There was a time when the role of a teacher was simply to educate the academic aspects of the brain, to worry only about public examination outcomes and to consider how we could make sure that every child learned their sums, practised the skills taught in art class or was able to write a well-structured history essay. How outdated this approach now seems. Life for youngsters today is far more complicated than ever before. They live a life which straddles the real world, of family relationships, day to day routine and the normalcy of school and a life online of Instagram, celebrities, perfectionism and ‘relationships’ with people they are never going to meet. And of course, on top of this, we still expect them to fulfil their potential academically.
The pressure that comes with being a young person growing up in this ever more pressured world has led all of us who work with young people to recognise that positive relationships and good mental health should be at the heart of a school. If our pupils are happy, balanced and secure in their lives, then they are much more likely to work hard, enjoy the myriad enrichment activities that we offer and, crucially, able to meet their potential academically.
It is this which lies at the heart of We Care. This is our initiative to ensure that positive mental health and wellbeing is at the forefront of all of our minds, and to help our pupils construct and maintain excellent relationships with other pupils and the adults they encounter in school, and with it responsible and positive behaviour for learning. We Care is a school wide initiative, starting with the very youngest children in the Pre-Prep and going right through to the oldest pupils in the Sixth Form. It is a restatement and a joining up of what we have been doing for many years as a school that believes in the best quality pastoral care; however, we hope that, by being a bit more explicit about relationships and mental health and wellbeing, we can make the outcomes even better.
We care also extends to our staff body (and not just the teaching staff!), and the HR department is working hard on wellbeing initiatives such as yoga and gym membership, to help all of us to feel more positive about what happens in school each day. We hope that it will be an approach that parents will understand and take home to their own relationships there too, and we look forward to hearing feedback from families in due course.
When Claire Harvey, a British Paralympian, visited our school last year she talked about the impact that anxiety and poor wellbeing have on pupils in schools around the world. She urged us to be inclusive and equitable in our relationships, and to consider how we can make the structure around us positive and supportive for all. This is what We Care is all about – showing that you worry about others, and being ready to extend the hand of friendship and to help a colleague or pupil feel included. Because this makes us feel happier, and when we are happier, everything seems better, even our history essays!