From Zoom to Room: an academic year in a class of its own.
South Hampstead High School opened a new performance space and concert hall earlier this year, unveiled by former pupils of the Girls’ Day School Trust, Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Colman, co-stars of The Crown. The first show to be staged was a powerful production of Emilia, the trailblazing play about a black female poet from Shakespeare’s era. South Hampstead was the first school to stage the play, which tackles prejudice and inequality with care, wit and passion. All future profits generated by the Waterlow Hall will support the school’s bursary programme, providing more places to girls who could not otherwise afford an education at South Hampstead. Free, means-tested places are currently available for Sixth Form entry in September 20201 – applications close on October 9th this year.
South Hampstead High School won this year’s English-Speaking Union oracy award. Its pupils have won numerous competitions this year and established a culture where debating is seen as fun, dynamic and accessible. A key initiative has been South Hampstead’s ‘debate hub’, working with local state schools to empower those who would not otherwise have access to debating provision. The mutually enriching partnership, with regular coaching and friendly fixtures – which continued online during lockdown – ensures dozens of pupls in the area learn to collaborate and enjoy winning arguments.
Headmistress, Vicky Bingham, a former vice president of the Oxford Union, says: “The skill of persuasion is needed all the time… above all, debating forces participants to consider alterative points of view – something that is perhaps more pressing than ever. We are in the business of empowering future leaders.”
South Hampstead continued to engage in charitable activities this year, one of the many ways girls are encouraged to be morally responsible citizens of the future. The design and technology department produced PPE for local healthcare workers; Sixth Formers organised creative fundraising events; a Junior School pupil designed a rainbow sweatshirt with profits supporting the NHS, and teachers provided guided home learning for pupils from local partner schools.
Earlier this year, the charity team picked up the Mitzvah Day outstanding youth achievement award for its work contributing to food banks and fighting period poverty. South Hampstead was also shortlisted for the Independent Schools of the Year award in the environmental achievement category.
The Project Zero initiative aims to significantly improve the community’s environmental credentials by the school’s 150th anniversary in 2026. The Eco Committee, led by the school’s UN-accredited climate change teacher, have even persuaded the headmistress to stop buying new clothes for the year – inspiring a number of pupils to make their own 365-day pledges, including relinquishing single-use plastics and unsustainable palm oil products.
The article appeared in The Jewish Chronicle education supplement on Friday 18th September 2020.