Nurturing lifelong learners: from grades to growth
When I wrote my last blog before Christmas, it was to introduce some changes to our reports; moving towards developmental language in the way we reflect on pupil achievements and progress. Since then I have had a number of engaging conversations with parents about the rationale for this change, which relates to a philosophy of learning without limits and continual improvement that is well embedded in policy and practice at the High School. If you can bear with me, I hope I can shed some light on what I consider to be a fascinating area of educational theory.
Educationalists have long been aware that the pursuit of grades risks overshadowing the essence of learning for itself. However, by emphasising the development of skills, prioritising a culture of continuous improvement and drawing on insights from educational specialists such as Professor John Hattie, I believe we can foster genuine understanding and lifelong learning among our pupils.
John Hattie is rightly renowned for his groundbreaking meta studies, based on countless other research programmes, where he details over 250 areas of influence by order of their positive or negative impact (or effect size) on pupil learning and achievement. These include areas like ‘prior knowledge’, ‘classroom discussion’, ‘homework’ etc. In his research, Hattie has consistently emphasised the need to shift the focus from grades to feedback for improvement. His work highlights that effective teaching and learning are not just about achieving high marks; instead, they involve cultivating a deep understanding of the subject matter and the ability to apply knowledge in various contexts.
The highest effect size (ES) on achievement according to this list of influences, at 1.44, is for ‘student expectations of their own performance’, or ‘self-reported grades’, as Hattie originally called it (2012). This is a high effect size indeed: Hattie refers to an ES of 0.4 as being the ‘hinge point’ when positive change really starts to happen. For comparison, ‘feedback’ has an ES of 0.75. So what exactly does ‘student expectations’ mean as a concept within Hattie’s taxonomy and how does this link to feedback more generally?
In reality, ‘student expectations of their own performance’ can be defined as a ‘branch’ of feedback, and refers specifically to the feedback that students give their teachers about what they, as students, think they are going to learn or discover from the work they are about to do. It could involve expectations about the levels they might achieve, or conceptions of understanding they will have after the learning/testing has taken place.
The concept involves dialogue between teachers and students about students’ expectations and then requires the teacher to encourage learners to set suitably high standards to enable them to exceed these expectations, and to follow it up with further discussions after each assessment. The reason it is so effective is that, having performed at levels beyond their own expectations, students gain confidence in their cognitive or learning ability, rather than simply enhancing their subject knowledge.
One crucial aspect of this shift is to underscore the development of skills rather than fixating on a graded outcome, i.e. students should be encouraged to see each assignment, test, or project as an opportunity to review and enhance their skills and understanding, rather than merely a means to an end. Emphasising skills development fosters a mindset that values the learning journey, allowing students to appreciate the inherent value of acquiring knowledge beyond the confines of grades.
To read the full entry, please click here.
Deputy Head Academic
Monday 29 January
GDST Select Football & Netball trials
Tuesday 30 January
Fixture: U14&U15 Netball
Wednesday 31 January
Y9-11 Intermediate Maths Challenge
Thursday 1 February
Y9-13 Reach Lecture
Fixture: U12 Netball
Y7 Parents Evening
Friday 2 February
IAPS U13 Netball tournament
Please click here to view the spring term’s Clubs & Activities list and timetable
The benefits of knowing oneself and being oneself
Our term continues apace and it seems to be flying by! We recently held our Year 7 Entrance Assessment Day, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to acquaint prospective families with our school. During my informal conversations with them, I often set out our school mission statement, “we believe in our girls, and they believe in themselves” and how this remains the cornerstone of everything we do here.
I also get asked about the defining features and attributes of a Northampton High education and how it is different from the competition. I take great pride in elucidating the four uncompromising principles that underpin all that we do:
- Girls will always come first: everything is built around the girls and their needs including our classroom, our curriculum, and our culture. For example, all of our pupils swim in our pool from the age of three and a half and our aim is to break the mould and give our girls the confidence to question everything.
- We are fearless and nurture it in our girls: girls who, in turn, are unafraid to speak up, speak out and speak loud, and to think differently. This is achieved through our innovative High School Approach and by our Learn, Reach and COaCh programmes.
- We are forward-thinking: our school embraces change to prepare girls for an exciting future in dynamic learning environments for everyone. Our girls believe everything is possible and the intellectual characteristics – collaboration, curiosity, independence, perseverance and risk taking – are in the High School’s DNA.
