21st Century Design for Life

Rachel Evans, Director of Digital Learning & Innovation, considers the impact of this year’s CPD on 21st Century Learning Design, evaluates the Social Robots project against the rubric and reflects on the value of this approach for teachers and students.

During the last term of this unprecedented school year, groups of teachers have been lifting their gaze beyond the challenge of the pandemic to reflect on the way we teach and learn. Since April, colleagues from the Junior and Senior Schools have been considering 21st Century Learning Design.(1) An academic research programme funded by Microsoft in 2010, the Innovative Teaching & Learning Research Project described and defined this pedagogical approach. Collaborative research was carried out across ten countries, with the Institute of Education in London as one of the partners. The outcome formed the basis of a framework for evaluating and designing schemes of work, and subsequently a programme of study for teachers.(2)


The six components of 21st Century Learning Design (21CLD)

21CLD is a lens through which we can view the planning and delivery of the curriculum – as broadly as across a whole topic, or down to the level of an activity within an individual lesson. The rubric-based approach across the six topic areas prompts teachers to think about how to effectively build skills which are not necessarily well understood or embedded by other pedagogical approaches. Whilst we may not accept the popular discourse about the necessity of ‘21st century skills’, the framework addresses the need for students to beopen to new ideas and voices, direct and be accountable for their own work, and conduct effective and meaningful collaboration: all skills which are valuable in a swiftly changing world.

A collaborative professional development opportunity

Teachers were assigned a module of the course to work through independently, and then came together in study groups to discuss the concepts and teach each other the module they had studied. This has proved an exciting way to learn about 21CLD and apply it to our own classroom practice. Mixed group discussions outside the silos of departments and key stages revealed how this pedagogy is applicable across different subject areas and age groups, and identified where there are connections with existing approaches, such as Kagan structures or Harkness method for communication and cooperation, and our STEAM+ interdisciplinary work.

The discursive approach allowed teachers to be candid about their experience. Delving into the detail of the rubrics brought self-reflection: one teacher saying “I thought we’d be brilliant at collaboration, but actually we often co-work rather than collaborate.” Teachers evaluated existing activities against the rubrics and considered how they could adjust their lesson plans and projects to create deeper engagement and more agency for their pupils, and substantive and meaningful work as a result. New plans for a science project about pollution and the revision of a history research topic are among the outcomes of this period of study. Junior School teachers investigated how different levels of the rubric might appropriate at different Key Stages: they plan to create examples of suitable activities to inform the planning of lessons which will develop skills over the pupil’s time in the infant and junior years.

The process was not uncritical, with much debate in both parts of the school around the knowledge construction module: balancing innovative approaches with the needs of the examination system and our own belief in the value of scholarship made for interesting conversations.

A real-life example of real-world problem-solving

As I studied the course myself and designed the programme for teachers, I evaluated one of my own projects.

The Social Robots Club, which the Head of Computer Science and I began two years ago, is an excellent example of real-world problem solving and collaboration within the 21CLD framework, which has arisen organically through the interests of a group of Year 10 students. You can read about their work in this week’s WimTeach[link], where the girls have written about their project and experiences.

The purpose of the club was to experiment with our Miro-E robots (3), in order to plan their inclusion in the curriculum. It is the students who have driven the project forward. From our early brainstorming about uses for the robots, they chose a goal, defined their project and set to work. How does this activity measure up as an example of 21st century learning?

Collaboration

Students work as a team, assigning roles for each task, and making their own decisions about the process and product. The work is interdependent – for instance, dividing up the writing of code into segments which will be later combined.

Skilled communication

Students have produced presentations for Junior school staff, a lesson plan for Year 5 pupils, surveys and a leaflet for parents and an assembly for the school community. They carried out academic research including writing to the authors of papers with further queries.

Knowledge construction

We had never used such sophisticated robotics at school previously, but the group are already competent coders, so are applying their knowledge. Research for the project has covered psychology, pedagogy and computer science – certainly interdisciplinary.

Self-regulation

This group of students have worked on this project for a year and are clear about their aims, and what success will look like. They plan their own work – in fact, Mr Richardson and I joke that we are superfluous! – but we are there, of course, to offer feedback and guidance to help the team make progress when the project stalls.

Real-world problem-solving and innovation

The project is problem solving on a macro and micro level. The real-world problem is about improving reading progress for primary age children, but every week is micro problem-solving as we navigate a new and unfamiliar coding interface and sophisticated but temperamental robots. The project will have a real-world implementation when the robots are used by Year 1 next year.

Use of ICT for Learning

Technology is crucial to the project, obviously, but most significantly, we will create a product for authentic users – a robot creature who will respond with encouragement to a child reading – a great deal of code will lie behind those simulated behaviours!

The benefits of 21st Century Learning Design

On a practical level, 21CLD offers teachers tools for creating learning activities which promote skills that we would all agree are essential for study, work and life – to communicate clearly, collaborate well and solve problems. When combined with our emphasis on scholarship and our interdisciplinary STEAM+ philosophy, I find three further important outcomes:

Building knowledge and appreciating complexity

In a fast-paced world, the experience of going deeply into a topic or project for a sustained period will develop sound knowledge and critical thinking skills. Grappling with complexity brings an appreciation that not all problems are solved or ideas best expressed with a sound-bite response. All fields of study are rich with nuance once we go beyond the superficial.

Identifying unknowns, living with uncertainty and resilience

The deeper students go into complexity, detail and a wealth of knowledge, the more aware they become of what is unknown, either to themselves or to others. In a year which has been filled with uncertainty, an awareness that what we understand of the world is not fixed or fully known is, at first, unsettling. Sitting with that uncertainty – whether academic or otherwise – can build resilience. As the students write in WimLearn this week, persevering through difficulty brings its own joys.

Curiosity and exploration

Having appreciated complexity and experienced uncertainty, where do we go next? We have the answer enshrined within our school aims: Nurturing curiosity, scholarship and a sense of wonder. To achieve sufficient mastery of an area of study that we can begin to push at the boundaries is where exploration and innovation happens; or, as we wrote at the start of this year (4), in the spaces and connections between traditional subject areas with our STEAM+ philosophy. Depth of study, knowledge and skill is a firm foundation for exploration.

In conclusion, the exploration of this course on 21st century learning design has been incredibly valuable. At a time when we have been caught in the weeds of logistics and change, the programme of study and our collaborative approach has opened up big ideas and new conversations between teachers, which we will continue to explore next year. This feels like the start of a new conversation about the way we use technology in the classroom.


