Partnerships in Lockdown
The pandemic afforded us the opportunity to continue to consider how we could sustain and even expand our current Partnership programme. Although some of our work could not take place due the nature of these interactive events and the required Covid safety procedures, we are proud of the way we have been able to innovate and adapt some of our programmes digitally. A summary of these activities can be read about here.
SHiNE Together (our education programme for local Year 5 and 6 pupils which the school has run for 12 years) went ahead very successfully online this year. 68 boys and girls from 9 Manchester Primary Schools attended online courses in Art, Computing, Creating Writing, Design Technology, Drama and Spanish. 98% of pupils said that coming to SHiNE Together had made them more confident in that subject and more excited about learning. The courses initially ran for three weeks but due to their popularity and success two further weeks were added. Parcels have also been sent out to the 16 children who are independently working towards their Bronze Crest Award. They have three projects to choose from: The Crispiest Crisps, The Perfect Cup of Tea and Insulating Fabrics. Alongside packets of crisps and boxes of teabags, were carefully wrapped beakers and measuring cylinders to help them carry out their experiments. We look forward to seeing the work of these budding Scientists!
We were also delighted to be able to provide 35 iPads to 4 of our SHiNE Together maintained primary schools who we have worked with for the longest time.
(You can read more about this Partnership elsewhere on our School's Together entry).
Senior Citizens concert
The annual Christmas concert and tea party, traditionally hosted by our pupils every December for many years, is the highlight of seasonal festivities for pensioners in our local community, as well as for us, and news that this year’s event was to be cancelled due to the pandemic was received with deep disappointment. But, thanks to technology the School was able to ensure that if over 200 of our elderly neighbours couldn’t come into Withington, then we would take Withington to them and bring the concert into their homes through a DVD or video link to the concert. Preparations started in September with Covid-secure and socially-distanced rehearsals for over 250 participating singers and instrumentalists – and Christmas came early at Withington as filming took place in the Arts Centre in October. The girls had to perform within their year group bubbles, working within the social distancing rules that apply to musical performances and the staff choir had to adapt to the new restrictions too. The production team then had to use technology to layer into the recording a range of different groups and individuals performing in their own time so that everything was ready for the remote concert to go live on 9th December at 6.30pm. Staff helpers delivered the DVDs and Christmas tea boxes were provided for the pensioners as well as presents which pupils and their families had donated. Raffle tickets were also included and for an extra personal touch, pupils hand wrote individual messages.
A new Partnerships initiative 'Withington Connect' has seen WGS sixth form pupils making contact with senior alumnae during lockdown.
A powerful sense of community has long been associated with Withington and is often cited as one of our School’s strengths. We are privileged to have a close family of pupils, former pupils, parents and staff and it is at times like these that we are reminded of the importance of those connections. We were pleased to launch ‘Withington Connect’ – a programme that sees our Sixth Form pupils reaching out by phone to senior alumnae to connect, share common experiences and simply to talk. By comparing memories of school days, bringing updates of WGS today and finding shared interests and views, we are connecting generations of Withington pupils, past and present. We know from the positive feedback received that our alumnae are enjoying the conversations and our pupils are gaining so much from this experience. As well as a greater sense of connection during a time when social interactions have been largely confined to screens, they are gaining new skills and understanding and using the experience to contribute towards achievements such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.
I Can Be
Our Partnership with I Can Be (a charity which seeks to broaden the career aspirations of disadvantaged girls) is progressing very successfully, with about 70% of the contributors to our recent online Withington Careers Convention also agreeing to support I Can Be. The 2021 Careers Convention was one of many firsts, not only our first ever online convention, but also our first ever convention with a charity partner. We have been thrilled to work with I Can Be, a small charity that aims to break down barriers to opportunity for disadvantaged children. Their core programme introduces 7 and 8-year-old girls to the world of work, aiming to broaden their horizons and raise their aspirations by helping them explore jobs they otherwise may never be exposed to. A number of the contributors to the WGS Careers Convention have also agreed to create video resources or host virtual visits for I Can Be, and it is wonderful to see such a worthwhile partner benefitting from the generosity of the Withington community as well as our own pupils.
In December our year 11 girls were involved in responding to Santa's letters from a local maintained primary school. Our pupils became 'elves' writing replies to local primary school children. The project creates an opportunity for personal development and reflection for young pupils as well as development of their literacy skills. This year over 120 replies were sent and we are delighted that we could sustain this Partnership this December and were able to adhere to Covid safety protocols.
Twenty of our year 12 chemists have been involved in the Young Chemistry Communicator project, working hard to enhance the understanding of, and enthusiasm for, chemistry in younger student cohorts. At the same time, this project is designed to inspire future generations of students to pursue Chemistry at a higher level.
The programme, which in the last few years involved the live delivery of exciting and often challenging chemistry demonstrations, had to be significantly modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the limitations imposed by pandemic-related restrictions, the year-12 girls planned, during lockdown, three superb kitchen chemistry shows.
Their experiments could be performed and filmed at home and were all kitchen based, involving reagents that could be safely handled by younger children, either at home or in the school setting.
Two of the shows were delivered virtually to pupils of years 5 and 6 from St Teresa’s Primary School, and the third show was delivered to our very own year 8s. At the point of presentation, all shows included a mix of live and recorded deliveries, adapted to suit the respective audiences. In addition, the St Teresa’s shows included practical opportunities for the children to make their very own lava lamps and slime.
To support the activities at St Teresa’s the Withington Lower Sixth communicators prepared a set of reagents and supporting documents, including a booklet of instructions for the children and their teachers, a certificate of achievement and questionnaires to assess their learning and, of course, their enjoyment of the shows.
The third show included a live delivery for two of the year 8 science classes, whereas the other two groups watched the show virtually in their classrooms. Each show had a slightly different twist and a different range of live and recorded activities.
The complete shows will also be available as full recordings to the Withington community and we hope to be able to share these with other local schools at a later date.
Digital Awareness UK
After a successful joint Partnership activity between Withington and Digital Awareness UK last year, the charity were in contact at the start of this year to see whether we would like to participate in another shared Digital Wellbeing event. This was an online webinar event and was funded by Digital Awareness and their corporate sponsors. It was offered to parents and dealt with digital wellbeing, particularly in the Covid environment. The opportunity to attend this webinar was offered to our parents as well as parents from the schools we have been working with from our online Shine schools. We were delighted with the uptake numbers both from our parents and parents from our linked maintained primary schools. We hope to be able to work together next year.
We also have some new Partnerships beginning after the Easter holidays. We will be conducting after school Physics lessons at a local maintained primary school as well as a very exciting Heritage Arts Award Project which will be a collaboration between our Junior School and St James's Primary School around the corner.