Girls Do Physics
We run practical sessions for Year 8 students at Larkmead School, aiming to boost the confidence of girls in mixed-sex groups and help them realise that physics is not just a ‘boy subject’. There are five sessions each year, delivered by four St Helen’s teachers to 30 students. The initiative has had a gradual but substantial impact, in particular in its reach – students who were not initially involved in the sessions have asked to join in after friends described them as ‘interesting and fun’.
One of St Helen’s modern languages teachers takes French lessons at St Nicolas Primary School, Abingdon. In order to support the teaching of MFL at Key Stage 2 level, 35 minute lessons are delivered to two Year 5 classes, 50 students in all. This work has continued throughout the Covid-19 lockdown, with resources being shared with St Nicolas by the teacher in charge, so that their language learning can continue remotely.
Modern languages teacher training
St Helen’s is a hub for the National Modern Languages School Centred Initial Teacher Training (NML SCITT) and has been providing teacher training placements with a network of maintained and independent schools for over a year. With the overarching aim of reducing the national shortage of languages teachers, trainees spend time in each of the partner schools, learning from staff and teaching students. By the end of the 2018–19 academic year, two were trained and one was employed in a maintained secondary school from September 2019.
This is an MFL drama competition for local primary schools, joined by St Helen’s Junior Department. Taking place in the spring term each year, the event promotes links between neighbouring schools and brings students in Years 3–6 together to celebrate languages. In 2019 approximately 100 students took part, performing in the St Helen’s Studio Theatre to the other schools. The opportunity to use languages creatively and in a different setting to the classroom is very important and both students and teachers enjoy the experience.
Geography Worldwise quiz
Held for all Year 7 students at Larkmead and St Helen’s, this interactive and sociable quiz afternoon enables students to engage with the subject of geography and understand the importance of studying it. The nature of the event also builds connections between students of similar ages from different schools and is always a very effective way to inspire all the students.
Model United Nations
The Model United Nations Society is run jointly between St Helen’s and Larkmead, giving students from Year 10 upwards the opportunity to participate in a highly regarded political and diplomatic exercise. Students attend weekly meetings and weekend conferences, coached by St Helen’s politics teachers. The most active participants gain experience in organising conferences, chairing committees and running sessions for the whole society, and participants from Larkmead regularly win prizes at the conferences. These experiences are highly valued on UCAS personal statements, feeding into students’ higher education prospects.