References

(1) 21st Century Learning Design, Microsoft Educator Center, https://education.microsoft.com/en-us/learningPath/e9a3beec

(2) You can read the original research papers and other references here, within the Microsoft CPD course. https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=91F4E618548FC604%21300&authkey=%21AOE-MnST_ZCMc1Q&page=View&wd=target%28Embedding%2021CLD%20in%20practice.one%7C2989f197-22e1-42a9-b2d5-2a71628825c1%2F21CLD%20Readings%7Ce58d3c47-38fa-47da-9077-18571f525580%2F%29

(3) Miro-E are programmable social robots designed for us in schools. http://consequentialrobotics.com/miroe

(4) Bristow & Pett, STEAM+, http://whs-blogs.co.uk/teaching/steam-2/, September 2020

Cross-Curricular Education: fostering links between English and PE through cricket

“What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” – CLR James

“I understand cricket – what’s going on, the scoring – but I can’t understand why.” – Bill Bryson

Mr James Courtenay-Clack, English Teacher and Head of Year 9 at WHS, looks at the possible links between English and PE.

You may have noticed that the idea of ‘cross-curricular’ education is having a bit of a moment. Making links between disciplines and across subjects is undoubtedly rewarding and helps pupils to move beyond a straightjacketed approach that keeps everyone and everything in their own place. There are some subjects that fit together so naturally it hardly seems worthy of mention.

As an English teacher, it is rare to plan a unit of work that doesn’t in some way cross over with both the arts and humanities subjects. To pick one example, the current Year 13 students have been writing a coursework essay that compares Cormac McCarthy’s The Road with the poetry of TS Eliot. In this unit they studied the philosophy of Albert Camus and Soren Kierkegaard, post-WW1 European history and the climate emergencies of the 21st Century. They also explored the fragmented voices of Eliot’s poetry alongside Picasso and jazz. All of this I (and hopefully they) would argue, helped to enrich their experience of the literary texts they were studying.

There have also been links made with other subjects that are not usually seen as having much to do with literature. We have had a STEAM lesson that explored the science of nerve gas alongside Wilfred Owen’s poetry and I know that the Maths department produced some wonderful number-based poetry. What I would like to draw attention to in this article, however, is the links between English and another part of the curriculum that have for too long gone unnoticed.

Now, it might be thought that English and PE are not natural bedfellows. In the staff rooms of our cultural imagination, you could not ask for two more diametrically opposed tribes. The stereotype of the PE teacher, head to toe in school stash, whistle at the ready and exuding the aura of good health that comes only from breathing in the sweet, sweet fresh air of Nursery Road, does not fit well with that of the bookish, tweedy English teacher. Of course, all of this, as stereotypes so often are, is complete rubbish. Mr Daws seems to have run more marathons than had hot dinners and if I wanted a book recommendation I could do far worse than turn to Ms Cutteridge.  

Now this article is far too short to be able to tackle the many links between English and all of the sports played at WHS, so I am going to focus on just one, cricket.

WHS Cricket

You may roll your eyes at this, but I believe that cricket can tell us as much about the messy business of being a human being as any other cultural practice. This is something that has been explored by a surprising number of writers and so I would like to take a look at just four examples where cricket and literature combine in illuminating ways.

The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens

Whilst Dickens doesn’t actually appear to understand the laws of the game, the cricket match between All-Muggleton and Dingley Dell in his wonderful novel does reveal an important truth about cricket and life: friendship and conviviality are far more important than material success. Also, that exercise is more fun when followed by a substantial multi-course feast.

‘Vitai Lampada’ – Henry Newbolt

This almost impossibly Victorian poem begins in the final moments of a school cricket match – ‘ten to make and the match to win’ – before moving to a soldier dying on a battlefield in an unnamed part of the British Empire. Newbolt’s refrain ‘Play up! Play up! And play the game!’ gives us insight to a worldview that is almost entirely alien in 2021, but that goes someway in helping us to understand our own history.

The Legend of Pradeep Mathew – Shehan Karunatilaka

I love this novel. Karunatilaka uses cricket – or a dying sports journalist’s futile attempts to track down the greatest bowler of all time – to explore the political and social history of postcolonial Sri Lanka. If that all sounds a bit dry, please don’t be put off. It is rambunctious, hilarious and well aware of both its own and cricket’s ridiculousness.

Beyond a Boundary – CLR James

This is widely argued to be the best book about sport ever written. James, a Marxist intellectual, traces his own interest in the game alongside Trinidad’s journey towards independence. He reflects on how both cricket and English literature were introduced to the Caribbean as ways of enforcing British supremacy and sees in both the potential for anti-colonial rebellion.

I hope this whistle stop tour goes some way to showing that the cultural practices of cricket and literature both help to illuminate what it means to be a human being and that the symbiotic benefits that arise from studying English and playing cricket together are just as valid as those that arise from any other subject.

The two epigraphs I have chosen sum this up beautifully. I deliberately misread Bill Bryon’s puzzlement as to the point of cricket and imagine that he too wants to know all about its cultural value. More seriously, CLR James paraphrases Kipling by asking ‘what do they know of cricket who only cricket know?’ and urges us to look beyond the boundary at the world around us. This is the best metaphor for cross-curricular education that I can think of and for that reason I am proposing a mighty union between the English and PE departments. Perhaps we could even build our own version of the STEAM Tower…

Je suis tout ouïe – being all ears: the importance of listening when learning to speak another language

Suzanne Stone, French teacher at WHS, considers the importance of listening in the language classroom and asks how we can make pupils more confident, and ultimately better, listeners.

Who hasn’t experienced first-hand, in the good old days of international travel, the frustration of not being able to understand the language we can hear around us; where seemingly basic, everyday interactions can sound like a fast stream of unintelligible phrases that can leave us feeling all at sea?

Within a school setting, the classroom can evoke similar frustrations as students try to make sense of the language spoken by their teacher or heard through audio files. Consequently, groans, sighs and puzzled brows are not an uncommon sight for MFL teachers at the front of the room, nor are comments such as ‘Why is listening so hard?’ particularly when progressing from KS3 to GCSE, and then on through to A Level.

