School Blog


“If not me, who? If not now, when?”

‘Feminist’ can be perceived as a bit of an ugly word. Associated with protests and man haters, it has earnt itself an unjustly harsh reputation and is now often used as a rather derogatory term against women who, in some cases, merely express an opinion on the issues of rights or gender equality. A misunderstanding of the word has caused a fear of those who would identify themselves as feminists, conjuring up stereotypical images of angry women with hairy legs or prompting others to make snap judgements and incorrect assumptions about their sexuality. Hairy legs and sexuality are just two of a long list of completely irrelevant connections to the word, so why are they there?


germaine-greerGermaine Greer “We are not feminists because we hate men, we are feminists because we love and respect men and we don’t understand why they don’t always return that respect” 









Upon typing ‘feminist’ into a google search, I was immediately bombarded with images of the above as well as numerous pictures of female protesters in various different stages of undress. Is this really how the world views feminism? Dismayed and irritated, I confronted my sixth formers and upper fifths with the issue and was greatly relieved to find that this is not how they viewed things. Many said that they associate the word as positive but several girls highlighted the fact that many people often interpret it incorrectly. For those still unsure, feminism is simply the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. In other words, men and women are equal and should be treated as such. So despite the negativity of the internet that I had experienced earlier, if my 17 year old students have a more positive outlook on feminism, then perhaps there is hope yet.


Another common misconception is that feminists are all women. Perhaps because of the obvious link to the word ‘female’ and the fact that the most famous feminists, such as Germaine Greer, have been women.


prince-harry daniel-ratcliffe benedict











emma-watsonBut, in her speech to the UN, Emma Watson spoke openly about the gender inequalities faced also by men. She said, “we don’t often hear about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes”, but those challenges are there for men, unable to express their true self, just as much as they are for women.












My musings on feminism over the last few months have stemmed predominantly from the furious political battle, raging on the other side of the Atlantic. Thousands of American citizens have voiced their opinions about both candidates for a multitude of reasons and one of the most dominant arguments to span both the Democratic and Republican voters include the issues of Gender and Sex.


Since the results of the US presidency were announced last Wednesday, we have seen a torrent of social media posts about the concerns that many US citizens have about women’s rights. Many would argue that the USA have elected a chauvinist (amongst other rather unflattering adjectives), which could be significantly detrimental to the progress for global women’s rights that have already been made. However, I want to put more of a positive spin on the US election and highlight some of the details that the media has conveniently forgotten to mention.



hilary-clintonLast week Hillary Clinton lost the US election for Presidency. This is a fact and in my opinion, a great shame, although as President Obama wisely identified over the weekend, “no one ever said democracy would be easy”. But I don’t want to focus on her loss. I want to focus on her incredible achievement. Women have put themselves forward for Party Nomination since the 19th Century, when Elizabeth Woodhull attempted to represent the Equal Rights Party in 1872. Since the early 1900’s there have been only 10 separate females who have actually been General Election Candidates, Clinton being one of them. But Clinton,  is the only woman to have ever won the presidential nomination of a major party, in her case, the Democratic Party.


Regardless of her overall defeat in the 2016 election, Clinton continues to chip away at that thick ‘glass ceiling’, showing women across the world that they can make a difference. Fifty years ago, men and women alike would have scoffed at the idea of a female president. But as Clinton points out, if we don’t try we will never know. As women, we should never be afraid to fail. A failure is not something to be ashamed of, it is something to learn from. We should however, be very afraid to never try. One of the most surprising statistics to come out of the election was the number of women who voted for Trump because they did not believe that a woman’s place is in the White House. It is therefore not just criticism from men that women must overcome, but criticism from ourselves.


In striving for progress rather than perfection, Hillary Clinton has paved the way for the next generation of women to move up the ranks to positions of seniority, not necessarily for presidential election but for life in general. For that next promotion at work, or election to member of parliament, if we don’t try we will never know. Emma Watson argued that “It is time that we all see Gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by who we are.” Celebrating and supporting each other, regardless of religion, gender, sexuality or race is the only way that we will ever reach our true potential.


Back in September we took the girls in 6:1 to Cambridge for the day to hear from a number of speakers and take part in various workshops. Our headline speaker was Hayley Barnard who spoke of the importance of using failures as learning points to move forward. She also gave the great advice of “if you don’t ask, you won’t get”. This links well with the idea of ‘if you don’t try you will never know’.


