I wonder if you know this quote from Daniel Tammet: “Like works of literature, ___________ _____ help expand our circle of empathy, liberating us from the tyranny of a single, parochial point of view”. It is one of my favourites because it encapsulates much of what education is about: developing new ways of seeing, thinking, understanding, communicating, creating and sharing. I will leave you to guess the missing words, but there are many possible ways of filling in those blanks*.

Rightmove’s 12th annual ‘Happy at Home Index’ (2023) asked more than 26,000 people across Britain about various aspects of where they live including transport links, sense of community and green spaces. Wokingham came in as the 4th happiest place to live in the UK. It is sometimes suggested that Wokingham is a bit of a bubble – protected from many of the problems that blight other parts of the world. The truth is, though, that even our leafy town plays host to the whole range of human experience.

Either way, at The Holt, we think it is important to enrich our curriculum by giving our students opportunities to learn about other ways of seeing and being, and to widen our circles of empathy. To that end, a number of events have taken place in recent days.

Mrs Williams, Head of PSHE, writes about three of these:

Gambling Workshop/Talk

On Thursday, Year 10 attended a Gambling Awareness talk organised by the PSHE department. The talk was run by Red Card Gambling, set up by ex-footballer Tony Kelly after he developed a gambling addiction that led to the end of his football career. The students learnt about Tony’s story and also listened to Ben’s story about how he lost more than £300,000 in only a few years. The talk focused on the risks of gambling and what these look like for the younger generation – from typical gambling such as betting and going to casinos, to online activities such as buying ‘loot boxes’ on games such as FIFA. The talk also gave some really good advice on how to overcome issues with gambling such as installing software onto your phone and talking to your bank in order to block any gambling transactions. The students will be reflecting on the talk in registration this week with their tutors where they will do some short activities on the risks and consequences of gambling. If you are interested in finding out more about this organisation, please see their website – Red Card Gambling Consultancy – Gambling Support.

Sakoon Through Cancer

On Friday afternoon, Year 11 students attended a talk and workshop led by Sakoon through Cancer. STC are a charity who aim to raise awareness and empower women in their knowledge about their bodies and recognising signs of breast cancer. The talk included a range of facts & statistics on breast cancer, and a very emotional real-life story from a breast cancer survivor, Bep. The students showed incredible empathy and supported Bep when she became emotional with a big round of applause and cheer. The workshop concluded with teaching the students how to carry out a self-examination – through the use of knitted breasts with marbles as lumps! In true Holt style, the students became quite competitive in their groups of who could find the lump the fastest.

If you are interested in finding out more about the charity, please see their website – Sakoon Through Cancer.

REAL Soulscape

It’s been a busy term for the PSHE department! This term, Year 9 have been having ‘REAL’ lessons in their PSHE lessons led by Soulscape. These lessons have focused on discussions and activities based on topics such as relationships, self-esteem, body image, decision making and conflict resolution. Students explored reasons for making decisions and the influence of others, and also discussed the characteristics that would be desirable in different types of relationships (friendships and romantic relationships). It has been really lovely seeing students engage with the Soulscape team and reflect upon their own lives. Students also wrote themselves a ‘Time Capsule’ in their second session where they reflected on how they feel about themselves now and what their hopes are for the future. Students will be keeping these safe with the aim of opening these up in Year 11 (or whenever they find them in a drawer in the future!) and seeing how their perception has changed.


David Knott Foundation

On Tuesday 30th January, Year 7 students listened to a talk from The David Knott Foundation, organised by the English Department. This charity trains surgeons to save lives in countries afflicted by war and natural disaster. While we may well have concerns about NHS provision in the UK, it was eye-opening for our students to hear about both the need for medical intervention among young people and others living through catastrophe and the lack of provision in many parts of the world. As well as raising awareness, this event has also inspired several of our Year 7s to consider a career as a surgeon. Thank you to Ms Mirza for organising this talk. Voluntary contributions from the students raised £193 for the David Nott Foundation.

Holocaust Memorial Day Assemblies

Mrs Hagger and our History Prefects led a week of assemblies leading up to Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January. This day commemorates the millions who died under Nazi persecution in WWII and in more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan. In doing so, it is hoped that we can lessons from the past and work together to build a better, safer future.

Mrs Hagger’s assembly focused on the circumstances surrounding the Rwanda genocide in 1994 and encouraged us to value and defend the freedoms and security we enjoy in the UK.

We often talk about Fundamental British Values in schools which are:

  • democracy
  • the rule of law
  • individual liberty
  • mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs

Assemblies such as this one remind us not to take them for granted.

National Apprenticeship Week

Another way in which we would encourage students to broaden their horizons is by considering the various pathways open to them. Apprenticeships are available for those who leave school at sixteen through to those who want to gain a degree and beyond. This is something that all students should consider even if they later decide on a more traditional route through university.

Next week is National Apprenticeship Week when students and parents can find out much more about the opportunities on offer. Mrs Hart, our Careers Lead, will be sending out details of webinars you might want to book onto, but do explore the NAW website linked to above.

So, as we come to the last week before the half term break, let us all be encouraged to open our minds to different perspectives. We might widen our circle of empathy and perhaps learn more about ourselves in doing so.

Ben Adams

Assistant Headteacher

*So, according to Daniel Tammet, it is “mathematical ideas” that revolutionise our perception of the world. As a sometime teacher of mathematics, I concur. Would you agree? How did you mentally fill in the blanks?