Nothampton High School
High News

Friday 18 November 2022

Choices, choices…

‘We are our choices’. J-P Sartre

This famous line is attributed to the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. He said that the choices we make represent a terrible burden for us as human beings. Not because life itself is terrible, but because we are ‘condemned to be free’ and must take responsibility for everything we do. Sartre argues it is actually our choices that define us as individuals, not our personalities or intellects. Indeed, this is not something we can ever escape, because even the act of deciding not to choose is a choice.

As adults, we can all look back at pivotal moments in our lives and consider what ‘might have been’ had we made different decisions. In most cases, it is simply a matter of reflecting on the multiplicity of possible outcomes, and enjoying the positives in our lives afforded by the paths we did take. However, there are occasions when a decision taken in haste might have led to something less positive, that still impacts on our lives now, or that could have taken months or years to resolve.


I often say that school days are our golden opportunity for shaping the future, for learning how to make good choices and for building the foundations of a rich and rewarding adult life. We spend a long time being grown up and the precious moments of childhood seem increasingly fleeting and distant as time goes by. This is why as teachers we must focus on the children with us today and give them the best chance to achieve their ambitions for tomorrow, through kindness, flexibility and understanding. This is one of the central tenets of our school teaching and learning manifesto, which aims to give teachers the tools for developing excellent learning environments in school. For pupils, this means getting to know themselves too, so they can develop a positive academic self-image. We believe this comes through a 360-degree approach to teaching, learning and personal development. What we also know as the ‘360-degree Me’ approach in school, and as reflected in our holistic approach wheel.

We see the school as a breeding ground for open-minded young learners who can quickly find ways to access the curriculum and make success a habit as they move through the years. We believe that the best learners are not afraid to take risks and are happy to learn from failure, they are inquisitive and think deeply about the relevance of everything they discover about the world, both for themselves and within the cultures and traditions around them. This can only be achieved if they have confidence in the people around them to understand their needs and to guide them in finding the right ways to build their own self-reliance.


To help pupils develop the habits that will lead to sound decision-making skills, we give them as many opportunities to make choices for themselves as possible in school. One important way of doing this is by starting the academic options process early in senior school. For example, in Year 8 pupils make choices about which language options they will take into Year 9, including the option to take a brand new subject, Global Outlook. Pupils in Year 9 select two creative circus subjects from the 5 they start with, as an early taste of how GCSE options will impact their timetables. 


Throughout Key Stages 4 and 5, students are given the opportunity to practise their decision making in multiple ways. Firstly when choosing from the extensive menu of enrichment options and then when deciding on which additional volunteering and academic electives they will build into their Sixth Form portfolios. This is not to mention the decisions all students learn to make in their academic lessons and the huge range of extracurricular activities they choose from on a daily basis. In the latest school inspection report, this was particularly praised by inspectors who commented that ‘pupils make good decisions; they can justify their choices and understand the importance of individual autonomy and responsibility’.

However, pupils are not left to their own devices when making choices. To return to the question of academic decision making, the really important ones are for GCSE and A Levels, when dedicated processes support and guide the students towards the best possible pathways individually. The timetable is then crafted to suit their options, but not with a fixed set of blocks that reduce the flex within their choices, as seen in many schools. Beyond this, we allow students at GCSE to make some decisions on the quantity of subjects they opt for; giving them the chance to build in private study periods if they wish, following guidance from specialist staff in school. Of course, at every step, we ensure that they have reflected on their decisions carefully, with an eye to the future and on what is most likely to help them achieve their individual goals.


At this time of year, pupils in Year 9 and Year 11 are acutely aware of the magnitude of the academic choices that they are facing and the school is ready to support them. Following the Sixth Form information evening in October, individual consultations for Year 11 students have begun this week, allowing parents, guardians and students time with experienced teachers to reflect on their priorities. Shortly after Christmas, the focus will turn to the Year 9 pupils as we invite families into school to learn more about the four-year journey to GCSE and A Levels at the school. 