The message that I want my students in school to take from this is that as women, we are often the under-dog. This does not mean that we should shy away from challenge and allow our male counterparts to assume roles of responsibility over us. It also does not mean that we should see ourselves as in direct competition with men, fighting for the right to call ourselves the best. It means that we should face those challenges head on, supporting those around us, regardless of gender. Now is your time to take to the global stage and continue the journey of great women who came before you. Whether your strength is academics, sports, the arts, etc…. your time has come to make your mark. Do not dwell on the failures, but learn from them and move forward. Pick yourself up when you fall and adjust to face the next challenge more effectively.


So remember in those moments of self-doubt, that we all experience from time to time, ask yourself, just as Emma Watson did,


“If not me, who? If not now, when?” (Emma Watson, 2015).


Miss Rebecca Kneen, Deputy Director Sixth Form


The science of education

img_0794lrIn 2009, after a year’s work, the Science Council agreed the definition that

“Science is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the natural

and social world following a systematic methodology

based on evidence.”




Whether or not you agree wholeheartedly with this wording, the scientific methodology is both beautiful and practical: objective observation and measurement, evidence, formulation of a hypothesis, experimentation or observation, conclusion drawn from facts or examples, critical analysis and finally verification and critical scrutiny.  If we are entering a “post-truth” world, our students need to be armed with all the tools they need to separate fact from fiction.  Science is by no means the only subject in which Northampton High School girls are trained to do this, but the scientific method provides a concrete framework around which to build those crucial thinking skills.


image_previewInterestingly, the Science Council’s definition includes the “social world”.  Schools are certainly a social world; so should scientific research methods be applied to education?  The University of Cambridge think that not only is there is a place for Science in education but also for Neuroscience and in 2005 opened the Centre for Neuroscience in Education.




In addition, the Centre for Educational Neuroscience was established by University College London, Birkbeck University and the Institute of Education as a research centre with the aim of combining the expertise of researchers in child development, neuroscience, and education at the three world leading universities. The website states

cropped-cen_logo_trans_wide“Education is about enhancing learning, and neuroscience is about understanding the mental processes involved in learning. This common ground suggests a future in which educational practice can be transformed by science, just as medical practice was transformed by science about a century ago.”


But how is the gap between university-based academic research and the day-to-day craft of teaching bridged?  “We need better systems for disseminating the findings of research to teachers on the ground,” was Dr Ben Goldacre’s response when asked by the Department for Education how to improve the use of evidence in schools.  A variety of bodies have taken up this challenge including the GDST who have set up a Research Learning Community project to give teachers the opportunity to become research engaged and establish effective evidence-informed interventions that can be employed to improve girls’ confidence.


The teacher in me and the scientist in me are thrilled by the potential huge benefits to the staff and students of Northampton High School and beyond.


Mrs Rachel Fenn, Subject Leader Chemistry


Welcoming back our alumnae

jo-head-and-shouldersIn a month we will be celebrating at our Awards Evening the events and achievements across the school from the past year and in particular welcoming back our recent leavers, the Class of 2016. This year we are hosting an inaugural reception for them before before Awards which will be the first time that they come back into school as our alumnae rather than pupils. As a school, and as part of the Girls’ Day School Trust, we see our alumnae as a core element of the school, integral to our history and also playing a part in our future.


Class of 2016
Class of 2016


OGA Lunch 2016
OGA Lunch 2016

Northampton High School has over 2000 alumnae on its database and many more who we know will be in touch with each other from their school days. We are committed to staying connected and aim to keep strong ties with our former pupils, former staff, parents and friends through events, reunions and keeping them up to date with news from the school. We love to hear from our alumnae and find out what they have been doing since they left us but they also play a much greater role with many coming back to give talks, provide careers support or even just to share memories with us of their time at the School. Our Old Girls and Associates are a dedicated group who run a very successful Annual Lunch and produce a big annual newsletter which goes to all alumnae and friends of the school on our database. The next lunch will be on the Saturday 28 January 2017, all welcome.




When they leave the High School, girls are not only an alumna of Northampton High but also part of the Girls’ Day School Trust Alumnae Network, the largest organisation of its kind in the country. Established in 1994 as the Minerva Network, and renamed the GDST Alumnae Network in 2011, it has over 70,000 members involved in a wide range of activities all over the world. Members benefit from networking both socially and professionally, face to face and online. It brings together alumnae based in the UK and overseas, making connections, sharing news, passing on careers and university expertise, hosting professional and social events, and helping alums link to old and new friends alike – from their old schools and from others.


