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Friendships to treasure

Every teacher, and probably every parent, will say that children find it easiest to learn at school when they feel secure in their friendships. That is why learning how to manage friendship, which used to be pushed into the margins of school life (a topic for break, lunchtime and the bus ride home), now occupies a central place in the school curriculum.

At Northampton High, for example, we use a programme called Girls on Board to help our students navigate friendships as they grow up and develop. We work hard to empower girls to manage the ups and downs of their friendships – building them, keeping them, changing them, leaving them behind – while staying focused on the bigger picture of school life, its many demands and delights. This work is central to our approach, as we know how vital it is to build secure emotional foundations for future happiness and success.

Once a year, we are reminded of the gifts that friendships, based on those strong emotional foundations, bring. At our annual Reunion Lunch, scores of women, all former pupils of the School, converge at our Hardingstone site to reconnect and reminisce. They come from all over the country (even, occasionally, from overseas) to be there. Some, who left school perhaps sixty years ago, are given lifts. Some, from far-flung places, are offered space in spare rooms and on sofa beds so that they can make a weekend of it. This event is an inspiring demonstration of the power of friendship – especially the bonds that are tied in childhood against the vivid backdrop of our schooldays. The years peel away as memories and anecdotes are traded, the stories ripened by years of retelling, like the wines we sip with our lunch.

True friendship comes at a price, though, both in effort and patience. Gaining its full benefits involves taking the long view to surmount bumps in the road. It entails looking beyond the superficiality of a culture of social media ‘likes’ to a deeper mutual commitment. It means not sweating the small stuff. There may be differences of opinion. Ride them out. There may be quarrels. Patch them up. You may feel you are drifting further and further apart. Travel further. Make the effort to bridge the gap – going to your School Reunion is a great way to do this!

The power of friendship in evidence every year at our Reunion gives a genuine warmth to the atmosphere. This is the energising friendship I wish for, for all the girls whose start in life is at Northampton High – indeed, for all young people building friendships right now. To whom I conclude by saying – don’t measure them, just treasure them.