No stone is left unturned in the quest to ensure students make the right choices at both these vital points. However, we also know that young people need flexibility and understanding after the event, and we remain open to changes for a period of time once the choices are made, within the realms of the possible. To do otherwise would be a disservice to the young people we nurture, who need to know that we understand their priorities and recognise that mistakes can be made, and rectified, while their futures are still very much an open book.

J K Rowling’s take on the importance of making good decisions is perhaps more accessible than the one I started with. Albus Dumbledore says, ‘it is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’ In any event, the importance of making good choices in life cannot be underestimated; there is something inescapable about the impact of our decisions and we are more likely to be successful and happy if we make the right ones.

Sartre J-P, 1943, Being and Nothingness An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology, Routledge, 2018
Rowling J K, 1998, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Bloomsbury
Independent Schools Inspectorate FCI/EQI report 2019 available at

Mr Rickman
Deputy Head


The Week Ahead

Monday 21 November
Hockey: U12 & U13 vs Akeley Wood

Tuesday 22 November
Psychology Year 13 Drop-in Clinic

Wednesday 23 November
Hockey: U10 vs Thornton College U12

Thursday 24 November
Learning Ambassadors visit from Oxford High School
Yr 11 Consultation

Friday 25 November
Y9 Hockey Weekend

Please click here to view the Clubs & Activities timetable for the Autumn Term

The Importance of Kindness – Getting behind Anti-bullying Week

For the new school video that our brilliant marketing team is putting together, I was asked many interesting and challenging questions and one of them was ‘Snap my finger to change one thing in the world’. My answer to this question is ‘I would make everyone kind. It costs nothing to be charitable and makes you more friends than enemies!’. My message here is ‘if you can be anything in life be kind’. The great thing is that it isn’t difficult to be kind. As the Dalai Lama said, ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’.

Kindness is probably my number one attribute in a human being – I will put it before courage, bravery, generosity, or anything else. Kindness is such a simple word but ‘to be kind’, in my mind, covers everything. If you are kind, that’s it. Being kind often requires courage and strength. Kindness is an interpersonal skill. 

So, let’s ask ourselves why does it matter? It has been suggested that humans’ ability to be compassionate and empathetic are two of the qualities that set us apart from other animals. In the book Sapiens: A brief history of humankind, Yuval Harari argues that it is our innate ability to imagine that allowed humans to become dominant animals in the world. Our capacity for imagination gives us an ability and the power to stand in the shoes of another human being and it is this which enables us to act and behave in ways that support them – it encourages us to be kind. This research is further amplified by Darwin’s study of human evolution who did not see mankind as being biologically competitive and self-interested. Darwin believed that we are a profoundly social and caring species. He argued that sympathy and caring for others is instinctual. Furthermore, current research supports this idea. Science has now shown that devoting resources to others, rather than having more and more for yourself, brings about lasting well-being.

At Northampton High, I often come across two distinct ways in which kindness manifests itself. Firstly, and perhaps most frequently, in showing kindness to others. For example, old-fashioned good manners are the norm – you are greeted with smiling pupils who hold open doors, make eye contact, and engage in conversation. Secondly, and much less consistently, in showing kindness to ourselves.

So, back to the question of why kindness is important: I do not want to depress you but think about a time someone was unkind to you – sometimes it is deliberate, sometimes not, but I want you to remember how it made you feel. I can remember occasions and the impact: I felt down, I could not concentrate, I struggled to be civil, I did not want to go into a place where the person was, I did not feel especially safe or secure. 

Experiencing persistent unkindness can impact on the brain. Individuals who report experiencing verbal abuse from their peers during school years can exhibit underdeveloped connections between the left and right sides of their brain, through the massive bundle of connecting fibres called the corpus callosum. And aside from the neural impact, those feelings are not feelings anyone should have. It means it is difficult to learn, it impacts on overall happiness and reduces self-confidence. 

These are all good reasons why we should not be unkind but should, instead, be kind – we are not all going to be friends, but we can be friendly and considerate. Much as being unkind to someone can have a lasting impact, so can being kind. A fascinating feature of kindness is that it appears to be self-replicating, and as such, kindness fuels kindness, thus inspiring others to be kind. Simply put, when we ourselves perform an act of kindness, this is likely to encourage others to act in a similar way. Being treated with kindness can have an enduring and endearing impact so let’s not overlook this simplest of words – let’s value this most important human trait and all make a little more effort to act with kindness towards one another. 