- We are a family, which collaborates, supports, and shares all our learnings and experiences. We are also part of an extended family of GDST schools – with 25 schools and academies united in one purpose: to help every girl fulfil her potential and to lead the way in providing an unrivalled education.
It is evident that our prospective families recognise many of the elements that I have highlighted above, and they were sensing the authenticity of my message. This got me thinking about the importance of personal authenticity. As human beings we have an instinct for those people who we feel are inauthentic and, when we sense that we are not seeing the ‘real’ person, it can make us feel uneasy and uncomfortable. By contrast, authenticity is perceived when a person’s actions are consistent with their beliefs and desires: what they say about themselves seems to match up with what they do.
‘Know thyself’, was inscribed in the forecourt at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. This, according to Sorates, leads to true wisdom because it involves both being aware of what you do know but more importantly, knowing what you do not know. The ancient aphorism ‘know thyself’, which in modern times has been expanded to ‘know thyself be thyself’ to encapsulate the essence of authenticity, is well known but what does it take to be authentic and how authentic do you think you are?
People who have personal authenticity tend to have realistic perceptions of reality and an understanding of themselves. Those who are self-aware and secure in their identity are able to encounter beliefs different from their own without any sense of threat. We also tend to trust people who we sense are authentic because they keep their word and there is a sense of consistency to how they act and behave, and what they do. Inauthentic people are often self-deceptive in ways that do not appear to correspond with who they are. You cannot be authentic without first possessing a strong sense of character.
To read the full entry, please click here.
Dr May Lee
Every year at the High School, staff take great pride in facilitating a week of learning opportunities to enhance pupils’ understanding of the Holocaust. As a UCL Beacon School in Holocaust Education, teachers are committed to increasing expertise on the topic and believe it is a critically important part of young people’s learning. To mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Saturday 27 January, students have engaged in a week-long programme of activities inspired by this year’s theme, ‘The Fragility of Freedom’.
Commencing the dedicated week with a Senior assembly, Teacher of Theology and Philosophy, Ms Eldridge spoke to students about Sophie Scholl and her involvement in the non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany; the White Rose. Acknowledging Sophie’s story as a powerful example of bravery, resistance and advocacy for freedom, Ms Eldridge encouraged the group to consider the fragility of freedom both throughout history and in the present day.
Departments across school have incorporated this theme into lessons, with Year 8 geographers examining how conflict affects children’s human rights, and History students focusing on the rise of Hitler and the Jewish experience in Nazi Germany. Learning continued through cocurricular activities, with reading recommendations including ‘Diary of Anne Frank’, ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ by Judith Kerr, and Tom Palmer’s ‘After the War’. Tom Palmer worked extensively with the UCL Centre for Holocaust education when researching his novel, which focuses on the experiences of the Windemere children; a group of young Jewish refugees who were helped by psychologist Dr. Oscar Friedman.
We were delighted to welcome award-winning author, Tom Palmer, into school to conclude the week of commemorative events. Many of Palmer’s children’s books highlight themes of war and introduce younger readers to concepts and historic events that can often be challenging and complex to comprehend. During his visit, Tom hosted a Q&A session with Year 6 and Year 7, and read excerpts from his new book which will be released later this year. Year 8 enjoyed an educational workshop led by Tom and Helen McCord from UCL, who used new resources that UCL have worked on with Tom based around his book.
Reflecting on the week’s activities, Ms Eldridge explained how this year’s theme encouraged students to be mindful of how quickly freedom can be lost, and how important it is for them to act against injustice in all its forms. We look forward to continuing Holocaust education at Northampton High for many years to come, and supporting UCL Centre for Holocaust Education in their vital work.
Equestrian team compete in county qualifiers at Bury Farm
On Saturday 20 January, the Equestrian team had their first outing of 2024 at the county qualifiers hosted at Bury Farm Equestrian Centre.
The 70cm team of Lexi D, Esme S and Lily F rode wonderfully to finish as the 5th place team in a huge class. The same team went on to compete in the 80cm. Lexi and Lily had fabulous clear rounds with Lily finishing in the top 15 in a class of 68 riders! Fabulous teamwork girls, well done!
Later in the day, Indi R and Nancy D took on the bigger jumps in the 90cm and 1m classes. These jumps were full up and the course was very technical in both classes. In the 90cm, Indi and Nancy finished 13th and 14th, respectively, in a huge class of 50 riders. In the 1m class, Nancy rode well to finish third from Northants whilst Indi achieved top rider and qualified for the National finals in Hickstead in May.