It comes as little surprise, therefore, that several studies have documented that students can approach listening tasks with a sense of anxiety (Graham 2017). Indeed for some, it can be the skill that is enjoyed the least and feared the most. Some students see listening tasks as a test or measure against which they assess their understanding and ability. A more challenging exercise can dent existing confidence, or ‘self-efficacy’ (Graham 2007), in other words the feeling that you are good at something, so undermining motivation and possibly the desire to continue with that subject later on.

So, why can listening in the classroom conjure up anxieties such as this?

‘Our brain needs to perform in real time in order to extract meaning from any utterance we hear’ (Conti and Smith 2019)

It goes without saying that listening to an audio file on OneNote is not exactly the same as listening to a real-life person who is looking at you, whose interactions, intonations and gestures can help you decipher mood and meaning. When listening, we are making many demands on our memory. We have to master holding on to all the incoming information at varying speeds whilst being able to ‘sift’ this information as we hear it, breaking it down into its component parts of words, phrases and grammar. All these processes present a challenge, particularly as any new information can often erase the previous one, especially in time-pressurised situations (Field 2008).

So, why does it matter?

‘Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak’

Epictetus, Greek Stoic philosopher

Surely listening is just one of many skills involved in learning a language? I would argue that it is the most important skill, as it is the precursor to speaking and inextricably linked to responding. How can you ever hope to master speaking if you are a poor listener?

Listening is not the ‘passive’ skill it was once said to be. We acquire our first language through listening to several thousand hours of being spoken to before we begin to speak intelligibly, so our brains are hard-wired to work out meaning from what we hear around us (Graham et al 2010). Julian Walker (2021), a linguistic historian, describes the ‘Tommy French’ that arose from the interactions of English-speaking troops with civilians during WW1. Their experience in France during the war led to the special language they invented in order to cope with their situation. ‘San fairy ann’, ‘toot sweet’ are anglicized French phrases (Ça ne fait rien, tout de suite) that came into use on the Western Front during the First World War as British troops struggled to communicate in French. Fortunately for us, we have a greater understanding in education of the processes of how we listen and have moved away from this rather limiting, sink or swim approach.

How can we help students become better listeners?

In learning a language, we can develop our students’ ability to listen. We can reduce anxiety and build confidence by incorporating strategies in our MFL teaching which hone the skills needed to process and respond to information we hear. It is not only the exercises we use in lessons such as dictation, dictagloss, gap-fills and games that make listening fun, but it is also the work on phonics, reading aloud and oral practice in our classroom interactions which, in turn, enable students to become better listeners.

Dictationsimprove our ability to respond to what we hear, so helping us become more authentic speakers of the language too.

How can students improve their MFL listening skills?

  • Try different approaches

Some of our Year 11 and Year 12 French students have been trying out different listening strategies to gain an understanding of different ways to cope with harder texts.

Y12 Review of preferred listening strategies       
Y11 Post Spring Listening Assessment Review

Sharing our thinking and working through strategies together in this way will hopefully promote independence and confidence and reduce anxiety in the process.

  • Build up your vocabulary!

Having a broad vocabulary is key to learning and understanding another language. Try making Quizlet flashcards and use the audio file to practise pronunciation. Alternatively, listen to a podcast such as Coffee break French, or a foreign language film or series with the subtitles in French or in English – Lupin on Netflix is a popular choice here!

Final thoughts

Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.

Plutarch, Greek biographer

So, how can we become better listeners? As discussed in a previous blog by our Director of Sport, in mastering a skill, repetition is crucial and listening is no different. In short, you get better at what you practise and by improving our listening, we can hope to become better speakers too.

Sources and further reading:

Gianfranco Conti and Steve Smith, Breaking the sound barrier: teaching learners how to listen, 2019

Steve Smith – A process approach to listening – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQhh6b6BTJI&list=PL_FfkTb7PcMG7V_KE-N9r9NMmB1-GrF0c

John Field, Listening in the Language Classroom, 2009

Julian Walker, Tommy French: How British First World War Soldiers Turned French into Slang, 2021

Graham S, Learner strategies and self-efficacy: making the connection, 2007

Graham S, Research into practice: listening strategies in an instructed classroom setting, 2017

Graham S, Santos, D, & Vanderplank, R, Strategy clusters and sources of knowledge in French L2 listening comprehension, 2010

Coffee Break French https://coffeebreaklanguages.com/category/coffee-break-french/

What progress has been made this year towards creating a diverse curriculum at WHS?

WHS Classroom

Miss Emily Anderson, Head of History at WHS, evaluates the progress of the diversity in the curriculum working party since September, and reflects on our next steps.

It has been both a challenge and a privilege to have been leading the working party examining diversity in the curriculum since the Autumn Term. Ensuring that our curriculum is fit for purpose in both empowering our students to be active citizens of the world in which they live, and reflecting both their identities and those they will live and work alongside in their local, national and global communities could not be a more vital part of our work as teachers, individually, in departments and as part of the whole school. Such a curriculum would simultaneously support our students and ensure they feel that they belong in the WHS community, and would empower them to understand and champion diversity in their lives beyond school. The curriculum is not a fixed entity, and the constant re-evaluation of it is one of, to my mind, the most challenging and important parts of our professional lives as teachers.

As members of the school community will be aware from his letters and assemblies, in the autumn Deputy Head Pastoral Ben Turner asked staff, as part of our commitment to systemic change, to scrutinise three different areas of our work as a school in order to better inform our future direction. Alongside our scrutiny of the curriculum, colleagues have been looking at our recruitment of students and staff and how we reach out to a broader and more diverse range of communities, and at our work with our students beyond the curriculum, in our pastoral, super-curricular and extra-curricular contexts.

WHS Partnerships

Examining the curriculum were staff from the arts, sciences and humanities, bringing a variety of perspectives. I wanted to make an ambitious but absolutely necessary distinction from the outset – that we cannot approach the curriculum by diversifying what is already there, but need to create a curriculum that is inherently diverse. We discussed the need to broaden our collective understanding of different identities (the GDST’s Undivided work has been very valuable in this regard), and to model open, honest and often difficult dialogue. The difficulties of the process of change were also considered, especially the transition from an old to a new curriculum, and the fear of being labelled knee-jerk or tokenistic until it became embedded and normal. This is, however, no excuse for not trying. Doing nothing is not an option. Three areas for evaluation emerged for us to take to departments:

  1. The day-to day – teachers’ understanding about different types of diversity, our use of language and resources in the classroom, encouraging more challenging and reflective discussions in the classroom.
  2. The medium term – creating a diverse curriculum at WHS – looking again at KS3, and evaluating our choices at KS4 and KS5 to identify more diverse lines of enquiry or exemplars in existing specifications, or opportunities to move to other boards.
  3. The bigger picture – joining the growing national conversation with exam boards to make changes to GCSEs and A Levels to better reflect diverse identities, critically evaluating the cultural assumptions and frameworks through which our knowledge is formed and which privilege certain identities over others, to problematise and ultimately change these in our teaching.