GDST women share many characteristics, but the Network is composed of people from many different paths in life – City bankers, stay-at-home mums, charity workers, entrepreneurs and more. The diversity and size of the community are what help to make it special. It is a unique network and can provide opportunities to contact women at university and doing different careers across the world.



First impression of the new buildings in 1992 by a L4 pupil
First impression of the new buildings in 1992 by a L4 pupil

We have very exciting times ahead in the history of Northampton High and we are looking forward to seeing our alumnae who we are already in touch with and reconnecting with many other former pupils to mark some key milestones. Next year we will be celebrating 25 years on our Hardingstone site. The school moved here in 1992 with the building opened by the Queen on 16 October. We will be inviting our alumnae who left this site (Class of 1993 to present day) to come for an afternoon on 14 October 2017 of ‘sharing memories and fun’ with a chance to tour the school, chat to old friends, staff and former staff and we hope as many as possible will be able to join us.


The following year, 2018 marks our 140th Anniversary and even more celebrations and activities will be happening to mark this important year in the school’s history.



If you are a former pupil and are not currently part of our alumnae network please register your details here and we’d love to hear from any alumnae about what they are doing now, please email Jo Fitzroy-Ezzy or get in touch with her at the school address.


I leave you with the words from the first verse of the school song written to commemorate the School’s Jubilee in 1928:


Northampton High School! Name we love,

Long may we hold her dear.

Come one and all join in our song.

With love and ringing cheer.


Jo Fitzroy-Ezzy, Development Director


The Rio Olympics – what will be the legacy for girls?

jo-hackett-2-croppedAs I sit here pondering how to welcome a Paralympic champion back into school and how to celebrate her phenomenal achievements, I start to wonder what will be the legacy from her performances and those of all the other exceptionally talented individuals at both the Olympics and Paralympics. There is no doubt that Ellie Robinson has surpassed all expectations, even her own, by winning a Gold and a Bronze medal in Rio in the S6 swimming classification, but what do her achievements mean to everyone else? Yes, the whole school has been behind her, yes we are exceptionally proud of her, yes we love her ‘gangster poolside entry’ but what will the legacy be?


Perhaps she will inspire others to strive to achieve their goals and feel that they can achieve against the odds? Perhaps she will encourage younger pupils to develop their swimming by swimming in the same pool that she has? Perhaps her success will remind people of avenues that sport can open up or the risks that we have to take in order to achieve at the highest level in any field?



























Alongside this success perhaps we need to consider how we can inspire the young women of our generation of the benefits to taking part in sport and exercise. It is a worrying statistic that a third of girls aged between 8 and 16 think that vigorous exercise is socially unacceptable. Why? Sport has been all over social media for the summer of 2016. So can the success from Rio highlight how sport can help in all aspects of life. It was a wonderful opportunity to see that if you work hard, develop as a team and take risks anything is possible. One of the main Olympic highlights was the gold medal for the GB hockey team, not just because of the development as a team but also as this is one the major sports played by all girls in their time at school. Their victory showed that self-belief goes a long way. Sam Quek said the following before the women’s hockey final;


That gold is ours. We know we can take this all the way, if it’s between heart, skill and passion, then I don’t think we can be beaten.

“Ever since we landed in Rio, I’ve known this was going to be something special. We’ve put everything into training, we’ve left nothing to chance, we’re an incredible unit and that will be enough. We will win gold.”


The Olympics is a chance for women’s and men’s sport to be on a level playing field, however, out of the 69 medals won by team GB at the Olympics only 24 of these were won by women, only 35%. Why is this? Sport for a number of girls is still not ‘cool’ and in a society where social media is the way forward we need to consider how to motivate our young performers of the future. Laura Trott explains that the reason she got into cycling was that her mum used to cycle to lose weight so she went with her. Is image the main driving factor for women in sport?


Jessica Ennis-Hill, Eleanor Simmonds, Laura Trott are all names which we have seen so often in the press who have had such a positive effect on the ethos of women’s sport and what it is possible for women to achieve. They are all ordinary people who have pushed themselves and strived to achieve a goal that at times would have seemed impossible, but they didn’t give up. Is this not the biggest message for people to take from the Olympics and possibly even more from the Paralympics? Nothing comes easily and everyone in order to achieve in every field has to be prepared to take a risk and fail. In order to win you have to be prepared to lose, however, winning takes on many different forms. Perhaps this is the legacy from the summer of 2016, we are as proud of Ellie Robinson for her 4th place swim as we are for her gold medal swim.


