This week is Activity Week and the girls are enjoying some time to learn new things and have fun in various European countries after working hard for their public and school examinations.
Being given the opportunity to explore new places, alongside strengthening existing friendships and making new ones is an important part of growing up. We work very hard to furnish the girls with the tools necessary in this regard, not least with our adoption of the ‘Girls On Board’ initiative. With this in mind I should like to share with you below the recent article written by Charlotte de la Peña our Deputy Head (Pastoral) on The Importance of Pastoral Care and Mental Health in Schools which will be published in September.
'In a year when The Lancet has published yet more research showing an increase in self-harm in all age groups and genders since 2000, the evidence that we need to look after the mental health of our population has never been stronger. Good mental health, like good physical health, starts in childhood and since children spend almost half their waking hours at school it is increasingly important for educational leaders to understand how schools can create an environment in which students can flourish.
Meditative practices, including mindfulness and character education (both of which are developing a fast growing evidence base suggesting they promote positive wellbeing and protect against poor mental health) have been fundamental aspects of our ethos since our foundation in 1975. Meditative practices are not easy or appealing to everyone and during the journey of the identity-forging years, some teens actively write off anything suggested by their school or parents; our students are therefore free to choose their own level of engagement with them. However, it is heartening to see that once they reach the Sixth Form they really do see the purpose of ‘quiet time’ and the pause that we have before and at the end of lessons. They have learnt that such practices can enable them to be in the present, leaving behind what Buddhists might call the ‘monkey mind’, leaping fruitlessly from one thought or worry to another.
Investing in an excellent programme of personal, social and emotional education pays dividends in terms of student wellbeing. A referral to a counsellor is of far more help to a student who has gained the self-awareness and emotional literacy to explain their difficulties. Likewise, a well delivered PSHE session can really help students with their choices in relation to the minefield of the party scene, substance use etc. Whilst we cannot ensure that they always make wise decisions, we can arm them with the facts and develop their self-awareness around what influences their decisions.
When a student is struggling their parents and siblings are usually affected too. Supporting both students and their families by offering them time to express their fears and concerns is a fundamental aspect of good pastoral care. However, this does not always mean giving parents and students exactly what they want. Sometimes what we want may not be what the evidence suggests is best for us. This present a challenge for pastoral leaders who must be approachable and yet will need sometimes to institute policies not universally popular with parents or children.
A wealth of recent research suggests that education and wellbeing are synergistic; those who are well educated have better wellbeing and students with good wellbeing get better grades. So whilst it may be a tough job to deliver excellence in pastoral care there is plenty of evidence to show that it is very much worth the effort.'