Reading Girls' School newsletter - 7 may 2021

Principal's message: Preparing for life on another planet....

We are in our third year of delivering weekly STEM days as part of the year 7 and 8 curriculum.

Congratulations to our Year 8 girls Stuti, Stefna, Manasvi and Alara

A significant part of the programme is the delivery by external partners from the world of STEM. We have built up over 50 partners who have come to school and delivered workshops to the girls and given them an insight into the industry.

The latest company that we worked with was the telecommunications service provider, Ericsson who had a project of their own in holding a competition for all schools in Reading.

The challenge was to expand their thinking about how technology shapes the world around them. The project title was ‘What problems in society could be fixed with 5G technology?’.

We are very proud to announce that a small group of our Year 8 girls won the competition. They proposed using 5G technology to prepare humanity for life on another planet. They will now visit Ericsson UK headquarters to meet the team and see how their proposal could become a reality.

Ericsson kindly shared a video presentation they made of their day at RGS. Click the link below to see it.

Jon Gargan, Principal


The girls today had visits from Didcot Steam Centre and Sygenta AG, a large agrochemical company which looks at crop protection products to learn about the role that STEM plays in how our food is grown. Before the girls met the scientists, who work in research and development at their R&D research campus in Jealott’s Hill near Bracknell, they had a chance to conduct their own research into the common crops that are grown in the UK and the meanings of common words that are involved in food production and to think about if crop protection products have a place in the way we make food.

The scientists who met the girls via Teams were involved in a range of disciplines from physical, computational and formulation technology and spoke about how the active ingredients are first of all discovered through “high throughput screening” to development and testing to see if it is safe, effective and can be made in such a way that can be applied to crops. The girls also learnt about why STEM is important in feeding a growing population; water shortages and an additional two billion people by 2050 increases demands on our natural resources.

Throughout the morning some of the groups who are working with Didcot had their sessions on solving problems in engineering in a hands-on way through scale models and teamwork. In the afternoon the whole year group were lucky enough to enjoy a breakout room (based on some very difficult chemistry problems!) set by the Syngenta Scientists and then also had a chance to look at how different ingredients would affect the quality of a batch of slime that the girls were able to make in groups.

We thank all of the volunteers who participated this week who shared their experience with the girls so enthusiastically and to Syngenta for sponsoring the materials for the activities in the afternoon.

Book reviews.....

‘Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither’ by Sara Baume

I recently finished reading Sara Baume’s ‘Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither’; the rhythmic, poetic quality inherent within the title permeates the novel itself. Baume tells the story of Ray: a lonely, middle-aged man who has lost the only family he knows and is eking out a solitary existence in a small Irish coastal town. He adopts a dog named One Eye, after chancing upon an ad in a charity shop window, and from here the tale of companionship between the pair begins. The protagonist treats his newfound companion as a confidant, pouring his heart out to the un-replying mutt; fearing the loss of One Eye after a nasty encounter with another dog, they flee town and embark on an unlikely road trip.

What initially drew me to this novel was the stringent limitations the author placed on herself. It is written in second-person perspective (‘you’), which is a rare enough literary choice, but one which allows the protagonist, Ray, to speak his thoughts aloud to his pet dog, thereby having the added sense that he could be confessing his hopes and fears directly to us, with the insistent ‘you’. Also, for almost the entire novel, it is just Ray and One Eye, which lends an intriguing sparseness Beckett himself would have been proud of. It is very much a character-driven story, with little in the way of a conventional plot; this allows the characters to grow and develop, as well as allowing us to witness the strengthening of their bond. It is a novel of space, with both geographical and mental landscapes being laid out before us faultlessly. There is room for the characters who occupy this space to breathe and ruminate. Yet, somehow, it never veers into being ponderous, self-indulgent, or repetitive.

This novel is somewhat reminiscent of Paul Auster’s novella, ‘Timbuktu’, in that it casts a canine as the beating heart and there is a tenderness and innocence in this. Baume comes from the Irish literary tradition of writers such as the great John McGahern, and more recently, Donal Ryan. She is preoccupied with rural Ireland and characters who often remain hidden away leading lives of “quiet desperation”, as Thoreau famously put it. This novel is a tribute to the seemingly insignificant moments and details, which accumulate to shape our everyday lives and Baume is masterful in uncovering beauty in mundanity. Although there is a bleakness and certain tragic inevitability casting its shadow over this story, there is an undeniable hopefulness there too; a sense of redemption within reach, which can be awoken by the simple act of connecting with another being, when before such connection may have seemed unlikely, or even impossible. One might question the wisdom of reading a novel about isolation during these times, but actually, it comes as a welcome reminder of that shared communion which makes us human.