The reflections that came back from discussions at department level showed that much carefully considered planning is being undertaken across departments, in terms of the individuals whose voices are heard through study of their work, the enquiries that are planned to broaden our students’ horizons and the pedagogical implications of how we create an environment in which diverse identities can be recognised and understood.  

My own department (History) are completely reconceiving our curriculum. My colleague, Holly Beckwith, wrote a beautiful rationale for this in WimTeach last year which I would highly recommend reading.[1] We have been preparing for major curriculum change for a number of years, firstly through trialling experimental enquiries to pave the way, such as a new Y9 enquiry on different experiences of the First World War. Our choosing of a unit on the British Empire c1857-1967 at A Level – a unit whose framework could, if taught uncritically, be problematic in terms of what it privileges, but which enables us to at least explore, understand and challenge such power structures and give voice to some of the people it oppressed through the study of historical scholarship – also helps facilitate changes further down the school as it demands significant contextual knowledge about societies across the world before the age of European imperialism.[2] Now, we are in a position to put in place major and increasingly urgently needed changes for September 2021 at Year 7 and Year 10, which will lead to a transformed KS3 and KS4 curriculum over the next three years.

To pivot back to the whole-school context, I also met with student leaders from each year group who had collated ideas from their peers to feed back. These were wonderfully articulately and thoughtfully put, often critical, and unsurprisingly revealed a great appetite for change. As teachers and curriculum designers, there is a balance to be struck here between taking students’ views into account, and creating coherent and robust curricula where knowledge and conceptual thinking builds carefully as students progress up the school – areas of study cannot simply be swapped in and out. As I have alluded to above, for example we start sowing the seeds of contextual understanding for GCSE and A Level at Y7. Furthermore, this process will take time, as meaningful change always does, and so managing expectations is also something we must consider. In and of itself, modelling the process of systemic change is such a valuable lesson for our students so this must be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate this.

So far, this process of evaluation has prompted profound and necessary reflection by teachers not only on what we teach in the classroom, but on how our own understandings of our disciplines have been conditioned by our experiences and educations. As well as educating our students, we are also continually educating ourselves, often unlearning old ideas. There is still a significant way to go in creating the inherently diverse curriculum we are aiming for, and I look forward to continuing to challenge and be challenged as we work together as a community to, ultimately, try to do right by our students and our world.


References:

[1] http://whs-blogs.co.uk/teaching/vaulting-mere-blue-air-separates-us-history-connection/

[2] Akala, Natives, London, Two Roads, 2019; R. Gildea, Empires of the Mind: The Colonial Past and the Politics of the Present, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2019; P. Gopal, Insurgent Empire, London, Verso, 2019;

Do you have a ‘Positive’ toolkit at your fingertips?

Mrs Jessica Salt, Head of Year 8 at WHS, discusses the Positive Schools Programme and the impact it could have on your well-being.

Positive was set up in 2011 with the vision of using research in psychology and neuroscience to help individuals and organisations optimise their wellbeing and performance.

Positive started out in the business world before expanding into the education sector in 2016. The GDST created a partnership with Positive to provide all schools in the Trust with the Positive Schools Programme (PSP) – championing a whole school approach to psychological wellbeing and protective psychological competencies.

The GDST recognised that in order for the “girls first” approach to be to be successful they needed to prioritise the psychological wellbeing and health of its teachers. For example, normalising a teacher’s response to stress and pressure, increasing emotional literacy, self and social awareness and emotional regulation will have a cascade effect to the students. Teachers should use the Positive tools to help them tune into how they are feeling and move into a more positive mindset/build resilience, and then apply this knowledge and experience to teach their students to do the same.

Teachers are in an ideal position to help support and guide students through many crucial years where the brain is re-sculpting itself and neural pathways are changing. The PSP is a great way to further extend our evidence based pastoral care and give our girls practical and versatile strategies than can support them throughout their lives.

The primary aim of Positive is prevention. It is built around the four pillars of psychological health:

A Positive Toolkit in Brief:

Awareness

  • The Emotional Barometer (EB) is a visual metaphor tool designed to track your mood state and emotions on a regular basis. Over time you may see a pattern of how your emotions impact your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Our moods and emotions are constantly changing so it is completely normal to move around all areas of the EB – being in the top right-hand quadrant at all the time is not sustainable. The key is to be able to recognise where you are sitting on the EB and why (particularly if we are feeling stuck on the left-hand quadrant) and then to actively deploy a technique that will bring you back towards the middle of the scale.
  • The Inner Coach is a tool that helps you to reappraise an event and develop a positive, reasoned inner dialogue, which offers a more rational approach to solutions during pressurised situations. The Inner Coach should offer constructive solutions instead of catastrophising and self-blaming. Over time and with practice, our Inner Coach becomes stronger and stronger, meaning we can call on them quicker and more effectively during challenging situations.

Focus

  • The Positive Switch is a tool designed to make you more aware of your focus and deliberately regulate your attention. The idea is that you have a switch in your mind which can be moved between three different positions: Task, Recharge, and Present. All three settings bring their own potential benefits and opportunities for your wellbeing. You need to use your Switch to ensure your day is balanced with protected task time, regular breaks and at least one opportunity to enter Present mode.  
  • The Worry Filter enables you to differentiate between “useful” and “useless worries”.  The filter aims to help break the cycle of rumination and decrease your stress response. It can be as simple as a list with two columns and a plan of action for any useful worries that you have a degree of control over. This will then help you declutter and focus your mind, freeing up cognitive resources and thus increasing your creativity. Worry is the most powerful of interruptions linked to the survival instinct. It is important to control our worry, so we do not get caught in a negative spiral, dwelling on imagined threats/catastrophising about the future.