Maybe we should all be more like Ellie and take every opportunity that is in front of us and make the most of it regardless of social media, friendship groups, what is on the television or any other excuses. Be like Ellie, and go for it!


Mrs Jo Hackett,


Director of Sport


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

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



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





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





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



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


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



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


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


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



Henry Rickman

Deputy Head



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

de Bono, Edward; Teaching Thinking, Penguin, 1976

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

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



Keep Calm and Carry On Reading

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


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



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


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


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


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






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


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


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


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



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






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













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

Find out more about the shortlisted books at


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

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


Ms Anne Buxton, Librarian


Real Life Experiences Versus Online

sonia I remember my A Level History lessons with fondness. My teacher brought History to life in class by showing students her many slides of archaeological digs to ancient lands such as Israel, Greece and Egypt. This inspired me to visit some of these places throughout my life as an adult. I did not just want to read about them in a book but wanted to experience them like nothing else can, a chance to connect, understand, and explore objects, perceptions, feelings, and innovative thoughts. Seeing a picture can’t ever replace material engagement with an object. We can’t anticipate the kinds of questions we’ll want to ask of objects in the future, so a digital record should never take the place of an object or image. There’s no replacement for the real thing.




andy_warhol_wpap_by_junxlittledevil-d7ccbmo   andy-warhol-ashmolean



















Recently I spent a day at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford visiting the Andy Warhol exhibition. Coming face to face with artworks of an inspirational artist whom I studied at school enabled me to understand more about his reasons for creating his art work and his interpretation of popular culture and consumerism. This experience broadened my knowledge and appreciation of the art work which made me think about how young people learn new material not just in class but through technology.



Teachers of young people are in a prime position to encourage them to widen their life experiences beyond the classroom and experience real life by bringing the classroom teaching alive and broadening their thoughts, feelings and ideas. We offer many school trips to cultural and science museums, art galleries and many more. The power and influence of ‘being there’, a real life experience compliments the curriculum taught and more importantly, enriches the learning of any student.



A reproduction of an artefact, whether it’s a photograph or a digital version of it, for example, can travel much further than the artefact itself. It can be in many places at once and so dramatically enrich the conversations that surround it. You lose something when you are engaging with a work of art or a specimen on a computer screen. You can’t walk around it, or touch it, or see how light plays upon its surface. It can be hard to appreciate the scale of something – whether it’s incredibly delicate or whether it dominates the room.


Digital life is so much part of society’s way of interacting with people and the world around them. This experience and way of living is only a way but not the only way. According to Jim Taylor, PhD ‘The power of prime’, a Psychology Professor at the University of San Francisco, believes that wired life is not real, meaning experiences are created by technology with the aim of ‘simulating an experience’. He goes on to explain that,

‘The problem with this “low-resolution” life is that, though it shares similarities to real life, it lacks the high resolution and the granularity of real life…..There is always something between us and our experiences’.


Susan Greenfield, a noted British neuroscientist, broadcaster and member of the House of Lords, who has studied the impact of new technology on people believes that, ‘for all of its appearance of freedom, technology puts us in a box, a very bright, shiny, and fun box to be sure, but a box nonetheless. You may think those dropdown menus give us options, but what they really do is limit choices that limit our thinking, imaginations, and actions’.


At Northampton High School, we encourage girls to be bold, creative, confident and competent women who have the skills to think, question, take risks and broaden their learning experiences.  Real life enriches our sensory experiences through sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance, movement, temperature and emotions. Technology has come a long way replicating these through visual graphics and sound but these are artificial and are they enough?



So, what do you plan to do on the weekend or on your next holiday? Visit a museum, art gallery or walk the streets of the ancient town of a foreign city? ‘Why we go to museums, or art galleries, travel to distant lands doesn’t really matter as much as what we get out of our visit. We may go to see a famous artwork, and end up meeting someone special. We may go to get out of the rain and come face to face with an artefact that changes the way we think, or lifts us somehow; something that sets us on a wholly new journey of discovery. Make it a real experience.



