Why should WHS connect more with the community?

Janvi, (Year 13) explains what her role as Charities and Partnerships Rep involves and explores her plans for the year. In our busy daily lives, why is it important to make connections to the wider world?

What does the role of Charities and Partnerships Rep involve?

I think it is reasonable to say that the average WHS girl leads a fairly busy life. With countless deadlines and extra-curricular commitments, sometimes it seems impossible to find time for yourself, let alone for others! As Charities and Partnerships Rep, one of my main duties is to remind students of the importance of giving time to charity and helping those in need. I truly believe the core characteristics lying at the heart of every WHS girl are empathy and kindness, and my aim is to motivate pupils throughout the school to use these values to help make a significant impact on the lives of people around us.

Another important aspect of my role is organising and running various charity events such as the Autumn Charity Fair which took place last week. It was heart-warming to see students of all ages working together to raise money for various causes, led by our newly elected year-group charity reps.

Aims for the year

My aims for this academic year fall under three categories:

  1. Raising awareness

Bringing awareness to the work which a charity does is very important as it encourages more people to get involved and fundraise as well as bringing to light different issues faced by people across the world. For this reason, I plan to start a termly newsletter detailing the work done by our chosen year-group charities and the charity events that have been taking place.


  1. Giving time and getting involved

As I have mentioned, giving time to charity is often neglected due to our busy lives, so with the help of our year-group charity reps, I would like to encourage people to take time out of their week to help others.


  1. Increasing our fundraising output

Fundraising is crucial as charities need money to provide the people they help with specific resources and services. Therefore, the goal for each year group this year is to raise £300 per term towards their chosen charity.

Why is making connections to the wider world so important?

Our pastoral theme for this year is “Connections”, which is an idea that links very closely to charity and partnerships. When it comes to charity work, there is often a heavy focus on fundraising. Whilst giving money to charity is undoubtedly important, the power of connecting with individuals on a personal level is astounding and often underestimated. Every week during our Enrichment session at Kew House Care Home, I find myself astonished at the impact our visit has on the elderly residents. Seeing their faces light up as we chat to them and play games with them is a powerful reminder of the difference that can be made to a person’s life by simply giving your time and energy without expecting anything in return. To us, it is simply an hour out of our day every week, whilst to them we are making a significant improvement to their day.

Spending time with people in our community and making connections with them is also incredibly rewarding. Not only does it bring happiness and a sense of fulfilment and purpose, but it constantly challenges us to see the world from somebody else’s perspective and reminds us to be grateful for what we have. In our day-to-day life it is very easy to forget how lucky we are and the privilege we hold, but charity work enables us to put our problems into perspective which is crucial to living a fulfilling life.

For these reasons, my main goal this year is to encourage students to make connections, whether it be locally or globally, because giving a tiny fraction of your time to support a person who is in desperate need of help can truly make a significant improvement to their life.

WHS and the environment: where next?

Flora (Year 13), Environment Rep, expands on the responsibilities she has at WHS, and what we as a school community are trying to do in the fight against climate change.

The role of Environment Rep

Now, more than ever, the climate emergency has been brought to our attention, mainly thanks to the incredible Greta Thunberg. The 16-year-old activist has brought on climate strikes all over the world, and recently talked at the UN Environmental Summit, speaking passionately and emotionally about the lack of action regarding climate change. When hearing her speak in this way it is always a wakeup call which helps us to evaluate what we can do to help the environment.

Above: Greta Thunberg at the Parliament by the European Parliament 2019, Flickr.

As Environment Rep I have been working with different people, all of whom are passionate about the environment, investigating what WHS can do in our collective fight against climate change. We have identified several areas which we can focus on, including the reducing the amount of single-use plastic in the canteen (in the form of take-away boxes) and reducing the amount of paper we use every day – something which is increasingly happening as we move to digital working practices. It is easy in our everyday lives to forget about such simple and seemingly minor things, but we must be far more aware that our actions do have consequences. When we say, “It’s only one toothbrush” it is almost too easy to forget that almost 7 billion people across the planet will be saying that exact same thing.

