A busy few weeks for Drama at OHS

One of the many advantages of studying drama for GCSE or A Level, is the regular opportunity to regularly attend excellent theatre productions, such as our recent trip to see Rebecca at the Oxford Playhouse which inspired us all with its dynamic set design, superb acting and riveting storyline. As well as trips outside of school to watch plays, we have had the chance to see The Duchess of Malfi performed at school by OHS students to an exceptionally high standard with innovative direction from Ms O’Neill. Furthermore, with show week looming, preparation for The Addams Family is continuous, showing the professionalism of the cast with their ongoing commitment to rehearsals as well as support and cooperation from others offering their help backstage.

Evie, Drama Scholar

(and not forgetting the acclaimed performance of King Lear by Oxford High girls at the North Wall Arts Centre, directed by our Head of Mathematics Ms Burton…. picture gallery above)

Drama in OHS November 2015

Drama in OHS November 2015

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A Day in the Life of our Head Girl

I thought I’d take a little time to tell you about what school life on a daily basis is like from my perspective. For instance, take last Thursday. I wandered into the Crush Hall at 8:25am to find two Year 7’s probing the printer, trying to work out how to photocopy. I offered to help out, but unfortunately am also technologically incompetent, so I ended up taking them on a chase around school to try and find someone who would help us. The receptionist pointed us to Mrs Stott the Librarian, who then broke it to us that we couldn’t photocopy with that particular machine, but kindly offered to scan it and print it for the Year 7. Thus the first adventure of the morning was resolved, and we all hurried off to registration.

It was then time for Presentation Assembly, which we have every half term. For this, I have to sit on the stage with the Head’s team and Mrs Carlisle herself, and sometimes help Dr Secker sort out prizes and pass them along (I once broke a medal and had to award it to the poor receiver in two separate parts, but that is another story). This one luckily passed without disaster. As Presentation Assemblies always do, it overran a bit, so after a lot of clapping, I rushed off to Art, keen to make the most of the last lesson before half term. Our Art teachers had named this week National Drawing Week (though the rest of the nation seem to be unaware of this), and so on the Monday, Miss Rutty had distributed personalised tasks to each of us, to try and push us out of our comfort zones. I hate charcoal with a suitably burning passion- it gets under your nails, makes a horrible sound and isn’t colourful. So, naturally, A2 charcoal drawings were my mission. Never one to submit to defeat, (that’s just not the way we OHS girls roll) I drew my feathers with gusto, and only got told to stop complaining on one occasion. The bell then rang for break, and though reluctant as ever to leave the warmth of the art department, my friends and I returned to the common room. A drink, satsuma and another conversation about what everyone’s favourite hymn is (bizarrely, this is one of the most popular subjects of discussion at the moment, since my friend found a dubstep version of ‘Jerusalem’) I grabbed my stuff and headed off to English.

We are studying ‘Measure for Measure’ at the moment, and so our teacher gave us an article on Isabella’s character. As a treat for the last lesson before half term, we made group posters comparing the female characters in ‘Measure For Measure’. As always, this lead to mass excitement (you can never believe the hysteria felt tips can bring to a group of 17-18 year old girls until you see it). After English it was lunchtime but, first, I had to meet Miss Stewart and some other Year 13’s to start writing the Staff Pantomime. Watching the Staff Pantomime on the last day before the Christmas holidays has always been the highlight of my year, and so we are feeling the pressure to make it as good as ever, however I’m afraid I cannot disclose any further information on the subject.

When it was over, I considered going to ‘Leaf Appreciation Society’, but decided to relax with my soup instead. Some time last week, a particularly nice orange leaf was stuck anonymously to the art room door, and a meeting time was placed in Daily Digest this morning, next to a notice asking members to ‘bring a leaf to discuss’. It is all very mysterious, but if I go next time I will be sure to report back.

General Studies was next, but this week instead of Book Club, Ms O’Neill had arranged a workshop for us about job and university interviews. She had asked me and my friend in advance to participate in practice interviews in front of the whole year, which we both felt a little daunted by, but glad to be given the opportunity. Despite the excellent advice and guidance given about how to tell a good story, I still managed to become more and more ridiculous with each answer I gave. My problem is that, when asked a question I find difficult, instead of pausing I spew irrelevant and random anecdotes, whilst failing to use any verbs. It is a skill I have yet to learn, but I will continue practicing, and there is no doubt the session was extremely valuable in learning the do’s and dont’s of interviews.

