Nothampton High School
High News

Friday 21 June 2024

Positive reinforcement – how and why praise works to improve wellbeing and achievement

Praise and positive reinforcement is a cornerstone of effective teaching and is an essential tool in motivating pupils to succeed. If this seems to be a statement of the obvious, I would suggest we only need to look back a few years to see embedded practices in schools that were the very opposite of positive reinforcement. Hours spent in detention writing lines, singling out pupils for public criticism, or worse, once were all too common methods for bringing children into line. There is much written now of how similarly negative experiences have smothered a love for learning in many people. But, of course, negative reinforcement is not restricted to such clearly unacceptable practices and it is our responsibility to ensure that we monitor the learning environment carefully to ensure that our focus remains laser-focused on pupil wellbeing and learning without limits.

Educational research has explored the reasons why praise plays such an important role through how it impacts pupils’ self-esteem and confidence, which are such essential ingredients for academic success. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) highlights that positive reinforcement helps pupils believe in their abilities, encouraging them to tackle challenging tasks and persevere. This boost in self-confidence propels them to set higher goals for themselves and strive towards achieving them. Research also shows that well-applied praise can foster intrinsic motivation by helping pupils internalise the value of their efforts and achievements, leading to deeper and more persistent engagement with their learning. Key to this is the trust that teachers place in their students by offering encouragement and belief in the abilities of their pupils. Indeed, according to Professor John Hattie’s research meta analyses, positive teacher estimates of achievement can boost outcomes by over a grade.

Of course, praise must be specific and sincere to be effective. A Sutton Trust report stresses the importance of targeted, meaningful praise in boosting pupil motivation and achievement. Emphasising effort rather than innate ability encourages a growth mindset, a concept popularised by psychologist Carol Dweck. Research into the effects of praise for effort versus praise for intelligence indicates that praising pupil effort, strategies and persistence, helps them develop a belief that they can improve through hard work. This shift in focus from fixed traits to personal development and learning is crucial for long-term success and self-belief.

Beyond the purely academic, encouraging a positive culture of pupil attitudes in school can also be supported by effective use of praise. The EEF’s guidance report on behaviour management emphasises that recognising and praising good conduct leads to better classroom engagement and fewer disruptions to learning. This positive cycle fosters a setting where students feel motivated and supported over the longer term, helping them to develop the resilience needed for success in academic areas.

Additional factors to bear in mind include the appropriate timing and consistency of praise and the way feedback is delivered to pupils. Immediate feedback helps pupils connect their actions to the praise received, reinforcing positive learning attitudes and boosting achievement. Consistency ensures pupils understand the standards and expectations in their learning environment. Furthermore, both public and private praise have their places in school. Public praise can build a positive classroom culture and encourage peer recognition. However, we know that some pupils may feel uncomfortable with this, making individual praise more effective for personal reinforcement without causing social anxiety. We can achieve this using software such as Google Classroom or Mote.

I suspect that nothing much of what I have written will appear contentious and may even appear simplistic and obvious. However, I maintain the point that in many educational settings a culture of control still prevails. While nobody will disagree that praise is beneficial, we have to be guarded against approaches that reduce its positive impact, whether this happens knowingly or not. Praise must be based around constructive feedback and recognised values that are shared within the institution or it risks appearing disconnected or tokenistic. Taking a balanced approach ensures praise remains meaningful and contributes positively to the learning process.

How does all this fit into our ethos and values at Northampton High School? Many of you will be aware of the High School Wheel that speaks to our holistic approach to education and includes our learning characteristics, alongside the three main spokes of Learn, Reach and Coach. Within these areas are further subcategories such as volunteering, academic challenge, careers, spirit, being 10% braver… Beyond this we also have values relating to personal development, such as inclusion, moral compass and, importantly, kindness. By focusing our praise around the core values we hold as a school we are trying to ensure the process of giving and receiving praise is more transparent and consistent. We have worked hard to put a love of learning and a sense of positivity into everything we do in school – our current termly awards ceremonies are testament to this. However, we believe there is always more that can be done to ensure that everyone’s talents and character are properly recognised and pupils feel known and understood.

We have started to explore ways in which we can improve the process teachers use to deliver and monitor the praise we give. We are keen to ensure nobody slips between the cracks and to recognise not just the obvious successes but also those things that make the school the special place it is. So often these are seemingly small day-to-day actions, such as noticing someone without a partner in an activity, maintaining excellent attendance or helping younger pupils with their work in late prep. 

By revamping the praise system and bringing in a digital platform, we hope we will be better placed to categorise actions, big and small, provide immediate feedback and thereby reinforce the connection between actions and rewards. The platform we are currently exploring also offers a public forum for recognition, where pupils can see their achievements building up. Tangible rewards for gathering praise points will be available and House points will also be included. We are confident that this visibility will enhance motivation, as pupils are not only driven by personal goals but also by a sense of community and shared success. We will inform parents in the next academic year about the new praise system once we have tested it thoroughly.

Mr Rickman
Deputy Head Academic

The Week Ahead

Monday 24 June
Year 8 Careers Day
Year 12 Physics Trip to Tenpin

Tuesday 25 June
U14 & U15 Cricket @ Northwood College

Wednesday 26 June
Sixth Form Welcome Day
Creative Arts Festival

Thursday 27 June
Year 10 Careers Day
Year 7 Fun Day
Sports Presentation Evening

Friday 28 June
Welcome Day
Bronze DofE Training Walk

Please click here to view the summer term’s Clubs & Activities list and timetable

'Annie' school production wows audiences!

What a special week we’ve had here at Northampton High School! 

After months of hard work and preparation, our cast and crew were thrilled to finally present this year’s musical production of ‘Annie’. Performing three shows across three days, the talented team demonstrated professionalism, resilience and bravery, leaving their audiences in absolute awe.

