Happy New Year to you all! January traditionally can be a depressing month with dark, cold mornings, the threat of snow and failed New Year’s resolutions. For me, the first half of the Spring Term is an exciting time of year in school. January, named after the Roman God Janus, the God of beginnings and transitions, is not a dispiriting time. It’s a time to look forward and to start to plan for the next academic year. Here at Saint Martin’s we certainly represent the forward looking face of Janus as girls and staff are making decisions about the future.
The term started on a very positive note as we welcomed a record number of visitors to our Open Morning on 17 January. Our girls, as always, were excellent ambassadors for school and received many compliments from our visitors for their excellent communication skills and warm welcome. We were also delighted to welcome British Water Polo champion Francesca Clayton who coached a skills session with some of our swimmers. The following Monday was our Entrance Examination for entry into Year 7 in September. I have spent the last few weeks meeting the Year 6 girls and I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing all of them. As I write I am in the process of sending out offer letters and I look forward to seeing the girls again in the near future as Saint Martin’s students.
This half term our girls have been as busy as ever. The Alice House staff organized an activity evening for Year 2 at the end of January. The girls wore their party clothes and took part in a “Zumba” lesson, they made pizzas and baked blueberry muffins before relaxing in their “onesies” to watch a film. This last week Year 2 have had a taste of life in the Junior School enjoying lessons, such as Science, Geography and Philosophy, and having the opportunity to socialize with Years 3 to 6. Teaching the girls Spanish was certainly a highlight for me. Year 4 were thrilled to spend a Friday night in school and were entertained by a circus performer before their “sleep over”. The phrase “sleep over” makes me smile as I don’t think much sleep was had by the girls! The Under 14, Under 16 and Under 18 swimming teams took part in the prestigious Warwick 100 competition with many individual successes, and our Under 18s won their overall competition. Our Sixth Form students were treated to a “bonding” weekend in London to celebrate the end of their mock A level examinations. This included a theatre performance of “Billy Elliott”, visits to galleries and museums and some time to take advantage of the January sales! The Lower Sixth have also started their university preparation with a visit to Sheffield University.
This week our talented actors have moved us with their wonderful interpretation of “Blood Brothers” under the direction of our inspirational Head of Drama Mrs Stafford. Well done girls! This play is not an easy one to perform and your portrayal of the lives of twins separated at birth was most credible.
Year 11 and Sixth Form girls took mock GCSE, AS and A2 examinations at the start of term. I have no doubt that the Christmas holiday was a stressful time for them and their families. I read an article recently about rising stress levels in teenagers and in particular, girls. The Nuffield Foundation recently reported that the number of 16 to 18 year old girls who state that they feel anxious, stressed or depressed has doubled in the last 20 years. Furthermore, the level of anxiety in this age group is related to worry about examination success. Although we of a certain age may argue that we have all taken exams and we survived intact, were we subject to the same levels of stress in the 1970’s and 1980’s as students are today?
Certainly the pressure to achieve the increasingly high grades demanded by top universities will be a factor. The days of receiving offers of BCC for popular courses such as English, Law, Biochemistry or Geography are long gone. Typical university offers are AAB thus increasing stress levels amongst 17 to 18 year olds. So what can we do to help today’s students? How can we help them to build academic resilience to manage examination stress? This is certainly a challenge for every school and parent. At Saint Martin’s we take our duty of care seriously. We are pro-active in encouraging girls to pace themselves and not to “burn out”. This academic year we have organized study skills sessions for key year groups with workshops for teachers and parents. Girls are reminded of the importance of eating properly, getting enough sleep and taking time to relax. I hope that Year 11 and Sixth Form students follow this advice and ensure that they have a good work / life balance over the forthcoming months.
As the half term draws to a close, I wish “Bon Voyage” to our skiers who are travelling to Alpe D’Huez in France. I hope that you have good snow and return safe and sound. A huge thank you goes to Mrs Waters, Mrs Gallagher, Miss Winn and the rest of your team for organizing this trip and giving up precious holiday time to accompany the girls. I look forward to hearing your stories and sharing your pictures after the holiday.
For those of you who are staying at home this next week – I wish you a restful half term holiday.