It was then time for registration again, but I had a double study period and had finished all of my work. Therefore, my friends and I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to head to the M&S café and, as OHS always teaches us to make the most of every opportunity, 10 minutes later I was sipping at a Millionaire’s Hot Chocolate (I would recommend). We got back to school at 4 o’clock, as my friend had a ‘Duchess of Malfi’ rehearsal, and we had one later for ‘The Addams Family’. It’s on in a couple of weeks after half term, but we seem to be ahead of schedule at the moment, so no one is panicking too much just yet. It’s great fun with some hilarious one-liners, and a lot of black and grey costumes, as you can expect. I won’t give too much away, as you should come and see it- it is running on the 26th, 27th and 28th of November. There’s surely no better way to end a blog post than with a bit of shameless advertising, but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my ramblings and finding out more about life at OHS!

Freya, Head Girl Oxford High School

From The Addams Family and Alice to King Lear and the Duchess of Malfi

As half-term approaches, Drama at Oxford High is at its busiest with preparation for numerous productions fully underway. Rehearsals and costume fittings for The Addams Family, The Duchess of Malfi, King Lear and Alice Through the Looking Glass are keeping the drama department buzzing with energy. It’s great to have participation in these extra drama activities from students through every year group of the school as well as involving those contributing from other departments; such as textiles students making costumes and music students forming the orchestra for The Addams Family. As ever, we are continuing to spread the OHS Drama Department spirit with Year 5 at the Junior School where we’ve been using their current topic of Victorians to create improvised scenes and freeze-frames working as a team.   

OHS Drama Scholar Evie with Junior girls

OHS Drama Scholar Evie with Junior girls

Poster for Addams Family production at Oxford High

Poster for Addams Family production at Oxford High

The Duchess of Malfi performed by Oxford High students

The Duchess of Malfi performed by Oxford High students

 Evie, Drama and Textiles Scholar Year 12

Flying days, weapons handling and even a military show jumping competition..

CCF at Oxford High 

September saw many new, budding Recruits enter the CCF at Oxford High, ready to be issued uniform and start learning the basics!

Setting off from Oxford High for CCF

Setting off from Oxford High for CCF

So far this year, we have learnt first aid techniques, the principles of flight (with a chance to put it into practise at RAF Benson, flying a light aircraft), how to execute basic drill moves and an introduction to life in the field. Upcoming events include more flying days, weapons handling lessons and even a military show jumping competition.

During the summer, many cadets found the courage to brave some of the most intensive courses the CCF offers, where 5am wake-ups, runs carrying heavy logs, drill sessions before breakfast and lots of shouting were to be expected! Two OHS cadets successfully completed the Air Cadet Leadership Course which is held at RAFC Cranwell. Despite it being a physically arduous and mentally challenging week, both said that the course had taught them much about what leadership means.

OHS girls flying with CCF

OHS girls flying with CCF

In addition, another cadet took on the challenge of the army section’s version of this course, the Cadet Leadership Course. This included a three day exercise in the field where the cadets were tasked to defeat the evil General Mills and his army! With long days and often only a couple of hours of sleep, the cadets are expected to plan and prepare to attack enemy forces strategically. After a week of patrolling, ambushing and doing platoon attacks, it felt almost unnatural to return the rifle to stores and say goodbye to friends made.

As if this wasn’t enough, whilst some cadets stayed closer to home spending a week at RAF High Wycombe, the national Drill and Ceremonial Camp saw around 350 cadets, including one from Oxford High, parade in front of Air Commodore McAfferty. This was the first time in all of history that a continuity drill sequence had been managed with more than 90 people! Annual camps are always great fun and this year was no exception, with flying, games and Go Ape on offer.

CCF at RAF Cosford

CCF at RAF Cosford

So much has happened over the summer and the first few weeks of this term and there is a lot more in store throughout the rest of this year for those signed up.

Lauren, Year 13, Oxford High School

Chairing the School Council

As Chair of School Council, it is my role to organise the other prefects in charge of their various sub committees and also to ensure that the voice of the student body is heard. School council is an important part of any school as it is a chance for students to air their ideas and grievances to other students, and from that we can help develop new ideas, for instance a new system of peer mentoring, or more simple things like just changing the filling of sandwiches (tomato and brie is no more, huzzah).

Oxford High's catering team Oxford High's catering team listening to the girls' feedback

Oxford High’s catering team listening to the girls’ feedback.

Although staff are invited to the meetings it is a very much student run event, we decide the agenda and follow up on the ideas raised in the latest meeting. Every class has two or three school council representatives and these are then sorted into sub committees. In terms of the main school meetings themselves I try to encourage all years to give their opinions on the issues in order to hear a wide range of ideas. It can be difficult to get everything done and organise everything to its best potential, but the rewards are worth it. This year the school has decided to spend its £1000 on either table tennis, new water fountains or potential cooking lessons or activities. We as a prefect team must research which is the best idea and then…actually spend the £1000!