Where next for WHS and the environment?

When the Student Leadership Team sat down together in the first term after Easter, one thing we thought was important was to emphasise to all our peers that being conscious of the environment is something that we should be doing all throughout the year. It is for this reason that we have decided not to have a week or day celebrating just this, but to make this a regular feature throughout this academic year. It was great to have a Friday Jammin’ a few weeks back focused on raising our voices to help make a change, with the school community singing songs about climate change to help raise awareness and make a change.

Regarding more specific objectives we have for this year, there are a number of areas that I hope we can focus on. These will help us to make small changes to have a big impact on the environment as a whole community

1.      Single-use Plastic

Above: Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

We are all guilty of using single-use plastics in our busy, day-to-day lives. Single-use plastics have detrimental effects on the planet, with a significant amount of it being made from fossil fuels. Two-thirds of all plastic ever made (8.2 billion metric tonnes in 2015) has been disposed of into the environment and is still there; it takes hundreds of years to decompose. Knowing this, we have been trying to reduce the single-use plastic in our canteen, which comes in the form of plastic bottles and other packaged goods, and our end goal is for it to be eliminated completely. While this would be a big step for the school’s fight to reduce its impact, it is also important for individual habits to change. If everyone brought in reusable water bottles, and single-use bottles were to become taboo, that would be a huge step in the right direction. You can also help by using a reusable container for your lunch if you wish to take your lunch away from the canteen.

2.      Environment Summit

We have some exciting news coming up! We will be holding a school-wide environment summit for all students, staff and parents. Before this, all the environment reps will be meeting to discuss the agenda for this summit, coming up with a list of points to discuss with the school. At the summit, we shall hopefully draw up a list of criteria that we, as a school, want to implement and stick to. If this all goes to plan, something that we would love to do would be to host a GDST wide summit, so we can share these criteria with many other schools.

The future

We clearly have a very busy year ahead of us, and I hope everyone is as excited about it as I am. I am very honoured to be your environment rep this year, especially in such an important time in regards to environmental awareness. All of these ideas I have mentioned will hopefully have a big impact to our community this year; however, the most significant way to make a change is to be aware of your personal responsibility for the environment, and what you can do to make small changes in your normal routines. If we all did this, the impact would be significant.

What makes a successful A Level student (with a little help from Disney and friends)?


Dr John Parsons, Director of Sixth at WHS, looks at the character traits needed to have success at A Level, using famous Disney moments to illustrate his argument.

Anybody who has ever watched a successful A Level student nervously open her results envelope, fingers crossed for A*s, recognises that wonderful moment of realisation when at last she sees what she has achieved. All that hard work, effort and struggle was worth it in the end. But success doesn’t happen by accident. Contrary to Jiminy Cricket’s philosophy, merely wishing on a star just isn’t enough. For those that doubt I have Disney magic (and there are a few), then, some Disney (and other) wisdom to explore what makes a successful A Level student.

Goal setting & going the distance


Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs photo above by freepngimp.com

Without a goal, all the hard work counts for nothing. The Seven Dwarfs are happy to put in the hours: We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in our mine the whole day through. Nobody doubts the Dwarfs’ capacity for hard work, but they themselves freely admit to missing the point entirely: we don’t know what we dig ‘em for, we dig dig digga dig dig. They have no intrinsic motivation. Without a goal in mind, it is hard to stay determined and to develop the self-belief to go the distance.



Whistling while you work

Snow White whistles while she works and Mary Poppins (another great Disney woman we first meet cleaning) tells us that in every job that must be done there is an element of fun; modern-day positive mindsets from both.

For A Levels, the daily plod through tests, homework and revision is always most effective and productive when it is done with a smile. Top students tend to make a game of learning and are creative and varied in how they learn new things before they test themselves on it.



