Monthly Archives: May 2018

Positive thinking in school: supporting our children to be happy, healthy and productive in school

As I sit in the departures area at Heathrow, on my way back from the annual meeting of head’s of the school’s in COBIS (the council of British international schools), I inevitably find myself reflecting on some of the speakers and themes and their importance and influence on educational leadership at St Paul’s. We are lucky to be members of a number of groups of quality international and UK independent schools and each of them has their own annual conference, at which many important themes are explored. Over the last two months, I have attended three such conferences, COBIS, the Latin American Heads’ Conference and our own St. Paul’s educational conference. I have learned much!

A common and extremely important theme across all three of these professional opportunities was wellbeing and providing the right kind of support and guidance to help our children develop excellent mental health and be able to cope when life is challenging for them. With the recent tragic deaths of pupils in schools in São Paulo this is perhaps more pertinent and prominent in our thoughts than ever before.

We heard this week from two contrasting speakers on the issue of mental health for young people: Dick Moore is a former independent school headmaster whose son, Barney, took his own life in his early twenties. The impact was crushing to the family, as you can perhaps imagine, and we were inspired by Dick’s incredible humour and positivity in the face of such challenge. He now raises awareness of mental health issues in young people, particularly in boys and young men, and advocates for better support, open communication and practical strategies to help to create spaces where these young people can share their thoughts and feelings, be themselves and open up to accepting help. These, he says, are key.

Natasha Devon is an impressive woman and she too had us all thinking about how best to approach mental health issues in school. Natasha reminded us about the neuroscience of the teenage brain (a fascinating topic in its own right) and shared with us some startling statistics about mental health issues in the UK. It is interesting to note that approximately similar proportions of young men and young women have mental health issues, but that girls and women are far more likely to seek help and respond positively to it. Natasha supposed that boys in general are less likely to seek help because our methods of counselling and clinical support are intrinsically feminine and that this does not sit well with boys and men. She described to us a counsellor’s office, in muted, ‘feminine’ colours, with chairs facing each other, soft music and flowers on the table. Boys, it seems, do not want to look into an adult’s eyes, and they are generally not impressed by sweet smelling flowers either! Society also teaches our boys to ‘man up’ and be strong. It does not, in general, encourage men to be sensitive and reflective. Even the language that we use around courage and being able to cope is often ‘masculine’ in its nature. This made me think about how our new school counsellor, due to join us in August, might arrange their space… and why parents should really make the most of car journeys to talk to their teenagers, boys and girls, both sets of eyes fixed firmly ahead! These are opportunities to talk without judgement, and when you might really get to the heart of any worries that your children have. Read more about Natasha’s work here.

One speaker who was common to both our own conference and the COBIS one was a wonderfully charismatic positive psychologist, Christian van Nieuwerburgh. A Belgian, born in Lebanon to a Japanese mother, he is a linguist par excellence and, in my view, offers a fantastic insight into coaching and positive psychology. He is acutely culturally aware (he has even devised a new form of coaching for people of the Islamic faith) and utterly pragmatic in his approach. His witty and engaging workshops and keynotes in São Paulo encouraged us to develop a coaching approach in our work and our teaching, helping to identify what drives us and identifying ways to help young people set goals, based on knowing themselves and particularly their strengths, better. Reminding us that the people around us are generally committed to doing good things as well as they can was a key message, which hopefully will make it easier for us all to establish and maintain the highest quality and most productive relationships in all parts of our lives, even when we don’t always agree!

As parents and educators the most important thing for us all must be the mental health and happiness of our young people. Being attuned to the challenges that our boys and girls face, and helping them to navigate through the process of growing up is not easy. Professionals like psychologists and counsellors are key, of course, but it seems that what is more important are family relationships and openness between our children and those who care about them and can intervene when they need help. Creating space and time to share worries and problems are of prime importance if we are all to support our children to be happy, healthy and productive in school.

St. Paul’s selected as a Microsoft Showcase School for 2017-18

We are delighted to announce that St. Paul’s School has been recognised as a global leader in the successful integration of technology with teaching and learning  

 In a special ceremony on 10th May, Microsoft will award St. Paul’s School with the prestigious Showcase badge in recognition for its excellence in transforming and enhancing its physical and online learning environment to deliver more personalised education to its pupils.  

By receiving the badge, the school joins an exclusive community of some 850 premier schools from around the world, in recognition of its pioneering efforts and innovation in rethinking teaching, learning and assessment in order to drive deep 21st century competencies.   

In July 2017, and with the appointment of a new Head of Digital Learning, the school invested heavily in a six-point digital learning strategy for developing digital natives for the millennial generation. Through the implementation of the strategy, the school’s infrastructure has been transformed and enhanced, pupils have been given greater access to a wider range of devices and resources, and staff have embarked on a professional development programme to ensure that technology is effectively embedded into all aspects of the school’s diverse curriculum.  

All teachers have been assigned a tablet or laptop to connect to their smartboards, allowing them greater flexibility in adapting their classroom set-up to reflect pupils’ needs. All Prep pupils (aged 6 to 11) have access to devices on a 1:1 basis, and in the Senior School we have implemented a highly successful BYOD (Bring Your Own Device programme.) The introduction of Office 365 and cloud-based working has also opened up new opportunities for collaboration and flexible learning.  

 “Being selected as a Microsoft Showcase School is a great honour, and we are delighted to be receiving recognition for our staff’s passion for creating the best learning environments possible,” said the school’s Head, Ms Simpson. “We look forward to sharing our experiences with other schools in our community and the world to continue finding innovative ways to equip our pupils with the best possible tools for success within the classroom and beyond.” 

 As a Showcase School, St. Paul’s will work closely with Microsoft to lead innovation in education and communicate a vision for education enabled by technology, by hosting and mentoring other schools in the community on transformational educational practices. 

 “Microsoft Showcase Schools are shining examples of those applying purpose-driven innovation in a variety of ways to build connection, motivate pupils and to create community in and out of school, ” said Anthony Salcito, vice president, Worldwide Education, Microsoft. “These schools are truly transforming learning and providing more personalised education to pupils empowering them to achieve more.”