Mindset

  • The Positive Pinboard is designed to help you overcome the human negativity bias. It encourages individuals to notice and focus more on the positives. Over time this mindset switches the default neural circuits in the brain to more optimistic ones and reinforces positive mood-states and resilience. It is a virtual pinboard onto which you can ‘pin’ photos and notes of positive moments during your day capturing them via the Positive App. It is a similar idea to a gratitude journal, but you can add images in addition to thoughts. If you do not have the app you could create a private Instagram page just for you. Choose a trigger to help remind you to do this everyday and form a new habit.
  • The Strength Mirror is a tool with two main parts. The first part involves looking at yourself to identify your personal strengths and how you currently use them in your daily life. You should reflect on your recent experiences and try to pinpoint when you have used a strength most effectively. The second part involves looking into to a future scenario or situation and using imagery to visualise how you can use your strengths to tackle it. Visualising the entire process is the key to the second part of the Strength mirror, focus on the practical steps you can take.

The tools for the final pillar of Connection are yet to be released – watch this space!

At Wimbledon High School we are using the Positive Schools Programme and tools in a range of ways. There are numerous teaching colleagues who have now completed a multi-day course to train as ‘Positive Teachers’ to ensure they have an in-depth knowledge of the programme and tools. We have recently launched ‘Positive NOW’ as part of our staff twilight programme where over 40 members of staff have signed up to learn more about the science and evidence surrounding the four pillars. In our roll out to students we have adopted a gradual process including a range of tools into our Review and Reflection days, form times and PSHE sessions. We want to continue to help our girls shift unhealthy habits and bounce back from challenging times.

The hurts and highs of play: how can promoting play help children process the pandemic?

Ms Claire Boyd, Head of Junior School, considers what we have learned about young people since schools reopened on 8 March 2021.

It is just over two months since schools reopened their gates to pupils and, some semblance of normality, returned to classrooms across the country. From next Monday, the mandatory requirement for face coverings to be worn in schools expires and trips and visits will also be able to resume. Planning for ‘in-person’ events is now underway and many schools now look forward to rounding off the academic year by welcoming parents and guests back into school halls and auditoria. In short, it feels like the cloud of covid, that has loomed large over our schools for the last 18 months, is slowly passing with sunnier days forecast ahead.

Like all school leaders, alongside the practical and logistical implications of running a school during a global pandemic, one of my biggest preoccupations has been working out how best to respond to the impact covid has had upon the development – both academic and social – of our children. Whilst much has been made of lost learning, digital deficits, growing inequality in pupil experiences and a deterioration in mental health and wellbeing, far less has been made of how we can best react and respond to what we have seen and what our children have experienced.

In the short term, like many schools, we have worked hard at WHS to devise a bespoke programme to respond to the full opening of schools and support pupils through the aftermath of an unprecedented period of closures. Launched back in March, Relate, Reconnect and Restore, reflected an acute awareness that the third lockdown affected families in different ways; it resulted in our girls feeling a range of emotions about returning to normal routines after so long at home and such limited opportunities for social interaction.

Watching Relate, Reconnect and Restore unfold across the Junior School over the past few weeks has been affirming and, in many ways, humbling. The seemingly infinite capacity of children – in this case, our 340 girls aged 4 to 11 – to adapt and adjust to new expectations, routines and ways of working together has shown us that few barriers stand in the way mixing up way we teach and learn if the desire and willingness to flex is there.

In many ways, it is still too early to quantify the impact of these new initiatives on development, progress and attainment; they have only been up and running for a short period of time and school-life continues to be curtailed by the need to ensure covid security. Nonetheless, from a qualitative point of view, there are already early indications of the impact these new approaches are having upon our charges. Observations of our girls in action in the around the school, alongside discussions and conversations from with girls and teachers from across the Junior School, suggest there is one stand-out factor that is making a real difference: play.

Play; the act of engaging in an activity for enjoyment or recreation, sits at the heart of the experience of childhood. Universal in its reach, the act of play transcends cultures, continents and time. The impulse to play is innate; it is a “biological, psychological and social necessity, and is fundamental to the healthy development and well-being” (King & Sturrock, The Play Cycle, 2020) of both individuals and communities. It requires nothing at all except a willingness to engage; either with those around you or just merely in the spectre of your own imagination. Since returning to school on 8 March, the profile and prominence of play across all our Junior School year groups has been remarkably – and gloriously – high. The extension of play time for all, and the extension of the school day for our youngest girls, has provided more space and time for social reconnections to take place. The return of peer-to-peer interactions has stimulated an appetite for play, both structured and unstructured, adult-led and pupil-intimated.

Reflecting on it now, it seems eminently logical that, after a period of disruption and upheaval, where social interactions have been so very limited, that our children are using play as a way of recalibrating and reestablishing themselves as individuals beyond the home environment in which they have spent so much time.

Where formalised programmes of targeted teaching and learning can deliver valuable academic yields, play and the act of playing cultivates an important way of ‘being’ which, over time, shows “superior developmental gains from social, emotional and cognitive perspectives” (King & Sturrock, The Play Cycle, 2020). It provides the opportunity to be lost in the ‘flow’ – the holisitic sensation that people feel when they act in total involvement – of invention, improvisation and adaptation and creation. It generates a helpful landscape to explore the more formal experiences, skills and concepts of the classroom in the free and unstructured landscape of the imagination.

It also provides fertile – and sometimes febrile – ground to learn to navigate friendship and negotiate challenges with a broad range of peers and their personalities. The playground often acts as a microcosm of what lies beyond the school gates and Michael Rosen writes emphatically about what play can do to “help us cope with change and learn flexibility…[as] our lives, our ‘fates’, are always wrapped up with the fates of other, whose lives are constantly changing too” (Rosen, Book of Play, 2019). It seems, after so much time away from the forums of social play, children are instinctively seeking out this the time and space to explore the social order around them.

Play promotes both adaptability and order; it opens up pathways for discovery, for opportunity, for greater self-knowledge and understanding of those around us. In the formative years of a child’s life, it is a big part of how we define ourselves. In essence, it is the hurts and highs of play that gives us an understanding who we are and how we want to take up space in the world around us.

As we continue to seek to carve a strong and steady path out of the experiences of the last year, let us not overlook the art of play and its intrinsic capacity to toy with ideas and feelings, to form new connections, ask questions and find answers. Whilst we can devise programmes to provide catch-up and systems to gap-fill, space and time must be preciously ringfenced for all children to play, to be playful and luxuriate in their own imaginations.

The power of your breath as a form of Mindfulness in schools

Alexa Cutteridge, Head of Curriculum PE and Assistant Head of Year 7 looks at the power of your breath as a key mindfulness and well-being tool in schools.