Mr Whelan

Stevensons School Uniform Price List 2021

Increasing Student Participation

“Talking Tokens”

Talking Tokens are issued by the classroom teacher and/or teaching assistant to pupils who participate to questions and/or ask questions during lessons. Pupils are encouraged to write their name and year group on the back of the 'Talking Token' and place them into the relevant 'Talking Token' collection box for their year group. At the end of each term, all 'Talking Tokens' are placed together and a pupil is selected at random. The more 'Talking Tokens' a pupil collects for contributing answers to questions in class, the more chances they have to win a prize.

At the end of this week the following number of 'Talking Tokens' collected by each year group for this year to date are:

  • Year 7 – 6968
  • Year 8 – 4664
  • Year 9 – 898
  • Year 10 – 3274
  • Year 11 – 1659
  • Total number of ‘Talking Tokens’ collected this year across the whole school are 17,463
“Has your lesson been REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning)?”

Using REAL tokens students have the opportunity to give instant feedback to staff about their experiences within the lesson.

Students are provided with a token and at the end of the lesson, are asked if their lesson has been R.E.A.L. (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning). Students theen place their token into the 'Yes' or 'No' box, which is in every teaching classroom. Staff then uses this information to make any modification to their delivery of their lesson. These tokens are then collected in at the end of every week and counted.

Results for this week: Tuesday 4 May to Friday 7 May 2021

YES – 1235 tokens

No – 81 tokens

Mental Health Awareness Week 10-16 May 2021

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from 10-16 May 2021. The theme is 'Nature'.


Please see a link below to a list of books that could help support the mental health of young people. They include fiction and non-fiction titles concerned with the following topics:

  • Anxiety, worry and panic
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
  • Body image and eating disorders
  • Bullying
  • Confidence and self-esteem
  • Depression
  • OCD
  • Self-harm
  • Stress


Swings and Smiles: Thursday night youth clubs are back. These clubs are for young people who attend mainstream education with an ASD diagnosis or on the pathway. The clubs meet in three different age groups between 8-19 years at the Swings and Smiles centre in Thatcham for fun, games and socialisation, and are offering the first two sessions for free. If you'd like to find out more or book a place please email office@swingsandsmiles.co.uk. For details of all their sessions, see May timetable.

Jobs and Training: Elevate have set up a monthly Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) jobs and opportunities board - click on the second download.

New Directions College also has some introductory courses in childcare, working in schools etc.

Through the Kickstart scheme, young people aged between 16-24 in receipt of Universal Credit can access part-time, paid 6-month jobs with employers across the country while also receiving development and training from the Charityworks team. There are two local potential job opportunities for the government's Kickstart scheme at the Abbeyfield Reading Society.

The first role is integral to the smooth running of the home, acting as the first point of contact within Abbeyfield House, greeting visitors, answering the phone and managing email correspondence. It's an excellent way to build strong customer service and administrative skills. The second position gives candidates the chance to make a real difference to the lives of older people in the care home and help to alleviate loneliness. The successful applicant will provide vital social activity to residents, help them to record and share their stories, and stay in contact with family and other loved ones outside of the home.

For more information on these roles email beth@charity-works.co.uk. For more information on Kickstart: https://www.charity-works.co.uk/kickstart/

Parent Carer paid job opportunity: The national NHS-Led Provider Collaborative Programme is seeking to improve the care pathways across specialised mental health and learning disability and autism services in line with the NHS Long-term plan. The Programme is committed to true co-production underpinning policy developments and values the voices of people with lived experience. The programme is keen to support NHS-Led Provider Collaboratives in ensuring involvement and co-production is at their centre as they develop.

This is an exciting opportunity for someone with lived experience to join a passionate, motivated and supportive team that is committed to improving the outcomes and experiences of people who use specialised mental health and learning disability and autism services. Further information about the role can be found here. The closing date is midnight on 9th May 2021. If you have any further questions or would like an informal discussion please contact rebeccagill1@nhs.net

Our next Special United meeting is on Monday 11th May 5:30 – 6:30 on Zoom. Deb Hunter will be joining us to discuss mental health support for young people with additional needs in Reading and to hear your views. To book a place email lisaharry14@aol.com Special United is open to any young person aged 8 – 25 with additional needs and their siblings. £10 Amazon voucher for all who take part!!

The Reading Families’ Forum is holding a coffee morning so that families can talk to CAMHS managers about their service on Thursday 13th May 11:30 t0 12:30 on Zoom. To book email fran.morgan.rff@gmail.com

1st July 2021 9:30 – 2:30 Transition Conference for Preparing for Adulthood, jointly hosted by Reading Families’ Forum and Parenting Special Children. Join the conference to hear a disabled adult's personal experience, hear about the law from Professor Luke Clements and more. To book email fran.morgan.rff@gmail.com

Remember that the Local Offer has lots of information about local services for families of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). They have a friendly team who can answer all your questions about local support. 0118 9373777 (Option 2) (73777)