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Shrewsbury High School

At Scholato, we are particularly interested in the way schools demonstrate their values through action. When faced with...

3 years ago

At Scholato, we are particularly interested in the way schools demonstrate their values through action. When faced with the question ‘What makes you different,’ many schools say the same thing, leaving parents with a difficult task as they try to ascertain what an establishment’s unique ethos might really be. 

We were drawn to Shrewsbury High School’s ‘Period X’ programme as a very real manifestation of a school’s promise to prepare students for life beyond the school walls. Michelle Reece, one of the creators of Period X, explains why mortgages and mindfulness are at the heart of the curriculum of the future.

What was the catalyst for the creation of Period X?

At Shrewsbury High School we have a long and proud history of achievement and in order for this to continue it is essential that we focus on meeting the contemporary needs of our students to better prepare them for the world of tomorrow. The society our children live in is changing at an astonishing rate. As a school we need to provide skills, opportunities and experiences to allow children and young women to make the transition to higher education and employment as smoothly as possible. 

We need to provide a curriculum that is dynamic and can change to reflect the world around us, thereby better meeting the needs of our students.

How does it work in practice?

At the heart of every week – period 3 on a Wednesday – the whole school stops for a mid-week pause. This is Period X. From Reception to Year 13, it is a chance for pupils and teachers to experience new opportunities that will give them the skills that we all need for a healthy adult life.

The programme is split into four sections: Mental Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing, Personal Development and Creativity. 

In Mental Wellbeing we help girls to navigate friendship issues, talk about how to manage puberty, learn about online safety, mindfulness and volunteering, including Dementia Friends training for example.

Physical Wellbeing Includes self-defence, yoga, gender politics, gardening, body image and food tech.

In Personal Development you might find girls practising interview techniques, negotiating a pay rise, improving their networking skills or learning about mortgages and student loans. Basic first aid, car maintenance, basic DIY or discussing tolerance and respect or family planning are also part of the programme.

Creativity, which is an optional aspect of the programme, includes ceramic sculpture, film making, electric car club, archaeology, Kawaii craft, poetry and choreography.

All year groups are timetabled at the same time. There is a real buzz on Wednesday at 11.35; you can almost feel the whole school take a collective deep breath! As an all-through school community from 4 to 18, we wanted to create opportunities for our junior and senior pupils to work together. The content of the programme is reviewed and revised with our students, staff and parents so that we are able to offer relevant sessions for all ages.

These areas – especially mental and physical wellbeing – are very much in the spotlight in education at the moment. Do you sense that pupils are hungry for guidance and help?

Absolutely. One feature that distinguishes our school is that students have the opportunity to shape how we operate. We want every one of the pupils to know that they are visible, have a voice and a sense of belonging. Our policies and practices are informed through student views and their appetite for conversations around certain subjects. Mental and physical wellbeing are extremely important and we know that our students want to have open discussions and receive advice and guidance on the tools available to help them feel positive. Our work with external agencies has really helped in this area, signposting students to available help and support.

What are the most popular ‘subjects’?

The senior girls have really enjoyed the opportunity to explore the local footpaths and develop their navigational skills. In particular they liked the “What3Word” session which developed their awareness of an app that helps to quickly identify your precise location and can be used to inform emergency services.

Middle school students felt they gained a great deal from the self-defence programme, in particular identifying their local environment and developing an awareness of how to stay safe within it.

The junior students have enjoyed building bonds with their peers and making new friendships in a positive way. Creating positive t-shirts was a real highlight for them and provided a keepsake from the programme. 

Do pupils of all ages have a Period X?

Yes, this is a whole school programme. It has been specifically designed to identify pinch points for each age group and to accommodate the skills that might be required to deal with these. For example, a lot of work is done on relationships at the beginning of year 7 as the pupils enter a new stage of education. Equally, a great deal of thought has gone into the mindfulness programme and how to develop coping strategies for the year 11 and 13 students in the run up to key assessment dates. 

What is next for the programme? Are there any new ‘subjects’ that you want to introduce?

What makes Period X so exciting is that it is constantly evolving.  It is a dynamic programme that takes inspiration from the world around us and the changing cultural, political and environmental landscape. 

One thing we are very keen on developing is our partnership with the RAP project who provide a variety of programmes for teenagers, raising awareness about personal safety and prevention in the areas of rape and sexual assault. These are subjects of such importance and something we know our students are keen to discuss further.

We have also done a great deal of work with year 12 and 13 on leadership and developing their own personal brand and this is something we would like to build into the programme for the younger years.

Finally, developing commercial awareness is a key aspect of the programme and we are working closely with the careers co-ordinator to plan opportunities for our students to gain a greater understanding of the career pathways available to them. Our connection with Airbus and its apprenticeship programme is a firm favourite with the year 12 students. Liaising with other companies that offer similar programmes is something we want to explore. 

If you enjoyed this article, you might like to read ‘Why drama isn’t a soft subject to take at GCSE.’


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