton, tennis and netball clubs as well as local primary schools who make use of our swimming pool during the school day.


During school holidays for pupils and children in the wider community, we host Kings Camp a charitable organisation that run sports activity camps and Mad Science Camps .



A Saturday morning in term time will see the NMPAT Queens Cross Centre in operation at the school running sessions in music, art and drama


The school hall offers an excellent community venue for events but is also a regular venue for groups such as Masque Youth Theatre Company,


and Northampton Bach Choir



Other groups using the facilities range from the NCT, Blood Donors, Rotary events, The Diocese of Peterborough, SANDS and private functions.


The school is proud to be able to offer its facilities for use beyond the school day and term. The site is open from 7 am until 10 pm during the week all year round and 8 am until 6 pm at weekends. Community use of the facilities in this way is mutually beneficial and many of our pupils and their families participate in these clubs and groups. Pupils enjoy being able to bring their friends and siblings along to their school to share in the activities and facilities on offer.


Anne Headley, Director of Finance and Operations


Developing a future Gauss?

The word ‘mathematics’ is taken from a Greek word meaning knowledge, study, learning. There are a range of views among mathematicians and philosophers as to the exact scope and definition of mathematics but what is for sure is that mathematicians seek out patterns and use them to formulate new conjectures.


Practical mathematics has been a human activity from as far back as written records exist. The research required to solve mathematical problems can take years or even centuries of sustained inquiry but sometimes take only minutes.


Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss was one of the most influential mathematicians in history and was born in 1777 in a small city in Germany. The son of peasant parents (both were illiterate), he developed a staggering number of important ideas and had many more named after him. Many have referred to him as the princeps mathematicorum, or the “prince of mathematics.”


Young Gauss and the Sum of the Natural Numbers


Gauss told the story of a time, when he was a boy, the teacher ran out of stuff to teach and asked them, in the remaining time before playtime, to compute the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 20.


Gauss thought that 1+20 is 21. And 2+19 is also 21. And this is true for all the similar pairs, of which there are 10. So… the answer is 210.


One can wonder what would have happened had the teacher asked for the sum of the numbers from 1 to 19. Perhaps Gauss would have noted that 1+19 is 20, as is 2+18. This is true for all the pairs, of which there are 9, and the number 10 is left on its own. Nine 20’s is 180 and the remaining 10 makes 190.


Or perhaps he would have thought the sum to 20 adds up to 210, and 20 less is 190.


Since starting at Northampton High School, I have had the pleasure of working with some fine mathematicians and I can truly say that all the students I teach are fantastic. Perhaps there is a modern day Gauss amongst them. It is our aim to help students develop a love for mathematics.


This year we have had great success in the National Maths Challenges and for the first time we entered a Sixth Form team into the team challenge. We hope to develop this involvement further in the future. Alexandra Daly again produced a fantastic result in the National Cypher challenge coming 1st in Cypher A.


In addition, we have been looking at the way we track progress and after each assessment students are issued with a list of topics to work on. We encourage the girls to use MyMaths, an interactive online teaching and homework subscription website for schools. Building pupil engagement and consolidating maths knowledge helps to become more confident even if they are not a “Gauss”.


Mr Ball, Head of Maths Faculty


Building resilience

What is resilience?


Resilience can be defined as: a person’s capacity to handle environmental difficulties, demands and high pressure without experiencing negative effects (Kinman and Grant 2011 – lead Professor at Bedford University and Chartered Psychologist).


It is a word that is used quite a lot in the media and in education but what does it look like? How do young people acquire it? We tend to idealise childhood and adolescence as a carefree time, but youth alone offers no shield against the emotional hurts and traumas many children and young people face.


At School, the pastoral teams work closely with girls to encourage and support their development of resilience because we know that adolescents have to deal with problems ranging from adapting to a new phase of education, falling out with friends, and possibly traumatic family situations in addition to the uncertainties that are part of growing up. Building resilience can help our girls to manage stress and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.


However, being resilient does not mean that young people will not experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common when we have suffered major trauma or personal loss, or even when we hear of someone else’s loss or trauma.