Sonia Margareto,

Head of Pastoral Care


Inspirational Women’s Day

helen-stringer-high-res-2-200x300 For Queen Elizabeth II to appear alongside Angelina Jolie is not a common occurrence (although, as the photograph shows, it is not unprecedented) but their names were linked in an interesting way on Tuesday as we, alongside thousands of other schools and organisations, took time out of our busy schedules to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD)











So, what do the Queen and Angelina have in common?  Read on to discover more.


IWD, as it has become known, is now a global phenomenon with its own website, partnerships with a number of corporations (from Accenture to Western Union) and even a link with the World Association of Girl Guiding.


We may wonder why it is important to have an IWD – after all, we don’t have an equivalent for men!  (Actually, we do.  International Men’s Day falls on 19 November and is recognised in 70 countries worldwide but, inaugurated as recently as 1992, it has gained nothing like the traction of IWD worldwide.)


Reports, such as that by the World Economic Forum – published, ironically enough, on International Men’s Day 2015 – may go some way to explaining why IWD is growing in prominence with each passing year.  The Report concluded that, since women globally currently earn on average about 54% of the wage of their male counterparts for similar work, at the present rate of change, it may well take until the year 2133 to close the gender pay gap.   Even in the UK, ranked 18th in the world for pay parity, the gap currently stands at about 14%.  Put another way, this means that women in the UK in effect work for free in comparison with their male co-workers from 9 November each year.  IWD may be said, therefore, to be dedicated to ensuring its own eventual demise as unnecessary, which may rescue it from the charges of tokenism levelled at it by some feminist critics.


sylvia1-300x192The event, in fact, has a long history; the first recorded Women’s Day, organised by American socialists to commemorate a strike by the Ladies Garment Workers’ Union in New York, took place as long ago as February 1909.  The date of 8 March was first chosen in 1914 after British Suffragette leader Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square on that day.  From the very beginning, then, IWD was associated with the struggle for economic and political equality.  In 1917, for example, women in St Petersburg, holding an IWD demonstration, played a crucial part in the world-changing events of the Russian Revolution.





A second dimension, however, to IWD is its aim to ‘celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women around the world’ in a bid to address the relative lack of visibility of women in many areas of life – for example, in boardrooms and at the Bar, in professorial chairs and at operating tables.  Relative lack of visibility, I say, because there are millions of women today who are doing tremendous work and acting as inspiring role models to their contemporaries.  One such is Louise Pentland, a blogger/author and Northampton High School alumna, who came to add ‘a sprinkle of glitter’ to our Book Week in February. Louise has recently been chosen by the United Nations as one of their Change Ambassadors with a remit to campaign for gender parity, adding her distinctive voice to the thousands who are using social media for gender barriers to be torn down.



p1220399-300x225This is why, at Northampton High, we chose to celebrate IWD 2016 as INSPIRATIONAL Women’s Day, by asking the question ‘Who is the most inspiring woman of our times?’  In Senior School, our special Assembly opened with Rebecca Thomas and Natasha Wilcockson performing their own arrangement of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ for cello duet.






p1220393-300x200To launch our search for the Inspirational Woman of 2016 we heard four students, Rosie Saxton, Elisa Hemeng, Priya Lakkappa and

Victoria Eden speak, with eloquence and conviction, in favour of their nominees – 7/7 attack survivor Gill Hicks,  German Chancellor Angela Merkel, educational activist Malala Yousafzai and actor and humanitarian campaigner Angelina Jolie respectively.  Meanwhile, in Junior School, the Year 6 girls collaborated to compile a list of women who inspired them, coming up with a dozen names from many walks of life – sport and the silver screen, politics and philanthropy – and different generations (Meryl Streep alongside Jessica Ennis-Hill, for example).


Then came the Big Vote – the excitement of polling and waiting for the final result.  Which brings me back to Queen Elizabeth II and Angelina Jolie, who shared the honours as Junior and Senior School winners respectively.  And which only goes to show, reassuringly, that there is no identikit role model for Northampton High girls and that inspiration comes in many forms.  Isobel Carman used the IWD video booth, set up by Ms Heimfeld during the week, to pay a moving tribute to her courageous mum and the Reception girls nominated Mrs McCue, our own Catering Manager, following what was clearly an inspiring tour of the school kitchen with her. Finally, I should add my own roll call of inspiring women –  my colleagues Mrs Drew, Mrs Fordham, Miss Fraser, Ms Heimfeld, Miss Hurst, Mrs Li-Lakkappa and Mrs Wrightson, who did a great deal to make the day special.


