St Helen’s School in Northwood launched St Helen’s University – a pioneering initiative designed to enable all girls in Years 7 to 9 to pursue wisdom and wellbeing beyond the curriculum and give them the opportunity to discover new interests and passions.
The programme has been designed to respond to the needs of the whole student, aimed at developing intellectual virtues such as an enquiring mind, openness to intellectual risk taking and respect for knowledge, alongside social and moral virtues.
Out of uniform, off timetable, making the most of the school’s extensive 22-acre site in the heart of North London and following their own schedule of talks, classes, adventures and independent work, middle school students were able to choose from six distinct tracks constructed around themes of Creativity, Culture, Performance, Science and Technology, Society and Wellbeing – creating their own timetables and deciding for themselves what they wanted to gain from the experience.
With diverse subjects including Rainbow Rangoli, archery, abseiling, exploring the tradition of tapas, photography, media and journalism, forensic analysis and theatrical make-up workshops, exploring the French Revolution and learning how to play cricket, the students found themselves in unique environments in which they were able to work individually and collaboratively to master new skills.
Each of the sessions on offer took advantage of the experiences and expertise of St Helen’s teachers beyond their academic disciplines and enabled them to share their love of learning.
The programme also included expert external speakers and careers explorations from visiting alumnae. The three-day event earlier this month was given a tremendous kick-start by Deana Puccio from the RAP project who presented a hard-hitting session on ‘Altered, Airbrushed and Unrealistic’. There was also a courageous speaker from the charity Walking with the Wounded and alumna Elle Kaye had the students enthralled talking about the intriguing, sometimes misunderstood, but often glamorous profession of taxidermy.
Headteacher Dr Mary Short said: “St Helen’s University showcases the school at its absolute best, introducing our students to topics which I consider to be an essential part of a liberal education and to develop core skills, such as leadership, teamwork, time management, self-discovery, relationship management and building self-esteem.
“The St Helen’s University experience will help our students to develop their own (sometimes intangible) goals at an early age and it means they will be better equipped to continue the habit later in life.
“We, as a school, will also be learning from this exciting experience, so that we can continue to build on the success of the past few days and develop an even broader programme next year.”