Dr Ginsbury, a leading paediatrician specialising in Adolescent Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, US has identified 7 “C”s of resilience. These identifiers are what we encourage and foster at Northampton High School.


Competence – the feeling of knowing that you can handle a situation effectively


During PSHEE sessions, students are given scenarios that young people face regularly such as falling outs with friends, bereavement, stress and many more and discuss positive coping strategies to deal with these.


Confidence – a young person’s belief in her own abilities


This is about focusing on the best in a young person. Getting to know our girls, developing a close tutor/tutee relationship is crucial so that we can praise their qualities, personal achievements and academic success.


Connection – developing close ties to family and community, creating a sense of security leading a young person to connect with others


Recognising our values and core beliefs as a person so that young people understand what constitutes a healthy relationship. Working with peers, staff, the community and parents in a positive way helps a young person foster healthy relationships.


Character – how a young person develops a solid set of morals and values to determine right from wrong and to demonstrate a caring attitude toward others


Fundraiser for Plan UK, the School Charity

How older girls modelling positive behaviour influences younger girls to treat others with respect and tolerance. Working not only as a school community but smaller communities within that, such as the House system, tutor groups, charity working groups, and many more. 


Contribution – understanding the importance of personal contribution and how that can serve as a source of purpose and motivation


We encourage girls to take part in as much volunteering and charity work as time permits. Sometimes young people may feel helpless but can be empowered by helping others. Duke of Edinburgh Award Schemes, National Citizens Service, House charities and Form charities are opportunities for each young person to contribute in some specific way.


Bis Sister Little Sister Breakfast

Coping – learning to cope effectively with stress through developing positive and effective coping strategies


Guidance by staff, tutors and parents enables a young person to model positive coping strategies. The Big Sister Little Sister programme builds ties with older girls who share their experiences with younger girls, in order to provide them with the right guidance in how to cope with a stressful situation and advice on which person from their network of support can assist.


Pancake Races

Control – young people who realise that they can control the outcomes of their decisions are more likely to realise that they have the ability to bounce back. Empower girls.


Tutors and teaching staff dedicate a lot of time to talking with girls, providing guidance and support in their personal endeavours and academic needs. The partnership between staff, girls and parents is very important to us as we aim to nurture and promote confidence and competence in our girls.


There is no simple solution to guarantee resilience in every situation but we believe that knowing girls well and the adequate training and experience of staff can help girls develop the ability to negotiate their own challenges and to be more resilient, more capable, and happier.


Staff Mental Health Training

Recently, a cross section of teaching and support staff were trained in a Mental Health First Aid course, designed to equip staff with the skills needed to support girls who face mental health issues. We know that mental health and emotional problems often develop during adolescence. With greater awareness and understanding of these issues, we are able to provide help to prevent the emotional or mental health problem developing into a more serious state.


Even our Prime Minister, Teresa May’s speech signalled a ‘long-awaited and much-needed shift in thinking’ on Mental Health and the government’s recognition ‘..that the key to creating a mentally healthy society is held within our schools, communities and workplaces, not just in our health service…. This is perhaps the most vital context to help prevent mental health issues. We need the whole school to take responsibility for our children’s wellbeing’. This is a welcome approach and focus as mental health influences how we think and feel about ourselves and others. The capacity to learn, communicate and to form, sustain and end relationships, coping with change, all test our resilience.


We aim and believe in fostering an environment that enables girls to develop their emotional and spiritual resilience which allows them to enjoy life in school with a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in their own self-worth.


Sonia Margareto

Head of Pastoral Care


“In Loco Parentis”

In a few weeks’ time, my usual brood of children will temporarily drop down from 3 to 2. One will be participating in the Year 8 trip to Normandy whilst the other will be heading for the ski slopes of Alpe d’Huez  on the Junior School trip the following week. Apart from the logistical headache of collecting one at 11pm one night and dropping the other off at 3am four hours later, the fact that our normal family of five will be four for two weeks is a rather curious feeling.


As a parent, it is only natural to worry about your offspring – will they be homesick? Will they eat enough? Did I pack enough socks/snacks/sun cream (delete as applicable!). What if they’re ill? But as a parent and a teacher with experience of many school trips, perhaps my level of anxiety is less, simply because I know what goes on behind the scenes before, during and after any school day trip or residential.