As described by Jon-Kabat-Ziin, Mindfulness means ‘paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally’ (Mindful Staff, 2017). Breath work or Pranayama if frequently used as a mindfulness tool and as described by the Yoga Journal Online here ‘is the formal practice of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force.’

Breath work has been used for thousands of years as a form of meditation in addition to being a key part of yoga and mindfulness practices. Importantly, when we connect to our breath, we connect to the present moment which help to stop ourselves moving back into the past or jumping ahead into the future.

In Summer 2020 during the Guided Home Learning modules, the Y12 and Y13 explored the power of their breath and similarly this academic year Year 7 have looked at the ways in which to let your ‘breath be your anchor’ to calm their nervous system and sooth them in times of worry or challenge. I have also used breath work on the sports field, with my netball and tennis teams, to focus the mind and calm the nerves before high-stake matches – it has been so rewarding to see the positive results from such a simple tool.

Below are the key benefits:

  • Conscious breathing can increase attention and focus the mind which can help concentration in the classroom (Holcombe, 2012).  
  • Deep breathing can lower blood pressure and creates a sense of calm – by breathing fully, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, and as a result slow down your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
  • Deep breathing can reverse the ‘fight or flight’ response and reduced the release of stress hormones: cortisol and adrenaline.
  • Studies have shown) that breath work can help treat mental health disorders including depression and PTSD. (Seppälä, Nitschke, Tudorascu, et. al., 2014)
  • Deep breathing can enhance the quality of sleep (Newsom, 2020).
  • As stated by the The Editors at Chopra (2020) ‘breathwork can also be spiritual’. When you practice deep breathing you connect with your true Self and you can let go of your ego and any other attachments you have. It is therefore quite common that people who practice breathwork can experience spiritual awakenings or similar experiences.

Further benefits and evidence to support mindfulness which include breathing tools, can be found here:

Mindfulness: Finding peace in a frantic world

Mindfulness in Schools Project

Breathworks

4 breathing tools for schools and beyond:

Finger breathing

A finger breathing practice is where you trace the outline of your hand with the index finger of the other. On the movement up the side of the finger you breathe in and on the way out you breathe out. It is a super simple tool but can be used subtly in the classroom and allow pupils to focus on their breath and away from any worries or troubles they may have.

Box breathing

Famously used by the Navy SEALS, box breathing allows you to reset your breath, in particular times of high stress and when in fight or flight mode.

  1. Breathe in for the count of 4.
  2. Hold your breath for the count of 4.
  3. Breath out for the count of 4.
  4. Hold your breath for the count of 4.
  5. Repeat for as long as necessary.

Read more here

7/11 Breathing

This practice is regularly used in counselling and psychotherapy and is particularly helping in dealing with panic attacks and moments where we are caught in rumination and worry. The practice involves breathing in for 7 counts and breathe out for 11. You continue to breathe normally however, if you have to fit the numbers to the breath rather than the other way round then that is fine. The concept is that the out breath is longer than the in breath which creates an automatic effect of calming your down, slowing your heart rate and taking you into a state of balance (Mindfulness in Schools Project, Teacher Notes, 2016).

Ujjayi Pranayama oceanic breathing

“Ujjayi Pranayama is a balancing and calming breath which increases oxygenation and builds internal body heat.” —Krishnamacharya

This breath is very often used in Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga but can also be use in a seated position as part of a breathing practice off the yoga mat. It allows us to anchor the fragmented mind and also allows us to be energised, as well as calm.

Watch how to here with Adriene:

In addition to these four breathing tools, it is also important to notice moments in the curriculum where breath work plays a key role such as Sport, Drama and Music, and is perhaps already creating hidden opportunities to support well-being.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to well-being tools, but it is certainly worth carving out time in schools to exploring breathing tools and empowering pupils to be curious about what benefits they can gain from them for both their school career and beyond. The best bit about using your breath as a well-being tool is that it is always available to you and is completely free – no excuse not to at least try it!


References:

Deepak, Chopra, M.D (2019) A Great Addition to Meditation: Conscious Breathing. Available at: https://chopra.com/articles/a-great-addition-to-meditation-conscious-breathing

Holecmobe, Kate (2012) Breathe Easy: Relax with Pranayama. Available at: https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/healing-breath/

Mindful Staff (2017) Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining Mindfulness. Available at: https://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/

Newsom, Rob (2020) Relaxation Exercises to Help Fall Asleep. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/relaxation-exercises-to-help-fall-asleep

Seppälä, E.M, Nitschke, J.B, Tudorascu, D.L, Hayes, A, Goldstein, M.R, Nguyen, D.T.H, Perlman, D and Davidson, R.J (2014). Breathing-based meditation decreases posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in U.S. military veterans: a randomized controlled longitudinal study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, [online] (4):397-405. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25158633/

The Editors of Chopra, (2020). How Breathwork Benefits the Mind, Body, and Spirit. Available at: https://chopra.com/articles/how-breathwork-benefits-the-mind-body-and-spirit

Bringing the real world in: using current affairs to shape A Level Economics.

Stack of newspapers

This article focusses on how we incorporate current affairs into our teaching of A Level Economics. It is written by Richard Finch – Head of Economics at Wimbledon High School.

One great aspect of teaching Economics at A Level is that we can relate the topics on the specification to real world events. We run weekly news article review sessions with all our classes to build their understanding of contemporary issues in Economics and strengthen their ability to apply fundamental concepts and theories to these real-world events. For many pupils, beyond improving their chance of achieving a top grade and boosting their ability to critically analyse articles, this process builds their confidence to engage in debate and can be very empowering.

However, it often it is a challenge to stimulate that initial interest in current affairs, particularly stories related to the Economy.  However, in recent years we have made significant progress on this issue.

At the start of the course, each week, we ask our Year 12 students to find two articles, one related to microeconomics (individual industries and business) and one to macroeconomics (the entire economy). These articles can be from any publication and on any subject that interests them.

The pupils post a brief summary of the article on our OneNote system along with their general reflections. We keep the brief very flexible at this stage and the emphasis is very much on exploring what interests them. We as teachers then review the articles and post some leading questions for each. This encourages the pupils to reflect on what they’ve read and think about where their research might lead them.