Keep on swimming

Top A Level students don’t fear setbacks and mistakes. Rather, they know that therein lies the deepest sort of learning. Indeed, what we see from the most successful students is a wilful desire to actively seek out challenge and difficulty, embracing potential misunderstanding. We meet Dorothy in the 1939 film Wizard of Oz not wishing on a star but vividly imagining what life will be like somewhere beyond the rainbow, and crucially acknowledging that the journey will likely be a hopeless jumble. Her key (very Wimbledonian) character traits of braininess, compassion and courage (exemplified in the quests of her companions Tinman, Lion and Scarecrow) allow her to negotiate the unexpected deviations from her path. Dorothy decides that her mission is more important than the noise in her head when doubts creep in, instead choosing to walk on through those lions and tigers and bears. At every turn, Dorothy stands up and makes a choice and gets on with it despite the difficult bits – one ruby-slippered foot after the other.

"The Wizard of Oz (1939)" by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
“The Wizard of Oz (1939)” by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Finding Nemo’s Dory makes the same point to demotivated Nemo; just keep swimming. In other words, only move forward. It’s the only way to respond.



Don’t just fly. Soar.

And of course, top students remain confidently ambitious in all of this. That advice to Dumbo, an elephant seemingly unlikely ever to fly, eventually becomes his reality – Don’t just fly. Soar.


In summary, successful A Level students always have a goal, they try to stay cheerful whilst putting in the hours, they find the fun in learning new things and embrace mistakes and learn from them, and they keep on going. They leave wishing on stars to Pinocchio.


Being Head Girl at WHS

Front of WHS

Jasmine, Year 13, describes what her role as Head Girl entails and gives a brief overview of the initiatives for the year ahead

I’m delighted to be Head Girl for Wimbledon High School this academic year! My role as Head Girl entails a lot of different things, most of it being meetings, talking and organising things so I’ll give you a quick rundown of what goes on behind the scenes and our aims for this year.

Head Girl Team
Saskia, Jasmine and Ella – the Head Girl Team at WHS for 2019-20

I work with Saskia and Ella, the Deputy Head Girls, to lead the Student Leadership Team, coming up with new ideas for whole-school events such as the annual WHS Pride Week (taking place just before half term to celebrate our recent Stonewall Bronze Award!), the school birthday (taking place after half term) and a range of new initiatives that we feel would make the school a better place for all of us. One of our main initiatives this year is PAWHS, standing for Pause at WHS, where we want to recognise the different ways in which students just relax and wind down, without forcing any specific methods on them because we understand the same exercises and activities don’t work for everyone.

We also run school council and have worked closely with Mr Turner, Assistant Head Pastoral, this year to “re-invent” our school council. It now has Year-reps and specific committees with representatives from each year so younger girls can really be involved in leading the school and getting their ideas heard. We also chair student parliament and feedback all the students’ comments and suggestions to the Senior Management Team.

Last year we came up with our overall pastoral theme of Connections, as we felt we wanted our focus to be on how we connect with the wider world, our school and the people in it, and of course how we connect to ourselves. We pitched this to the Senior Management Team and Head of Years and they liked the idea; it is now our pastoral theme for the year. Our aim for this year is to create an environment where students feel connected to each other but also the world around us. Our other aim is to connect to our school, looking at its history, present and future in light of our 140th school birthday, and we are organising a massive school celebration day called “Year-to-Year” to focus on this (linking to the opening line of our school song), which will hopefully be great fun and a memorable day not just for all of us but also for the school in years to come.

Our pastoral theme for 2019-20 – connections. This theme was chosen by our Student Leadership Team.

Being part of the Student Leadership Team is a large responsibility but it is a great opportunity to make even the smallest difference to our amazing school. It is the responsibility of a leader to serve the people around them, to include everyone and their ideas, to set an example and stand up for what is right. I may not have Priyanka’s poise and teacher-like authority, Jessie’s seemingly effortless organisation skills or Ava’s fierce intellect and extensive vocabulary,  but I’m learning that’s the beauty of being a Head girl, or any leader, is that you make it your own; for me I think it’s all about being a friendly, approachable face in the corridor, welcoming every girl as she steps in to Wimbledon High.

The life of a WHS Sports Captain

Emily (Y13) elaborates on her responsibilities as Sports Captain and discusses upcoming sports events

What is my role within the school?