The theme for this year’s Anti-Bullying Week is Reach Out and it is something we can all get behind. We all have a responsibility to help each other reach out. Together, let’s be the change we want to see. Reflect on our own behaviour, set positive examples, and create kinder communities. 

Dr Lee

Year 8 visit Northampton Art Gallery and Museum

On Thursday afternoon, Year 8 textiles students spent time visiting our local art gallery and museum, exploring the wonderful collection of footwear in the shoe gallery. In textiles lessons this year, our Year 8 students are designing and making their own fabric shoes, exploring shoe designers and developing creative textiles techniques.

Northampton Art Gallery and Museum boasts one of the largest collections of shoes and shoe heritage in the world. We were inspired to find out about Northamptonshire’s shoe-making heritage, the shoe design and manufacture process and explore the diverse collection on show.

In addition to the shoe gallery we visited a temporary exhibition (showing until February 26th) “ Trainers: a global obsession”. This exhibition is a fascinating insight into a multi-billion dollar global industry. There is a focus on cultural influences and the environmental impact of the trainer and its consumer.

We look forward to showcasing our shoe designs later in the academic year.

Miss Lycett
Textiles Teacher

High Sports

Youth Tennis Team: On Thursday 10 November, Andra T, Lucy N, Emma N and myself travelled to Shrewsbury to play in the regional Tennis finals. We all played extremely well against some tough opponents and managed to win our first round – not dropping a match! Unfortunately, we lost in the finals against Repton School.

All tough matches, but well done to Emma for winning a long singles match in the finals!

Well played to everyone that went. Hattie K

Netball County Cup: On Tuesday 8 November, we went to the County Cup and played many different schools. The finishing results came in and we placed 3rd, a great result!

We all played our best throughout each match, giving it everything and pushing ourselves no matter how tired we were.  Well done to everyone, it was a great result that we worked hard to earn. Anna C

GDST U15 Hockey Rally: After qualifying back in September, the team travelled to Croydon for the next round of the GDST U15 Hockey Rally.

The coach journey was delayed a little bit due to traffic on the motorway, however when we got to Croydon, we warmed up with the spare time we had and jumped straight onto the pitch.
We all put 100% effort in and was very unlucky with our results – some great saves were made by our keepers and some brilliant chances were given into the D. The team eventually came 7th which is a fantastic achievement! Gracie H

Women and Coding

Women and coding have gone hand-in-hand throughout the decades.

Some would have you believe that coding and programming is strictly a man’s world.

Don’t believe a word of it.

There may be a gender gap currently but go back to the Second World War, and you’ll find women occupied the lion’s share of positions in the UK’s fledgling computing industry. Females played a key role in the crucial work that infamously cracked the Enigma Code, while they also calculated military logistics, which proved priceless in turning the war in the Allies’ favour.

Today women are hugely under-represented in the computer science and programming industry. This is something Northampton High School is aiming to change.

As Stephen Hawking once famously said: “Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe or you just want to pursue a career, basic computer programming is an essential skill to learn.”

Coding helps children with critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and mathematics writing.

People speak different languages across the world. Coding is the language of computers – essential in today’s technology-driven world. Like learning languages, it is accepted that the younger you start, the sooner you will become proficient. Learning to code is no different.

It helps children develop academically, and builds perseverance and organisational skills that can translate into a career.

Coding is the past, present and future.

And Northampton High School pupils will be learning this vital skill from the outset because history, as we know, is on our side.

Mrs Smith

GDST's 150th Birthday Celebrations

On Thursday 17 November, Northampton High enjoyed a very special assembly led by Cheryl Giovannoni, in celebration of the GDST’s 150th birthday. Our students listened carefully as they learned more about the history of the GDST and the brave and ambitious women who paved the way in girls’ education.

‘In 1872, the founders of the Girls’ Day School Trust embarked on a mission that would change the course of girls’ education forever. Our very first schools – Kensington Prep and Notting Hill & Ealing High School – were established at a public meeting held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The ambition was to make a first-class education available to as many girls as possible.