The pupils have time to prepare their response to these questions prior to the lesson. During the lesson the teacher will project the summary on the screen and the pupil then presents to the class. The teacher chooses three pupils from the class who have demonstrated clear analysis or whose topic area was addressed by many students in the class. We have found that celebrating work in this way creates an element of friendly competition and encourages others to engage.

Interestingly, although we do not limit the topics at this stage, the pupils tend to gravitate towards similar articles and as they source their information from different publications these presentations often lead to enthusiastic class debate. This also serves as a great way to break the ice with a new Year 12 class.  

Through our questioning we encourage pupils to pursue additional articles on the same topic. Over weeks the pupils start to develop expertise in certain topic areas and having that deeper understanding builds their confidence. As they become more familiar with the jargon used in Economics they start to source articles from more challenging publications.   

As the course progresses we start to encourage the pupils to apply the fundamental concepts and theories we cover in class to these real-world examples. We want our pupils to use this “Economics Toolkit” to deepen their analysis and understanding.

For example, here a pupil has applied their knowledge of Income Elasticity of Demand (the responsiveness of demand to a change in income) to the demand for Fortnum & Mason products to assess the extent to which these products can be described as luxury items and the implications of a change in national income on this particular organisation and the wider economy.

The term “luxury good” is used commonly in society but Economics pupils develop an understanding of what this term actually means and how it can be calibrated. This gives them a clearer understanding of the likely implications of a national rise in income on this market. They begin to make links at this stage between different concepts and ask broader questions, beyond the focus of that article. We continue to encourage them to explore and connect topic areas through our questioning and through class debate.

The pupils start to develop real expertise at this stage and we find ourselves referring to our “in-house retail expert” for example during class discussion. Being the authority on an issue is incredibly empowering for the pupils and builds their engagement and enthusiasm for the subject. The ultimate aim of this initiative is to encourage our pupils to use their voices and speak with authority on this traditionally male dominated subject.

Sport Matters

Miss Coutts-Wood, Director of Sport at WHS, reflects upon the impact of the pandemic on the provision of sport during Guided Home Learning and looks at the mental health benefits that can be gained from participating in exercise.

The pandemic really has been a leveler. Impacting all schools, regardless of their sporting prowess or previous victories; Covid-19 has not discriminated. State or private, boarding or day, acres of immaculately manicured playing fields or no onsite facilities to your name, all PE Departments have had to suspend fixtures, modify training and see their staff take on the role as Wicks impersonators. An obviously practical subject, PE was cast under an intense spotlight as the importance of the physical and emotional benefits of Sport were once again well versed by the press.

As a department, we knew we needed to keep up fitness, maintain skill level and preserve morale, all from across Teams. We found new ways to motivate, to inspire and to keep the WHS community active during GHL. The Rowers baked (competitively of course), drew shapes with their Strava runs and took up yoga, the Junior Swimmers taught their teddies to dive in the bath and the Netballers spent most of their season on the floor of their living room honing their core strength for when they return to court! Whatever the exercise, we all know sport plays an important role contributing to personal growth, helping foster friendships and allowing a much-needed break away from the inevitable increased screen time that GHL created. As staff, we really focused our energy during Strong Body Strong Mind week, to reinforce the message that exercise comes in all shapes and sizes; physical activity can be bespoke and tailored to suit individuals, time frames, fitness levels, space and motivations. We really hope that this message has been taken on board by all pupils, staff and parents, regardless of sporting background.

Despite the challenges we all faced, we must reflect on the time that we had to focus on different aspects of our usual sports provision; we collaborated with schools outside of our weekly fixture programme (King’s in the Battle of Wimbledon, NHEHS with our Hockey and Netball workshops), we joined together for the Community Morning Energizers (reminding ourselves how much joy can be gained from dancing along to Cha-Cha Slide at 8am), and we had time to pick and choose which aspects of getting physically active we enjoy the most.

Despite the time to reflect and the greater appreciation of in–person sport, as Physical Educationalists and Coaches, being back in person with the girls and having the ‘buzz’ of in-person sport return to Nursery Road cannot be underestimated. Risk Assessment and equipment cleaning has been crucial to a safe return to sport and with this necessity aside, being back together has reinforced the absolute joy that each one of us takes in our job! Mrs Salt was particularly thrilled that her online dance choreography was translated into a very competent performance by her Year 7 class once we returned in March. This was a good reminder of what a success GHL provision had been but also of the joy of being back in person. If we needed further reminders, we all like to think we’re marginally savvier with digital technology than we were this time last year too.

It’s important that we remind ourselves that Sport really does matter. The positive physical impact of exercise has been well documented, but we must not forget the emotional and mental health benefits that can be gained from participating too – a reminder of some of these benefits are summarised below:

Emotional and Mental Benefits of Physical Activity

Manage Anxiety and Stress – in these uncertain times, what could be better than embarking on an activity known to decreases tension and help relaxation? Whether jumping on a trampoline or going for a cycle ride, activity can be an excellent distraction and means of escapism. Physical activity can also help to relax muscles, particularly in neck which is so important while we spend so many hours in front of screens.

Boosting Resilience – we have certainly all had to be resilient, responding to uncertainty and change over the last year. Exercise and physical activity can be a proactive way to help us develop our grit, determination and mental fortitude. Why not challenge your whole family to see who can hold a plank for the longest?

Enhance self-confidence – physical activity can be a great way to enhance your self-belief by accomplishment during exercise.Perhaps set yourself a summer term goal – you’ll feel so satisfied after you have achieved it.

Improve Mood, Concentration and Memory – the endorphin boost we get from the additional hormones released as a result of exercise such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine can make us feel amazing! So, I urge you to get out into the fresh air after school this week and find out for yourself!

Belonging – the feeling of connection by dog walking with family members, sharing a common goal of half-marathon training with your friend, or the camaraderie you get from hitting a tennis ball with some friends in a local park. Another one of the joys of exercise.

There is no right or wrong way to exercise. Relish the enjoyment of the face-to-face interaction and the community that sporting opportunities can create, or value the challenge and perseverance from overcoming a personal goal or reap the rewards from competition against others. Just ensure that whatever form the exercise takes, you carve out time for yourself to find movement that you love and that makes you happy. Over the past two weeks, I’ve been back on the tennis court, had a very chilly swim at my local lido and paddle boarded in the sea, all of which have been wonderful and make a refreshing change from running and online yoga sessions.