A superb day out and thanks to Mr Rickman and Mrs Saunders-Wall for their support in the afternoon.
Our next outing is in March, so if you have a pony that you compete on please come and see Mrs H-T to join the competition squad.
Head of Science Faculty
There are many advantages to being part of the GDST network of schools, and a current one is being able to join their online careers information events.
These events are open to students from across all year groups, as well as teachers and parents. The programme below shows interesting evenings across a wide range of disciplines.
Students can sign up for future events here. Bios for future speakers (once confirmed) can be found here.
Do feel free to contact me if you’d like more information on any of these events.
Our Year 9 students continue to prepare for their final performance as they reach the end of the current subject rotation. Here we can see them all working diligently to prepare a group performance of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns and Roses.
Our focus is currently on coordinating vocal parts, chords and riff for a full bodied performance. They will continue to create a performance as authentic as possible, in groups, as they look at potentially adding percussion and drumkit parts ready for their final performance.
The UK Linguistics Olympiad
The Linguistics Olympiad is a national competition about solving global language puzzles – so will appeal to linguists but also mathematicians, scientists, computer coders and anyone who likes a puzzle!
The advanced level (Year 12-13) will be held on Wednesday 7 February in the morning. It is a national exam and you need to register in advance: do let us know if you’d like to be involved!
For Year 7-11 students, we will hold the internal competition in the last week of half term: you can choose whether to enter individually or in groups, and you can choose your level (Breakthrough, Foundation or Intermediate.) Each round lasts 90 – 120 mins. Let us know if you’d like to take part, and we’ll inform you of the date/time!
Please find sample questions here, and for more information about linguistics generally, please look here.
Teacher of Classics
Are you confused about when to keep your child off school? Please see the relevant and up-to date information for guidance:
GOV.UK: A parent’s guide to keeping kids healthy this school term
BBC: Back-to-school illness advice offered to parents
NHS: Is my child too ill for school?
Please can I take this opportunity to remind parents that students are not allowed to carry medication, unless it is emergency medication (e.g. salbutamol inhalers and AAI’s) or medication that has been previously discussed with myself. Sixth Form students are permitted to carry one dose of paracetamol/ibuprofen. If your child requires medication during the school day, this should be handed into reception and a consent form must be completed. Medication must be in date and provided in its original box. Prescribed medication must be clearly labelled by the prescriber.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Resist by Tom Palmer (dyslexia friendly)
As the brutal Second World War stretches on with no end in sight, life for ordinary Dutch people in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands is fraught with peril and hardship. There is very little to eat and the population lives under the constant threat of arrest and enslavement.
After the murder of her beloved uncle and the capture of her brother by the Germans, Edda is determined to do anything she can to help the resistance fight back against their oppressors.
But what can a teenage girl do and how much risk is she willing to take?
Award-winning author Tom Palmer shines a light on the incredible work of the WWll Dutch resistance, in a story inspired by the childhood of Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn.
Save the Date: Alumnae Reunion Lunch
With the new year upon us, we are delighted to share the date for our 2024 Alumnae Reunion Lunch. This special lunch is always a highlight of the school calendar, and we are thrilled to be hosting this year’s event on Saturday 2 March at 12:30pm.
We hope to be joined by as many alumnae as possible from both the Hardingstone and Derngate sites, as well as former staff and friends of the school for a delicious two-course lunch and the opportunity to connect with friends old and new.
For more information and to book your tickets, please click here.
Director of Admissions and Marketing
Reach Lectures - Spring Term 2024
The weekly Reach talks are an opportunity for students in Years 9-13 to explore areas far beyond the school curriculum, broadening their horizons and developing their skills of curiosity and critical thinking. We are excited to offer this programme to our students and are very grateful to all our speakers for giving up their time to share their expertise with us.
Any parents who might be interested in contributing to the Reach lectures in 2025 are encouraged to email email@example.com.
Diversity and Inclusion Calendar 23/24: February
Northampton Swimming Club: Intensive Course
PQA Stage & Screen sessions
EFC Football Development Camp
Northampton High School - Where girls learn without limits
Northampton High School
Newport Pagnell Road, Hardingstone Northampton NN4 6UU
T: 01604 765765 nhsadmin@nhs.Gdst.Net