In my professional career, I have undertaken many duties on trips which can be part and parcel of the job: dried up tears, mediated in teenage squabbles, cleared up sick, accompanied injured students down a mountain in an ambulance, acted out concussion in the A&E department of an Italian hospital, effectively bribed a child to carry on walking in the Lake District using chocolate raisins and even re-dressed an infected in-growing toenail on a daily basis! Perhaps the person who said “never work with animals and children!” was right?


But alongside the less glamorous side to the job is the immense pride I feel when a student overcomes their fear of heights, or picks themselves up after falling over on the slopes, or makes a purchase using a foreign language or even just looks at something with new found awe and wonder. Effectively, you get the buzz of parental pride, just with someone else’s children and that is what makes me get up for work in the morning.


Ski Trip Austria 2016

The concept of  “in loco parentis” is not a new one. Teachers have a duty of care to pupils which derives from ‘common law’ i.e. developed through decisions of the Court as opposed to law which has been determined by Parliament and set down in statute.  Traditionally, the term “in loco parentis” was used to describe the duty of care that a teacher has towards a pupil, to the effect that a teacher has a duty to take the same reasonable care of the pupil that a parent would take in those circumstances.


“In loco parentis” originally embodied the nineteenth century common law principle that a teacher’s authority was delegated by a parent so far as it was necessary for the welfare of the child. A court held, in 1893, that “the schoolmaster is bound to take such care of his pupils as a careful father would”.  During the 1950s and 1960s, case law was developed further by the courts. In 1955, it was held that “a balance must be struck between the meticulous supervision of children every moment of the day and the desirable object of encouraging sturdy independence as they grow up”. Teachers’ professionalism was recognised by the courts in 1962, where the “standard of care expected of a teacher was held to be that of a person exhibiting the responsible mental qualities of a prudent parent in the circumstances of school, rather than home life”.


The current standard of care expected of a teacher is that of a reasonable person in the circumstances of a class teacher. It has been recognised that a teacher’s duty of care to individual pupils is influenced by, for example, the subject or activity being taught, the age of the children, the available resources and the size of the class. Furthermore, it is clear from case law that the standard of care expected is the application of the ordinary skills of a competent professional, the skill and care of a reasonable teacher. If it can be shown that a professional acted in accordance with the views of a reputable body of opinion within their profession, the duty of care will have been satisfied, even though others may disagree.


Normandy Trip 2016

So as teachers, it is our duty to assess the risks, plan for many eventualities (including those curve balls that life sometimes throws), oversee the many and varied activities that our students participate in, rejoice in their successes, commiserate when things don’t go according to plan and bring them home to their parents full of stories of new experiences and with a little more independence and resilience. It’s not that dissimilar to part of the role of being a parent.


So as the departure dates approach for my own daughters, I will endeavour not to show that I am anxious, I will revel in their excitement and intrepidation. I will hug them a little tighter and wave them off on their travels. While they are away I will sleep a little lighter but ultimately I am safe in the knowledge that they are in the best hands as they broaden their horizons beyond the confines of the classrooms at Northampton High.


Imogen Tansley, Subject Leader Economics and Business


Let Them “Shine”

This year at Northampton High School, as part of our outreach programme, we have run the SHINE- ‘serious fun on a Saturday’ project. SHINE is an education charity that gives children the opportunity to acquire the skills and confidence they need to turn their potential into success at school and beyond. The charity assisted us in providing ten workshops to twenty-four Year 5 girls from local primary schools.


The workshops cover a variety of subjects including geocaching, drama, forensic science, water works challenges, Atomic Science and engineering to name but a few.
These sessions have either been presented by external experts or school staff have volunteered their time and the project has been coordinated at the School by Claire Tilley, Physics Technician.



Below is an account of one of the sessions which was run by Anne Buxton, Librarian and Leona Heimfeld, English/Film Teacher.


Anne Buxton, Librarian


When I volunteered to run a SHINE session in Spring 2016 I hadn’t any idea what sort of session I would deliver. However, after a very successful summer term shadowing both the Carnegie and Greenaway book awards (the latter with girls in the Junior and Senior School) it seemed an obvious activity to try with the girls during my session with them in November.