The recovery of sport across the country is not likely to be smooth and no doubt there will be many more adaptations to training schedules and fixture programmes in the future to help accommodate social distancing guidelines, however, what we can be certain of is that the love and passion that the community of WHS has for sport is stronger than ever. Sport matters.

References

Heisz J, Clark I, Bonin K, et al. The effects of physical exercise and cognitive training on memory and neurotrophic factors. J Cogn Neurosci. 2017;29(11):1895-1907.

Ratey, J. J. and Hagerman, E. (2008). Spark. London, Quercus.

Roman-Mata, S S. Putertas-molero, P. Ubago-Jimenez, J L. and Gonzalez-Valero, G. (2020). Benefits of Physical Activity and Its Associations with Resilience, Emotional Intelligence, and Psychological Distress in University Students from Southern Spain. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 17(12), 4474. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/12/4474/htm

Can the worst of times bring out the best in us?

Hannah Johnston (Teacher of Geography and Coordinator of Charities & Partnerships) asks whether the coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on philanthropy and highlighted its importance in a way not experienced in recent times.

 

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main..”

(John Donne, 1624)

 

There is something so compelling at the beginning of John Donne’s famous poem, as a Geographer the idea of interconnectedness and our sense of place resonates strongly, and I cannot help but also link this to Wimbledon High School. Taking on the role of Charities and Partnerships coordinator, especially at the beginning of Lockdown 3.0, has enabled me to develop and expand upon this sense of belonging.

We are not just a site of education; we are a community. From the very youngest, to the oldest students, parents and staff, we draw together. This goes far beyond the bricks and mortar of the school site, as demonstrated so strongly with our Guided Home Learning Program and ‘Together Apart’. The wonderful aspect of our community, however, is that it does not stop there.

Local Community Partnerships

We have long established links with local charities, including Wimbledon Guild, Merton & Morden Guild, Christian Care and Faith in Action, who are our House charities. During pre-pandemic times, our Yr11-13 students were able to meet with members of both these charities, those living in care homes and their peers from other local schools on a Thursday afternoon as part of our successful partnerships programme.

The introduction of the first national lockdown on 23rd of March 2020 put a halt to this. Across the country many people began periods of isolation and separation from loved ones.

“One of the feelings millions of us are experiencing during the current coronavirus pandemic is loneliness”  (Mental Health Foundation, 2021).

Our students rose to the challenge and, demonstrating those core characteristics of empathy and kindness, recognised the importance of remaining part of their wider Wimbledon community. They nurtured links they had already made, and in some cases, made new ones. Pupils began by writing letters to those in care homes whom they had visited and to those identified by our partnership charities as being lonely. The responses they received were wonderful and enabled all to gain a new perspective.

The partnerships programme adapted and moved online. Spanish conversations were able to take place via Flipgrid and teachers were able to share technological innovation across schools. Students ran academic masterclasses live for students in younger cohorts and created WimFlix videos for those who benefited from pre-recorded materials. The moving of clubs to after school slots allowed for those from partnership schools to join us.

It was not only students who were able to support the local community, the Science and Design & Technology departments were able to support Northwick Park hospital with the donation of goggles and the use of the 3D printer to help produce PPE. As Mr Keith Cawsey discussed in his recent WimTeach (link here), we realised that although we may come from different perspectives initially and live very different lives, we are all united by our desire to be part of, and keep safe, our communities.

“Two million children have gone hungry since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, including one in five in London” (Alim, 2020)

 

Christmas Hampers

Coronavirus has brought huge challenges for our wider community. Wimbledon High School, in conjunction with the GDST and The Thomas Franks Foundation, signed up to support ‘Feeding Communities’. Across the months of lockdown, staff volunteers have helped to prepare thousands of meals in our kitchens, distributed to support the most vulnerable children and adults in our community.

In the run up to the festive period, WHS staff raised £1000 to buy food for local state primaries and, for our Christmas Tree assembly, students and staff brought donations of food, non-perishables and toys for five local charities. Furthermore, as a community, cash donations enabled us to purchase laptops and other devices for our partner primary schools.

As we approach Easter, we are once again rallying as a school to support our House charities. While donations peak at Christmas and will pick up again in May, at present, charities are facing dwindling donations. With so many in need of their support, this is leading to a desperate situation.

To help maintain social distancing and Covid-19 guidelines, this Easter we are asking students and their families to donate to their house charities. Each charity has provided us with a list of items that are needed by those they support in our local communities and the donations will be used to buy these for our chosen causes.  To find out more about each charity, and to donate, please follow this link.

Year Group Charities

“When we focus energy on helping those who are most vulnerable in times of crisis, the positive effects spread and strengthen our collective well-being” (Lee, 2020)

 

Year 9 fundraising by walking a marathon

It has been inspiring to see how each of our students have responded to the Covid pandemic and the understanding they have on its impacts for both the local, national and international community. This was abundantly clear as they discussed in their year groups, which charities to support this year.

As Ava, our Year 8 charities rep summarised; “The impact of charity is particularly evident during the pandemic as funding for many charities has been reduced significantly. Many people have been furloughed and jobs have been lost, so charities have lost a lot of their funding which is why it is important for us to donate and fundraise as much as we can.”

These were sentiments echoed by her peers, as Jemima (Year 10 rep) stated; “Charity has never been so important as during the Covid-19 pandemic. Year 10 is raising money for World Vision, which is supporting children who are living in extreme poverty all over the world. It is communities like the ones World Vision helps that are hit the hardest by the pandemic, and so this year, giving to charity can go such a long way in helping those less fortunate than ourselves”. Over the past few weeks, as the fundraising has continued at pace, I have received several emails from World Vision expressing their delight at the work our girls are doing and reiterating how difficult they have found fundraising this year.

Throughout the pandemic, our students have had to adapt and discover new ways to fundraise and continue supporting the charities that mean so much to them. Their creativity has truly been boundless, with GHL mufti days, baking competitions, walking marathons, charity auctions and film screenings to name just a few. The challenges faced this year have helped us to discover strengths and resources we may not have been expected to call upon before.

To go back to John Donne, indeed ‘everyman is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’, so we are intrinsically linked to our local, national and international communities. Georgia (Year 11) so poignantly said: “Charities help to bind us as a society. By supporting the more vulnerable members of our communities, we grow closer”.

Covid has challenged us in ways we could never have expected. It has also brought out our resilience, pulled together communities and taught us to look outwards.  As we move towards more ‘normal’ times, that desire to maintain and develop our philanthropic links remains.