This responsibility is worth all the time spent researching and hard work that goes into the meetings and school council itself, as when we actually spend the money and see the responses from the school, it will be worth it!

Becky – Chair of OHS School Council

Latest news from Oxford High’s Drama Scholar

The OHS drama department has been as busy and exciting as ever this week with two trips to the theatre, the first being on Wednesday when we took all the Year Six from the Junior School to see ‘Matilda‘ at the Cambridge Theatre in London which was thoroughly enjoyed by all the enthusiastic Year Six’s as well as all the staff on the trip. Following this on Thursday evening, the Year 12 drama students were invited to Northampton High to watch their school production of ‘A Doll’s House’. It was wonderful to be so warmly welcomed  by another GDST High School where we had the privilege to meet their drama students and watch their excellent performance of the play we are currently studying. Furthermore, auditions for ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ were held this week, giving a great opportunity for Year Eight’s to perform in a play exclusively for their year group organised and directed by Year 12 drama students who were considerably impressed with the high standard of acting in their auditions. Find out more at http://oxfordhigh.gdst.net/drama/


Oxford High Juniors visit Matilda

Oxford High Juniors visit Matilda thanks to the OHS Annual Fund

Oxford High drama rehearsals for Open Evening

Oxford High drama rehearsals for Open Evening

OHS Drama visiting Northampton High

OHS Drama visiting Northampton High

OHS Drama students sneaking into Northampton's 6th Form

OHS Sixth Formers sneaking into Northampton’s 6th Form!


A day in the life of an Oxford High Drama Scholar … auditions, leadership and busy, busy, busy

In only the third week of the new school year, the Drama department has already been busy with auditions and rehearsals for this years school musical – The Addams Family. Tech club and Costume club, both run and attended by Sixth Form Drama Scholars and attracting many keen and helpful participants, have also got underway this week in order to ensure the show is as professional and entertaining as possible!

As yr 12 Drama Scholar, I have also had the pleasure of teaching year 5 at the Junior School recently where we have been continuing to explore their current topic of the Victorians through fun co-operative games.

Watch this blog for future updates!

Evie Year 12 Drama Scholar, Oxford High School

OHS Drama Scholar Evie with Junior girls

OHS Drama Scholar Evie with Junior girls

Maths Pictionary of the Month – read the latest from our Prefect Blog

As a Further Maths student at OHS, I have always been very keen to answer any problem presented to me. When I was in Year 7 and Year 8, we play a ‘Puzzle of the Month’, and the person with the best solution would win a prize. It used to be really fun discussing the puzzle with friends and trying to come up with the best solution we could, even if we didn’t always win. However, over the past few years, this tradition had sadly died away.

Recently, as a Year 13 Maths class, we approached the Maths teachers and asked if it would be possible to reintroduce Puzzle of the Month, and were given a very positive response with the teachers telling us that we could run it ourselves.

I decided to take the lead in organising Puzzle of the Month. I was given a display board to decorate and put the puzzle on, which is located in the Maths block. With the help of some of my friends, we made signs and posters and found a suitable puzzle for the students to answer. We also came up with a new idea to introduce to the school for the first time – Maths Pictionary. At the end of term, we often play this game in our lessons and have always looked forward to this fun game.

Therefore, we decided to have a ‘Maths Pictionary of the Month‘, where students look at a sequence of images which together make a Mathematical word. This month, we came up with ‘Bidmas’, which was described using pictures of online auction sites or similar for ‘Bid’ and some weights for ‘mass’. The puzzles have now been distributed to the students and we are awaiting answers at the end of the month!

Other exciting news – we now have a new Computer Programming club which has just started running for Year 11 upwards. This involves one of our teachers showing us how to look at algorithms on computers to see how they work. This is one of the most fascinating and useful skills which can be taught, and I’m sure as the club becomes more publicised around the school, it will become more and more popular!

These are just a few of the many opportunities open to the Maths students in Oxford High School, which I am glad to be a part of.

Multi-tasking…..How a drama prefect managed to weave careers insight and A-Level advice into a play rehearsal

Early on in the term

I am helping out at an Open Evening when our Head of Year 7 asks if I will help her with the Year 7 Admissions Day play, the play performed by current Year 7’s to the Year 6 girls on the day of their entrance exams into Senior School, to give them an idea of what life is like at OHS.  I agree to direct it; after directing Year 8’s and 9’s in a production of Much Ado About Nothing with a group of my friends last term, I am keen to be involved in more productions, however small-scale. The same script has been used for this play for years, so I offer to rewrite it.


