A characterful approach...
The quality of the pupils’ personal development is excellent.
Pupils are excellent citizens within their own community and have developed a considerable capacity to make a positive contribution to the wider world.
Pupils have a strong spiritual understanding.
Pupils show tremendous respect for one another whatever their cultural or religious background.
ISI Inspection Report February 2017
The extracts above, taken from our most recent inspection report, give a flavour of how the girls develop at St Swithun’s. Rather than leave character development to chance, hoping that the girls will just acquire traits such as strength, compassion, the confidence to speak to people they don’t know, the ability to organise themselves and others, we offer a coherent and comprehensive programme.
Our character Development Programme
At St Swithun’s, we believe in preparing young women for life beyond the school gates. We run a character development programme aimed specifically at helping girls to develop character traits which reflect our founding virtues of caritas, humilitas and sinceritas. In addition, we seek to teach the girls qualities such as persistence, courage and having a sense of perspective.
The following are some of the key ways in which we develop character:
Members of the upper sixth form take responsibility for specific aspects of school life. This builds on the skills of leadership, diplomacy, persuasion and patience acquired during the lower sixth when every girl was responsible for an aspect of life within their day or boarding house.
Empower Leadership and Followership training
All members of the sixth form receive leadership and followership training. This explicitly emphasises the skills necessary to lead others and to be a good follower. Not everyone wants to lead all of the time and nor would this be desirable. We believe that knowing how to pull together in support of a common goal is as important as being the one to put forward the vision.
Leadership days encompass a range of physically challenging and mentally stimulating tasks designed to develop confident leadership and followership skills. The format, objectives and tasks are tailored to revolve around relevant issues.
Every member of the upper sixth leads a ‘family’. This means that each of the girls is responsible for a group of girls including at least one pupil from each year group. The upper sixth are trained to use ice-breaking activities and to deal with any less than enthusiastic members of her family. These skills will be useful throughout her life.
Using Your Initiative
Members of the sixth form are encouraged to launch new events, clubs or activities. These could range from organising a talk from a visiting speaker, directing a play, organising a concert, leading a new club, etc.
All members of the sixth form are encouraged to take part in assembly. The ability to speak in public is an important one. For those who are nervous about speaking in front of others or who find it difficult talking to new people, there is a course of lessons to build confidence. All members of the upper sixth also take part in a team speaking competition at school. In addition, there are opportunities to represent the school at debating and public speaking events.
Caring for Others
Practical compassion is an essential characteristic for girls at St Swithun’s. By this we mean that all members of the sixth form have the chance to help other people. This could be through volunteering to organise activities for younger girls in the senior and junior schools, through organising a tea party for the elderly in Winchester or through being involved in organising charity events at school. Reaching out to others and thus diverting attention away from yourself has been found significantly to enhance happiness and wellbeing in addition to teaching the girls about doing the right thing.
Debating at St Swithun’s
Our debating programme pervades the whole school. There is an annual intra-year debating competition available to girls in the lower part of the school, and from their GCSE year onwards, girls can elect to debate during Stretch, our enrichment programme.
Extra-curricular debating club runs three times a week for all year groups including sixth form. We debate against other local schools such as Winchester College and King's School and participate in local and national school and university debating competitions throughout the year, such as ESU Mace, International Competition for Young Debaters, Oxford Schools and Cambridge Schools.
Debating at St Swithun's is our own unique blend of old fashioned British Parliamentary debating, Mace debating and current affairs. It is a confidence, skills and employability programme which aims to equip all girls for their future, whether a university seminar, job interview, boardroom discussion or a business pitch.
Our programme teaches the key 21st century skills of critical and creative thinking, leadership, problem-solving and entrepreneurship, while developing core self-esteem. Those girls who spend some time debating at St Swithun's grow in confidence beyond their expectations, and take their logical thinking and speaking skills with them through life.
As someone who struggled with social anxiety, I signed up for debating hoping it would help me practice talking in front of people. But I didn't realise how much fun it would be as well. We have had some interesting debates and my confidence has improved so much. I have really enjoyed the whole experience.
A recent sixth form leaver