Dr Helen Stringer, Headmistress




Philosophy For Children (P4C)

Socrates said that “The unexamined life is not worth living” and here at Northampton High School this is one of our fundamental aims to ensure that our students develop their thinking skills as thinking is life.


The P4C or “community of enquiry approach” has been shown to develop this still further as it is very adaptable; which is why it is used in adult groups as well as schools, and for recreational as well as educational purposes.


The approach has been implemented here at school as the aim behind it is to develop resourcefulness in the use of language by putting enquiry into the heart of the educational process, teachers begin to ask more open and genuine questions, whilst students become more confident in expressing their puzzlements and in developing their interests.


But developing a community of enquiry requires more than just concentrating on better questioning. It is equally important to develop reasoning and reflection, both in public and private. And these bring into play, among other things, emotions and the thoughtful expression of emotions.


In essence the process is multifaceted and profoundly personal. It presents an intellectual challenge to our girls, but also a social and emotional one. It encourages open-mindedness, and creates conditions for change.




Philosophy for Children promotes a forum for open dialogue in which participants are not content to exchange ideas and opinions as if they were bits of information. This term the U4th have been involved in looking at development in Sub-Saharan Africa, they have asked questions, sifted arguments and explored alternatives. Above all, they try to understand each other and the role disease is playing in the development of this area.


Mrs Langhorn, Senior Teacher


Is sport considered to be a risk too far in modern day society?

jo-hackett-300x225Whilst contemplating this blog I have started to think about the place of sport in our lives. We all know the physical benefits of sport and are often subject to healthy lifestyle campaigns about regular exercise, informing us that all adults should take part in 30 minutes of pulse raising activity daily and high intensity exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes 5 times a week. Those of us doing this are less likely to suffer coronary heart disease or osteoporosis and so on. Yet in today’s society 80% of women are not taking part in the recommended levels of sport to stay healthy. Is sport considered to be a risk too far in modern day society?






I started to think about the idea of risk taking and sport as a vehicle for this. Look at Beth Tweddle one of Great Britain’s most celebrated Olympic gymnasts who made the decision to participate in the reality television show ‘The Jump’. During the show she suffered a serious injury resulting in back surgery having fractured one of her vertebrae. She is making inroads on her road to recovery, but this begs the question, was this area of sport and this challenge one step too far? In this instance we are looking at extreme sports, and we know that sports people are on the whole ‘adrenaline junkies’;  when they have finished competing at a high level will they always be seeking the next challenge? But is this why they are so successful? Do they assess the risk and decide that it is manageable? When anyone steps into the field of competitive sport there is a huge risk and the possibility that, despite all the hard work and training, you will play your best of your ability and still not be successful. Is this a life lesson that we all need to learn? It makes me think of the quote by the world’s most famous basketball player Michael Jordan;




michael-jordan I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’


Perhaps this is what sport teaches us. It is okay to take a risk and to fail, or to rephrase this, in order to win you have to be prepared to lose. Consider the thought that obstacles don’t have to stop you, if you encounter a wall think about how to climb it, go through it or walk around it. Is it this attitude and way of thinking that bring us to the following findings; that female executives say participation in sport helps accelerate leadership and career potential and that 74% of employers say that a background in sport will assist in the professional careers of women? A more recent study showed that 96% of the highest ranking female executives played sports and 55% of them at university level or higher. There is even a direct link between playing sports in high school and earning a bigger salary as an adult. In addition to this, recent research has shown that for every 15 minutes of regular exercise that young people take part in, their academic performance increases by a quarter of a grade. It was even possible that children who carried out 60 minutes of exercise every day could improve their academic performance by a full grade.


So why do we take part in sport. is it to do better in exams? Is it for the ‘love of the game?’ Is it because our parents did? All of these reasons could be yes, but in the whole world of sport and life remember the following;



“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” –Vince Lombardi


“The glory of sport comes from dedication, determination and desire. Achieving success and personal glory in athletics has less to do with wins and losses than it does with learning how to prepare yourself so that at the end of the day, whether on the track or in the office, you know that there was nothing more you could have done to reach your ultimate goal.” – Jackie Joyner-Kersee


Mrs Jo Hackett, Director of Sport