As Sports Captain, I aspire to be a role model that girls can look up to. I myself have looked up to many previous Sports Captains and finally having the chance to represent my school is such an amazing opportunity. I think a Sports Captain should be able to connect with the younger years, work well with the PE department, and spread enthusiasm and a passion to all.

Sports is a huge part of my life and I want to show people that with hard work and determination results will follow. Sport is an amazing thing to be a part of; it teaches you so many life lessons that cannot be readily taught in classrooms. After doing my Extended Project Qualification researching about the impact of sport on teenagers, it has made me even more aware of the importance of being involved and “getting stuck in”.

In such a highly achieving academic school it is sometimes hard to step away from work. I have found, along with many other students here at WHS, that sport is an amazing way to have fun away from screens and books. It is hard to balance work, sport, music, drama and still manage to have a life, but I think that if I can set an example to younger years, it will enable them to see that being an all-rounder is possible.


What do I want to achieve in this role?

I have 4 aims whilst in my role that I hope to achieve:

  1. Launch the sports blog

  2. Work with the PE Department to find a strong Sports Leadership Team that will be able to lead with enthusiasm for all years across the school
  3. Improve the high-performance sports programme with the Head of Sport. It is hard to balance high level sports and academics because much of your free time is spent at trainings and matches. I aim to produce a space where our girls can go for help. In addition to this, I want the programme to give interesting and relevance talks which inspire and inform our high-performance students.
  4. Improve the cricket involvement. Cricket was introduced 2 years ago, and as we go into our 3rd year, the PE Department and I aim to improve the standard of training and frequency throughout the year which will allow us to fulfil our potential.

The future is exciting!

There are so many exciting events coming up which are still in the process of being organised, such as Staff vs Sixth Form netball and basketball. For those not familiar to this, they are charity events where enthusiastic teachers play against our Sixth Form’s first team and ‘battle it out’ to see who wins. Stay tuned for further information regarding this! Until then training and matches will be commencing and all I can say is get stuck in and try new things, you never know where it could take you.


A few words from me

I am hugely honoured to be Sports Captain for 2019-2020 and I hope that with hard work from me and our PE Department we can achieve higher and have even more fun than before. Good luck for the season, work hard and the wins will follow.

Can the Harkness approach to delivering Maths lead to a deeper understanding?

Mrs Clare Duncan, Director of Studies at WHS @MATHS_WHS, describes the Harkness approach she observed at Wellington College and the impact that this collaborative approach has in the understanding of A Level Maths.

Named after its founder, Edward Harkness, Harkness it is a pedagogical approach that promotes collaborative thinking. Edward Harkness’ view was that learning should not be a solitary activity instead it would benefit from groups of minds joining forces to take on a challenging question or issue. What Harkness wanted was a method of schooling that would train young people not only to confer with one another to solve problems but that would give them the necessary skills for effective discussion. Harkness teaching is a philosophy that began at Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in the 1930s.

Edward Harkness stated:

“What I have in mind is [a classroom] where [students] could sit around a table with a teacher who would talk with them and instruct them by a sort of tutorial or conference method, where [each student] would feel encouraged to speak up. This would be a real revolution in methods.”

This was very much what the classroom looked like when I was lucky enough to observe Maths teaching at Wellington College last term. Their newly refurbished Maths rooms had floor to ceiling whiteboards on all the walls. On entering the classroom, the students were already writing their solutions to problems that were set at preparatory work for the lesson. Whether the solution was correct or not was irrelevant, it was a focal point which allowed students to engage in discussion and offer their own views, problems and suggestions. The discussion was student led with the teacher only interjecting to reinforce a significant Maths principle or concept.  The key learning point is giving the students their own time before the lesson to get to grips with something before listening to the views of others.

