“Richmond House School, where children are happy to learn” is the phrase I proudly use when talking to people about our school. The children at our school say they enjoy being here, they are always smiling and laughing and the atmosphere of our school has a warm, family feel. Yet, when I read about the NSPCC’s announcement that they are dealing with over 60 phone calls a day to their ChildLine service from children as young as 10 in need of counselling and support, it made me think about how happy our children really are.
Mental health has a greater focus today, with a growing concern for the increase of mental health problems in young people. Many may think that mental health problems for young people start in their later teenage years, but this is not the case, according to the Mental Health Foundation, which states that 50% of mental health problems are already established by the age of 14. As a Head teacher of a primary school, I and all the staff at our school, have a responsibility to look after the wellbeing of our children, but how can we make a difference?
Following the advice from the DfE in their publication “Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools”, March 2016, developing a child’s resilience and self-esteem can be key to their positive mental well-being.
At our school, we are constantly trying to improve the children’s confidence, to be proud of the best they can be without comparing to others. We encourage children to take part in competitions, putting themselves forward to be voted onto the School Council, taking part in House Competitions, competing against other schools in Maths, Science, Languages, Poetry and General Knowledge, taking part in sports day with winners and losers; all of which help the children develop mental resilience. Our weekly celebration assemblies are an opportunity for children to celebrate theirs and others’ successes with awards given for work and behaviour, and anyone is given the opportunity to give a musical performance in front of the whole school.
We have two classes of 18 in each year group, which means we are large enough to compete in many sports fixtures against other schools, yet small enough for all children to be involved in teams. This helps children develop their sense of belonging and confidence in their individual and collective contribution to our school.
This year we have introduced outside learning to our curriculum, where different lessons such as Maths, Art, Science and English are taught outside in our Yurt. The ability to adapt to a changed environment and to learn in different ways is an important way to develop a child’s resilience, not to mention the value of being outside in the fresh air.
Schools have to be constantly mindful of the well-being of our children and continue to offer them a safe, affirming place where they feel they belong, they feel valued and they trust those around them.
By continuing to aim to do all we can, I hope I am able to continue to say with confidence that our school is a very happy place to be.
Helen Stiles, Headteacher.