Over half term I sit down to rewrite the Admissions Day play. The basic plot is that three women meet to reminisce about their school days at Oxford High School, and there’s a flashback of them in Year 7 being very busy with all of the different things they do. I keep the plot structure, but change the women at the beginning from being very old ladies who have had single-track careers (e.g. a scientist or an actor) to younger women in the middle of their careers, who have several elements to their careers, to try and express the diversity of interests that OHS girls have, and will have in their future careers.

Two weeks until Admissions (the ‘A’) Day!

I have my first rehearsal with my group of Year 7’s who will be performing the play to the Year 6’s who are taking their entrance exams. They are VERY excited, and I feel overwhelmed and impressed by their enthusiasm! We can’t find rehearsal space immediately, so sit in the Sixth Form Common Room for a while for our first read through of the script. They look round wonderingly, and one asks, amazed, ‘so you can just stay in here all day? You don’t have any lessons?

I gently explain the whole A Levels thing…

We then find an empty classroom and try running the play again, swapping round parts. It turns out they all want to play the younger versions of the characters, but I have to make a decision about casting. The girl who I cast as one of the grown up versions of the characters suggests that she could write some extra lines to make the line division fairer and I accept.

Only a week to go

At our second rehearsal, the girls are all extremely excited, and I have trouble controlling them sometimes, because I’m having too much fun myself! I remind them all that our performance is very soon and they really need to learn their lines. We talk about their costumes and what props we will need.

The day before ‘A-Day’

The girls have all been extremely committed and learnt their lines! I am delighted. We try a run through in costume for the first time, and I experience that pre-performance feeling of ‘wow, we might actually have something quite good here!’

Admissions Day arrives

I arrive at school on Admissions Day to find my actors have come in early and already been rehearsing in the library for half an hour! We have time for another run through, in costume, before performing to the Year 6’s. The girls are suddenly nervous, but once onstage are confident and lively. They visibly relax into their roles, and our audience of nervous eleven year olds relax into their seats. We’re all full of adrenaline afterwards, and I feel quite emotional when one of them asks if I’ll be doing this again next year, and I have to explain that I will have left by then…

However, I know that there will be someone ready to take my place as Drama Prefect, and bring something new to the role!

A Day in the Life at Bletchley Park – a Prefect’s view

Tasked with writing a 25 minute Theatre in Education play aimed at Primary School children,  we looked to Bletchley Park “Britain’s Best Kept Secret” where the work done by Codebreakers helped shorten WWII by two years.

This was exactly the inspiration  we were looking for.

Bletchley Park’s Education Officer invited us to perform at Bletchley Park itself (not too long after Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley had wrapped up filming for The Imitation Game).

Three A-Level Drama students (including myself) plus our Head of Drama, Miss Bramall set off in a huge taxi loaded to the brim with vintage suitcases, a clothes rail, and three sets of pigeon costumes, amongst other props. We were directed to one of the buildings in the park where we discovered an actual stage, which proved to be a lovely surprise as we were expecting a small classroom style affair. One final pat of powder, and another pat of our 40s curls, and the children arrived. Sixty 10/11 year olds from a local school in Milton Keynes and an assortment of teachers streamed into the room as we promptly hid “backstage”. After a glowing introduction from Miss Bramall about how we had “written a play all by ourselves”, we began.

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It was a radiant performance including very Brief Encounter-esque accents, the eccentric Alan Turing riding a broken bicycle wearing a gas mask (for his hay fever), sweethearts dancing to ‘Moonlight Serenade” while the young audience hid their faces in embarrassment, and even some pigeons made an appearance in order to illustrate the importance of carrier pigeons during the war.

We were given such high praise from both the teachers and the children, it was overwhelming. One of the senior tour guides at Bletchley Park gave us a wonderful vote of thanks where he spoke of how astounding it was to witness such a historically, culturally, and socially accurate depiction of what life was truly like working at the Park during WWII, as well as being incredibly entertaining. We spent the last half hour of the school’s visit playing some good old fashioned Drama games that we played when we were in the Lower School. By the time we left, we were exhausted by how excitable and complimentary the children were and we were bombarded with hugs when it was time for them to leave.

There was such positive feedback from all those involved in our production, from Bletchley Park asking if we could perform every time they had a school visit, to the post-it notes the children wrote for us to use in our evaluation; “Epic! I wish I could act like them!”, “I learned a lot about what they did here” and, the very flattering, “They could have spent longer onstage.”

Here’s to our next visit to a very special place.

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