The Maths teachers at Wellington College have developed their own sets of worksheets which the students complete prior to the lesson. Unlike conventional schemes of work, the worksheets follow an ‘interleaving’ approach whereby multiple topics are studied at once. Time is set aside at the start of the lesson for students to put their solutions on whiteboards, they then walk around the room comparing their solutions to those of others. Discussion follows in which students would discuss how they got to their answers and why they selected the approach they are trying to use. In convincing others that their method was correct, there was a need for them to justify mathematical concepts in a clear and articulate manner. The students sit at tables in an oval formation, they can see one another and no-one is left out of the discussion. The teacher would develop the idea further by asking questions such as ‘why did this work?’ or ‘where else could this come up?’.

The aim of Harkness teaching is to cultivate independence and allows student individual time to consume a new idea before being expected to understand it in a high-pressured classroom environment. This approach can help students of all abilities. Students who find topics hard have more time than they would have in class to think about and engage with new material and students who can move on and progress are allowed to do so too. In class, the teacher can direct questioning in such a way that all students feel valued and all are progressing towards the end objectives.  It involves interaction throughout the whole class instead of the teacher simply delivering a lecture with students listening. It was clear that the quality of the teachers questioning and ability to lead the discussion was key to the success of the lesson.

Figure 1: WHS pupils in a Maths lesson solving problems using the Harkness approach

This was certainly confirmed by my observations. The level of Maths discussed was impressive, students could not only articulate why a concept worked but suggested how it could be developed further. I was also struck by how students were openly discussing where they went wrong and what they couldn’t understand; a clear case of learning from your mistakes. Whenever possible the teaching was student led. Even when teachers were writing up the ‘exemplar’ solutions, one teacher was saying ‘Talk me through what you want me to do next’. Technology was used to support the learning with it all captured on OneNote for students to refer to later. In one lesson, a student was selected as a scribe for notes. He typed them up directly to OneNote; a great way of the majority focusing on learning yet still having notes as an aide memoir.

Although new to me, at Wimbledon we have been teaching using the Harkness approach to the Sixth Form Further Maths students for the past couple of years. Having used this approach since September it has been a delight to see how much the Year 12 Further Maths pupils have progressed. Being able to their articulate mathematical thinking in a clear and concise way is an invaluable skill and, although hesitant at first, is now demonstrated ably by all the students. The questions posed and the discussions that ensue take the students beyond the confinements of the specifications.


Learning another language: is it important?

Suzanne Stone, teacher of French at Wimbledon High School, considers the importance of learning a foreign language in the lead up to Brexit.

“Now more than ever, languages education matters. In a climate of political uncertainty and with the prospect of social fragmentation and economic instability, our ability and willingness to speak multiple languages and develop intercultural understanding increase in significance and value. Language skills and cultural agility connect us to our past, define our present and have the potential to transform our future.”

Bernardette Holmes MBE, Director of Speak to the Future, the National Campaign for Languages


Autumn term is a traditionally busy one for our Sixth Form linguists, with Year 13 considering their post-A level choices and Year 12 embarking on their post-GCSE courses. Elsewhere, negotiations are still underway as to the shape of this country’s post-Brexit future, with much discussion amongst language teachers, policy makers and industry figures as to its impact on language learning in our schools. As a language teacher at WHS, I strongly believe that language teaching is more important than ever for intercultural understanding and for employment prospects for our students after Brexit.

The removal of learning a foreign language from the compulsory curriculum in state schools in 2004 resulted in a national decline in the number of linguists schools produce, together with a reduction in the range of languages offered. Here at WHS, we continue to promote the joy and relevance of learning the languages we teach and consequently enjoy a growing MFL curriculum and buoyant numbers throughout the school. For our students, attitudes to learning foreign languages are positive and levels of motivation high, as the girls understand that operating in a language other than English is not just enjoyable in itself but a useful, and indeed, necessary skill in their preparation for life beyond WHS.

The British Council’s annual report, Language Trends 2018, details the negative impact that leaving the European Union is having on language learning in some schools, as seen through low student motivation levels and parental attitudes questioning the relevance of language learning in the current climate. Ironically, recent articles have discussed how the UK’s lack of language skills could in fact jeopardise our post-Brexit future. Indeed, the House of Lords debated earlier this year the need for MFL skills to be embedded in the Government’s white paper, Industrial Strategy – Building a Britain fit for the future. Within this context, the educational system needs to catch up with the idea that language skills are not only important but in fact crucial in this global marketplace and thus be offered and encouraged at every key stage.

