We believe in a complete education, tailored to our girls and young women, encouraging them to learn without limits.
Our role as educators is not to pigeonhole or conform to stereotypes. Instead, we encourage our spirited girls to be curious and independent, resilient and brave; to lead and be individuals, whilst recognising the value of collaboration and teamwork.
Key to this philosophy is the academic experience in the classroom, of course, with public examinations often dominating one’s conceptions of learning in a school.
However, there is another key ingredient at the heart of a complete education, and this gives our learners the edge – the non-examined element of the curriculum.
Naturally, we continue to develop lively, fresh pedagogy for our lessons, giving pupils responsibility for their own development within a supportive and accepting community of learners. But, in order to gain the necessary independence of thought, collaborative abilities and essential subject skills that will lead to excellent exam results, we must allow them the opportunities to find out what this means for them as individuals. In doing so, turning a student’s ‘can we?’ into ‘we can’.
This is where a vibrant extracurricular and enrichment programme is important; but arguably the most important component of the wider co-curriculum is our House system, as this brings the whole community together in very tangible ways.
The concept of Houses in schools reflects ideas of family, teamwork and belonging. At the High School, pupils are proud members of Artemis, Demeter, Hestia and Selene; names taken from Greek goddesses, chosen many years ago by the students. While House members do not physically live and eat together as would be the case in a boarding school, the concept of spending time together and caring for each other in a special group is very much alive.
Globally, the House system has been boosted in recent years by the Harry Potter franchise. Indeed, we were pleased to reward the winning House for the autumn term, Demeter, with a Harry Potter-themed lunch in our spectacularly redecorated ‘Grand Hall’, including special guests Professors McGonagall and Snape!
That said, where Harry Potter fans might respond emotionally to certain Houses – such as a feeling of resentment towards Sytherin – the reality is that ours are equitable and exhibit a gentle ebb and flow over the years. For example, you may find one year that a House is successful at sports while another excels in the dramatic arts. However, over time, everyone gets the chance to excel and enjoy successes, as well as to commiserate with each other, as part of a caring and shared experience.
Our House Leader is Mr Laubscher. Each year, Heads of Houses are elected from the Sixth Form and work closely with the House Leader to develop the programme of events and activities throughout the year. These include, amongst others, House Plays and Storytelling and the brand new Big Brag, not forgetting, of course, the all-important whole-school Sports Day in the summer term. Regular House assemblies also take place to help gel the membership and allow rehearsal for the various activities; these are led by the Heads of Houses, with support from teachers within each House.
When I spoke to Mr Laubsher about his thoughts on the value of the House system, he reflected on his own school days:
“My school was in a very hot part of South Africa, often reaching 40 degrees in the daytime. I recall Sports Day at the sports field where all the parents would have gathered. Fires would be lit for barbecues and pavilions decorated with House colours and posters. I was a terrible athlete but always super excited about this event. Did I realise at the time that this would be a very dear memory of my school days? Probably not. What I did feel was that I was part of a team. I belonged. On the day, it did not matter if I won or lost personally. I was happy driving home with my parents after the event, insisting that my House was better than my sister’s.”
What Mr Laubscher loves about the House system at Northampton High is how, within the huge range of activities available, every student can find a role and discover their very own ‘we can’. They might enjoy creating props for the events, choreographing routines, making banners, participating in the sport events or writing a rap for their Big Brag chant.
In the process, students develop relationships with other students in different year groups and feel part of a team. They feel that sense of belonging and tune in to their own values; they learn to respect others, exercise leadership and grow ambition. In short, the House system teaches pupils lessons for the real world and, vitally, forms deep-seated identity and camaraderie. Essentially, it will be not only an academic record and qualifications that define our young women; it will be their memories of House events, contributions to the wider life of the school and their broad range of educational experiences.