Each year, our Senior School performance highlights the excellence of our students and staff in the Creative Arts, bringing together talented individuals in Drama, Art, Music and Textiles. Situated in our state-of-the-art theatre, crowds were seated and transported into the world of Annie, with the beautifully constructed set, designed and created by our amazing Creative Arts Faculty, proving the perfect setting for our cast to shine! Entering the stage with confidence and composure, each student embraced the opportunity to perform for captivated audiences, delivering excellent interpretations of their characters.

This year, we were delighted to welcome Year 5 students from 3 local primary schools, Delapre, Hardingstone and Preston Hedges, to enjoy this amazing show. A wonderful time was had by our visiting guests, with one teacher commenting “It really was such a fantastic opportunity (for our students) … it could very well have inspired many who have never considered Drama before!” Our week-long programme of performances culminated in our feature show for our visiting families, friends and colleagues, and in a night filled with talent, joy and applause, it was wonderful to see pupils from each year collaborating well and making memories to cherish. Excelling in their roles and supporting one another, the true brilliance of our student body was on show. A huge thanks must go to Mrs Marriott for her skill, dedication and genuine love for musical theatre which shines through every year. Mrs Marriott continues to produce phenomenal productions for audiences to enjoy, all whilst equipping students with the skills and professional experience required to succeed on the stage.

Thank you to our wonderful guests and school community for joining us on a night which is certain to live long in the memory. We look forward to continuing our Arts Season next Wednesday with our Creative Arts Festival, details of which you will find directly below this article.

Mr Nash
Senior Marketing & Communications Manager

The Arts Season at Northampton High

This Wednesday evening, we are excited to host our annual Creative Arts Festival, an evening that celebrates the excellence of our students in the world of the Arts.

Our annual Festival includes an exciting Performing Arts Showcase in the Theatre, along with a summer picnic served from the Food Department. There are outstanding displays of Art and Textiles work around the site and we are delighted that Year 4’s sea urchin ceramic lights will take pride of place as a solo exhibition outside the Theatre entrance. All students from Nursery to Year 13 will be justly celebrated and we take great pride in our inclusive school where every girl’s creativity matters to us all.

As Head of Faculty, and on behalf of my talented team, I would like to thank you for your continued support of our students in the world of the Arts. Never underestimate how much it means to a young person when you attend an event and offer those words of encouragement and praise. They will not forget your kindness.

Mrs Beacroft
Head of Creative Arts Faculty

GDST Alumna of the Year and Trailblazer Awards

It’s that time of the year once again!

Voting is now open for the annual GDST Alumna of the Year and Trailblazer Awards. To find out more information about this year’s fantastic finalists and details on how to cast your vote, please click here. Voting closes on Friday 12 July, and we really appreciate your support.

Good luck to all of this year’s amazing nominees!

Miss Price
Digital Marketing Assistant

RHS ' No Adults Allowed Garden' design entry

Earlier in the year, members of our Wildlife and Gardening club enjoyed designing their own mini-gardens. The group is now hoping to make their garden design ideas a reality, and plant up some mini-gardens before the end of term to take part in the RHS ‘No Adults Allowed’ garden design competition!

We would love to make this project as exciting as possible and would like to ask for your help in collecting a few of the required materials. If you happen to have any of the below and would be able to donate, we would be very grateful!
  • Old wellies/walking boots
  • Fishtank/transparent bowl
  • Plastic trays
  • Large container or buckets (suitable for mini trees)
  • Old colander
  • Any spare plants, e.g. herbs, annuals, basket plants, etc.

If you think you can help, please do email me at Many thanks in advance for your support and generosity.

Mrs Peto
Teacher of Latin

Welcome Day: Swap Shop opening

We are delighted to be hosting our Welcome Day on Friday 28 June for new students and their families.

For this event, we will be opening Swap Shop from 2.30-4.00pm in the Dining Room for parents to purchase uniform ahead of their daughter beginning in September. Swap Shop offers a sustainable option for families who wish to donate old uniform or purchase new items of clothing. It’s particularly well received by new families of the school and relies on donations from current or past parents. If you have any items of uniform that your daughter no longer wears, please can we encourage you to donate them via Junior or Senior School reception.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Miss Cheng
Admissions Registrar

Northampton High School's MasterChef competition returns!

Northampton High’s MasterChef competition is back, and students are invited to take part in our annual school cooking competition. Students will be required to cook individually, or team up with another student, to produce and present a dish.

Students have been sent an email with a Google Form link to sign up and choose which day they would like to compete. The first round date choices are: Monday 24, Tuesday 25 and Thursday 27 June, with the final taking place during the last week of term.

There are exciting prizes up for grabs for the runners up and winners, and we look forward to this event taking place!

May the best MasterChef win!

Miss Knight
Subject Lead Food Technology

Book Review

Recommended for Year 9+

One murder. One impossible case. Who is guilty? When hero policeman Grant Cliveden dies from a poisoning in the Old Bailey, it threatens to shake the country to its core. The evidence points to one man. Jimmy Knight has been convicted of multiple offences before and defending him will be no easy task. Not least because this is trainee barrister Adam Green’s first case. But it will quickly become clear that Jimmy Knight is not the only person in Cliveden’s past with an axe to grind.

The only thing that’s certain is that this is a trial which will push Adam – and the justice system itself – to the limit…

Miss Buxton
School Librarian

Save the Date: Sports Awards Evening

Save the Date: Cultures Day

Save the Date: Speech Day

Diversity and Inclusion Calendar 23/24: June

The Lowdown Wellbeing Event

Sunrisers vs Central Sparks Cricket

Northampton Swim Club Intensive Course

Code Ninjas Northampton

PQA Stage & Screen sessions

Made for Girls

Term Dates

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