The national decline in pupils taking languages at GCSE and A level is a worrying trend. Language Trends 2018 also reports that the proportion taking a GCSE language dropped from 76% in 2002, to 49% in 2014 and most recently to 47% in 2017. For A level, entries for some modern languages have seen a decline in numbers, but popularity for post-16 language study for our WHS students remains steady. The separation of AS from A level has enabled some students to continue with a foreign language to complement their existing A level choices. Interestingly, current AS students include those wishing to apply for dentistry, PPE, psychology and economics next year. The versatility of A level language subjects is such that, post A level, our students can continue pure language study to degree level or jointly with other disciplines such as Law, Science, Maths and Engineering, as well as more traditional combinations of Geography, History and English.

Reducing foreign language learning to a minority, optional subject particularly at KS4 will have a worrying impact on the quantity and calibre of linguists entering not only our profession but others too, at a time when, as a nation, we are going to need a greater number of English speakers with competence in foreign languages. Luckily, here at WHS our access to and participation in learning languages are bucking these national trends. Prospective parents are impressed by our language offer throughout the school, student involvement in our many and varied trips is high, and our numbers at both AS and A level are healthy. Perhaps the language teachers of tomorrow can be found enjoying French, German, Spanish, Mandarin or Italian here in our modern language classrooms today.

Further reading:








Mindful revision: how to make the best of the revision period

wimbledon logo

As mock exams start, Suzanne East, our Mindfulness Lead, looks at how we can manage the pressures of examination revision to achieve our best and stay healthy.

As the Christmas holidays approached and the festivities were beginning to get into full swing, I wished my Y11 tutor group Merry Christmas and asked how they were planning on spending the holiday period; “revision”, they groaned in reply. In their eyes was written the despair at the prospect of sitting alone in garret-like bedrooms struggling with never-ending lists of dates whilst the sounds of forbidden parties drifted up to torment them.

Faced with this, I sought ways to encourage them, and found that mindful practise offered some practical suggestions. So here are my top five tips on how to survive revision, especially revision during the holiday period, in a most mindful way!

  1. Acceptance

At the end of the day, it is what it is and you will not feel any happier by constantly thinking of other things you could be doing. Being constantly updated on the fun that others are having will not help, so put the device away and get on with it!

  1. Focus

Mindful practice encourages you to bring the focus of your attention back to a chosen point, perhaps the breath. We all get distracted but we can improve our attention with regular practice – a vital skill in completing any task! Remember to be kind (you will not be able to focus all the time) but notice the drifting away of attention and gently bring it back to the job in hand.

  1. Self-awareness

Away from the routines of school this is a time when students may be alone for long periods and need to take responsibility for their own care. Mindful practice encourages paying attention to yourself, how are you feeling physically, mentally and emotionally. By getting to know yourself you can make sure you stop and eat when hungry, get some exercise when sluggish and meet up with friends when feeling lonely.

  1. Savouring the good

It is easy to let revision seep into all aspects of the day. Even when not actually doing revision it can hijack your thoughts; regretting not doing more or dreading going back.  Mindfulness practice teaches how to be fully in the moment, so if you are doing some revision, pay attention and do it, but equally when you are having a break really have a break. Immerse yourself in a long soak in the bath, enjoy chatting with your friends when you meet up for coffee, savour that chocolate and get out and be in the world that is buzzing away with life all around you.

  1. Kindness

Remember mocks are a practice run. Things will not always go to plan, and this is almost certainly true of revision plans. Mindful practice encourages students to explore areas of difficulty and to accept that life can make you feel sad, angry and frustrated. No one likes to feel like this, but these are feelings we cannot escape from. Get to know them and learn how you can move forward, being as kind and supportive to yourself as you would to a good friend.

Of course, none of the above come easily.  Regular practice is essential in building mindful habits, but the rewards can be quite life changing, especially when the going gets tough.

Follow @DHPastoralWHS for regular Pastoral updates at Wimbledon High.