The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, for distinguished illustration in a book for children. It is named after the popular and highly influential nineteenth century artist known for her fine children’s illustrations and designs. Awarded annually, the Medal is the only prize in the UK to solely reward outstanding illustration in a children’s book. Previous winners include Levi Pinfold, Raymond Briggs, Shirley Hughes, former Children’s Laureates, Quentin Blake and Anthony Brown, and current Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell. In school we shadow the award in real time over a number of weeks trying to work out who we think the overall winner should be and then waiting to find out if the judges agree with us at the awards ceremony in June! Marks are awarded out of ten for artistic style, format, the synergy of illustration and text and overall visual experience.


As I would have just over an hour with the girls it seemed sensible to make this a timed activity, in effect, speed dating with picture books! Ms Tilley divided the girls into groups and each group had an attached member of staff or sixth former. One of the Sixth Form became our time keeper, each book being allocated six minutes to be read and swiftly judged. The girls rose to the occasion, quickly understanding what was expected and making very perceptive comments about the books.


The girls’ overall favourite was There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins which “Reminds us to share. Shows us not to hold a grudge” –   Eleanor.

The actual winner, The Sleeper and the Spindle written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell, was also popular but did divide opinion. The girls weren’t always sure about a Queen going on an adventure and leaving the Prince behind!


Mrs Heimfeld – English/Film Teacher


The second part of the session aimed to develop engagement with the books into a creative act. Equipped with their evaluations, the girls set out to make a film trailer for an imagined movie of the books. First, each group decided what genre the film would encompass (romance, adventure, fairy tale or comedy) and chose a suitable background and music. Next ideas were story boarded, considering how to best convey the plot and the spirit of the illustrations. The production was cast, a director chosen, and locations were scouted. Then they took the iPads and with just half an hour to complete the projects, began filming. The results were imaginative and faithful to the books, with the girls translating the often subtle and particular nuances of the illustrations into moving pictures.







Resilient Minds

“If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs” ……. Joseph Rudyard Kipling

As part of our ongoing commitment to develop resilient minds in our pupils here at Northampton High School we are about to launch a programme based on the research of the Positive group.


Positive are a specialist learning provider working across the corporate, public and educational sectors. Their work is informed by research in psychology, neuroscience and the medical sciences. They use the relevant principles of psychology and human behaviour to develop practical, versatile tools and techniques that enable individuals and teams to manage pressure and adapt to change and uncertainty in our ever evolving world. A group of our staff are at present receiving training in the delivery of this programme and the science behind it, using a number of app based tools. These will range from an Emotional Barometer, self-talk, an inner coach, a positive data log and a virtual pinboard. These will also be underpinned by a series of Mindfulness sessions.



Advances in neuroscience have shown how emotions override the brain’s operating systems, constantly influencing how we think and behave; often without us even knowing. By improving emotional literacy, we can improve both psychological health and performance. We change our minds all the time but we can also change the way our brains work by making new connections. If we focus purely on the negatives we get very good at it!



The first tool the pupils will be introduced to is the Emotional Barometer, which is a visual metaphor tool, designed to track and display your mood state over time and how we cope with stress and pressure, (see the Yerkes-Dodson model above). It will give students an insight into their emotions, how they affect their thoughts, feelings and behaviour and provide them with a basis for developing emotional literacy.


We all talk to ourselves and it can have a significant impact on our psychological health and quality of life. The tone and context of this inner dialogue impacts how we think, feel and behave. The self-talk tool and inner coach will enable the students to become aware of their own inner dialogue and supports anyone in a challenging situation to seek solutions and opportunities and to let go of negative cognitive patterns quicker. By improving emotional literacy, you can reduce psychological problems.

I have already attended the teacher training sessions and found it to be one of the most engaging I have ever experienced. The combination of science, knowledge and practical application was expertly done and it will help build resilience and improve the health and wellbeing of all our pupils.


Michele Langhorn

Assistant Head (Staff Development and Wellbeing)


Professional Development at Northampton High School

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

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

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

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.











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


‘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


‘…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


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.



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 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