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Head’s Blog February 2018

New Year, New Start!

As we approach the end of the first half of the Spring Term, 2018 is well and truly underway. For those of us working in education, we have two opportunities every year to start afresh and make New Year’s resolutions every January and September, the start of the calendar and academic year. According to the media, approximately 40% of the population decide to make a New Year’s resolution. During my first assembly with Senior School at the start of term I asked girls and staff if they had made a New Year’s resolution. Many girls and members of staff raised their hands. I shared with them the most popular New Year’s resolutions for 2018. It came as no surprise that within the list of the top ten were the following:

1. To get fitter
2. To eat more healthily

With this thought in mind I have chosen sport and fitness as the topic for my blog. Saint Martin’s girls excel at sport thanks to the dedication, passion and expertise of our PE staff. At the end of the Autumn Term we said farewell to Mrs Burgess as she decided to retire from her post as Head of Physical Education. Mrs Farnell was appointed as her successor and Mrs Higginson has joined the PE department as a part time member of staff.

The benefits of physical exercise on academic learning have long been documented, yet three years after Public Health England issued a report detailing the positive link between pupil health and wellbeing and academic attainment, young people’s participation rate in physical exercise nationally is still falling.

This trend is particularly true of girls. The complex and largely negative attitudes held by many girls towards sport and physical activity is an issue that schools have been attempting to address for years. Research has identified an alarming fall in the number of girls participating in sport. A recent study by the Women’s Sport Foundation showed that by age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at twice the rate of boys.

Physical Education in schools has been regularly criticised as inappropriate for many girls’ needs, with a narrow curriculum that is dominated by competitive team games. I believe that sport should be about encouraging and motivating young people to participate in physical activities that they can continue into their adult lives. When a curriculum focuses only on competitive and elite sports, it will not appeal to those girls who want to enjoy and benefit from participation without the need for an end result.

I am delighted to report that Saint Martin’s is bucking this national trend. Saint Martin’s girls thoroughly enjoy their PE and Games lessons and participation levels are high. Even though we are a small school in comparison to other girls’ independent schools, the PE department offers a wide range of activities to suit girls of all ages and abilities. Practices are very inclusive and open to all. As the girls progress through Senior School there is more emphasis of including exercise into a healthy lifestyle and girls are given the opportunity to try out golf, Zumba, yoga, ice skating and even self-defence as part of their PE curriculum.

As part of our marketing literature we are proud to promote a flyer produced by the Girls’ School Association, of which we are a member school. The leaflet is entitled “These girls do – sport and fitness for life”. The leaflet extolls the value of sport and exercise stating that there are long term benefits such as developing team and leadership skills as well as good health, fitness and well-being. In an all-girls school, girls are more likely to join in sporting activities than in a mixed environment. Anxieties about body image and performance levels are greatly reduced in a supportive single sex environment. Just as the GSA leaflet states – Saint Martin’s girls certainly “do sport”.

As I write, we are about to break up for the half term holidays. As always, girls and staff have worked incredibly hard and have packed so much into the last six and a half weeks. Some of my personal highlights have been Well-being Week and Sparkle Day as well as the Senior School production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”. Once again our talented actors have entertained us with their amazing interpretation of this Disney classic under the direction of our inspirational Drama teachers Mrs Stafford and Mr Brown. It was wonderful to see so many girls and staff involved in the production. I would like to say a special thank you to the Drama, Dance, Technology and Music departments for their commitment, energy and expertise.

I wish you a restful half term holiday.

Best wishes

Nicola Smillie

School Calendar

  • 21 Mar
    GCSE Art Exam
  • 21 Mar
    Senior School Music Concert
  • 21 Mar
    Lower Sixth: Inspiring Futures interviews
  • 22 Mar
    Year 10 to Upper Sixth Geography Trip to Iceland departs
  • 23 Mar
    End of Spring Term – 12 noon finish