These four brave women – Lady Stanley of Alderley, Maria Grey, Mary Gurney and Emily Shirreff – dedicated their lives to making sure that girls were given the same opportunities as their brothers, at a time when opportunities for girls to be educated were scarce and hard won. Their mission has burned bright ever since and is reflected in the ambition and innovation in each of our schools today.

I believe, without any doubt, that in today’s complex, contradictory and pressurised world, girls’ education has never been more important. As we celebrate our 150th birthday and reflect on the noteworthy achievements of the past, we should remember that each one of us is playing our individual part in writing this chapter of the GDST’s history, to be celebrated by girls and women for generations to come.’ – Cheryl Giovannoni, GDST Cheif Executive

Good Luck to Ella who will be competing in Glasgow!

Everyone at Northampton High would like to wish Ella good luck and every success in representing England in the Home Countries’ International Schools’ Indoor Pentathlon Championship, which will be staged in Glasgow on Saturday 26 November 2022.

Dr May Lee

Wrath by Marcus Sedgwick – Dyslexia friendly, age 12+

Cassie Cotton has always been unusual, a bit different – but this only makes her more intriguing to her classmate Fitz. Cassie can hear a noise that most people don’t notice or recognise, and she believes it’s a sound that shows the Earth is in distress, damaged by human activity that is causing climate change. When this belief leads to her being ridiculed and bullied at school, Cassie disappears. Fitz is determined to find her, but he has no idea where to start looking, or if he’ll be in time to help her…


A clever, unsettling piece of story telling as you would expect from Marcus Sedgwick, highly recommended.

Miss Buxton
School Librarian

Christmas Fayre - Friday 2 December

We are excited to be hosting our first and now annual Christmas Fayre event on Friday 2 December, from 4:30 to 6:30pm. This event is open to staff, students and families, and we do hope you will join us on the evening after school as we kick off our Christmas celebrations – it looks set to be a wonderful evening!

The event includes a Christmas Market, Festive Refreshments, Christmas Carols and lots more!

We are also thrilled to be hosting a Silent Auction, with lots of fabulous prizes to be won! To bid, please email your bid, plus your name/child’s name and contact information to Bidding will close on Friday 2 December at 6:30pm. Good luck!

Flu Immunisations - Tuesday 29 November

We kindly remind parents that flu immunisations for students in Reception to Year 9 will be taking place on Tuesday 29 November.

Please can we ask that you sign and return the consent form, being mindful that the consent period closes 72 hours before the date of immunisation.

If you have any questions, please do get in touch.

Mrs Dunkley
School Nurse

Schoolblazer Flash Sale

Schoolblazer will be running a flash sale this weekend, with 20% off all in-stock items on Saturday 19 November and Sunday 20 November.

To browse the website and check stock availability, click here.

Raise Her Up: Ramita Navai

This fortnight’s episode of Raise Her Up features brilliant Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, foreign correspondent and GDST (Putney) alumna Ramita Navai, who has reported from conflict zones including Syria, Afghanistan and Iran.

In her podcast In The Line of Fire, she speaks to fellow war reporters about their experiences.

She joins us on this episode to give us insights into her undercover work, how she prepares to go into hostile territory, her experiences as a female reporter – and why she would still recommend her profession to budding journalists.

Festive Wreath Workshops - Adults Only

We have arranged for an excellent florist (Bouquet Chic) to deliver wreath-making workshops for any interested staff, parents, friends and family members.

Why not book a place to enjoy making a festive creation along with friendly people and a supportive and talented instructor? Spaces are £65 per person which includes everything you’ll need to make a fantastic, impressive wreath for your door and refreshments during the workshop.

Join us on Tuesday 5 December 5:30-7.00 on Wednesday 6 December 12:15-1:45. To book a space for yourself and/or friends and family members please contact

Miss Hair
Head of Junior School

Community Nursery Sessions

Term Dates 22/23

Northampton High School
Newport Pagnell Road, Hardingstone Northampton NN4 6UU
T: 01604 765765 nhsadmin@nhs.Gdst.Net