How do we support pupils' mental health in school?
Here at Mowden, our Wellbeing programme is meeting this need from a pupil’s very first steps into school, with a goal to enhance skills that nurture their self-awareness, empathy and resilience through an all-encompassing approach. We strive to create a safe, yet challenging environment that allows individuals to fail and grow without fear.
Having our pastoral team integrated into the school ensures that each individual pupil is known and supported, as they would be at home. Our (PSHE Personal, Social, Health and Education) programme is also integral, delivering a comprehensive, age-specific curriculum across all year groups, which is designed to equip our pupils with the skills and knowledge to deal with life beyond school. We look to build a resilient, happy child that is well-prepared for future life and we achieve this through three different avenues:
Our Structure: Our pastoral structure has both a formal and informal nature to it. Each pupil benefits from being a member of a small form group. Form tutors are the first port of call for both pupils and parents and the formation of strong relationships between all three parties means that every pupil is at the centre of a close-knit group of people who are supporting them, both in good times and bad. Having a very active House system, consisting of four vertical Houses means that there is a second cohort of staff and pupils available to help with each pupil. Whilst there is a Housemaster, who is responsible for organising the group of pupils, many activities are pupil-led, with senior pupils helping to support the younger pupils and instilling in them a real sense of House pride. Supplementing the support for each pupil are an array of questionnaires and opportunities for pupils to voice their opinion on what matters to them. Wellbeing questionnaires happen on a regular basis and each term there is both a “Speakers’ Corner”, which allows pupils to note down their ideas to develop the school, but also a school council that meets to discuss issues that have arisen in recent weeks and how to best deal with them.
Our People: Mowden Hall is very much a community and the school is very much focused on being a community from top to bottom. Children mix together in a huge variety of ways, be that sitting to eat lunch together in mixed ages, working in small teams to clear the tables after meals, taking part in activities on a Friday afternoon together or competing in the vast array of inter-House competitions. Peer-on-peer support is heavily promoted at Mowden Hall and the result is that children of all ages have another avenue of support, on top of the formal tutor / House system.
Our Place: We are incredibly fortunate to attend a school that is set in extensive rural grounds and this most certainly forms part of the process to build a resilient, robust young person. Children are almost always outside at any break or lunchtime, in all weather conditions, enjoying playing with each other surrounded by nature. Clubs and activities make the most of the woodlands around us, as well as the vegetable patch, hen house and nature garden. The children enjoy the outside and make the most of their time in this special part of the world.
Finally, our carefully considered and robust PSHE curriculum, the school's support of various mental health charities, Assemblies dedicated to mental health awareness and the observation of events like Mental Health Week all contribute to creating awareness in our school of this incredibly important aspect of education.
Mental Health is covered within all PSHE lessons delivered through a whole school spiral programme called ‘Jigsaw PSHE’. This programme is delivered from EYFS all the way through to Year 8.
The Jigsaw approach to PSHE/RSHE, brings together Personal, Social, Health Education, emotional literacy, social skills and spiritual development in a comprehensive scheme of learning. Teaching strategies are varied and are mindful of a preferred learning style. Jigsaw provides a structured programme of personal development to nurture the ‘whole child’ and increase learning capacity, underpinned by mindfulness philosophy and practice. SMSC (Spiritual, moral, social and cultural) development is clearly mapped and balanced across each year group. There are five main emotional literacy skills - self-awareness, social skills, empathy, motivation and managing feelings. These are vital for a pupils development, their understanding of themselves and others and increasing their capacity to learn. These lessons help pupils to manage many of the critical challenges and responsibilities they will face growing up.
Mental health services are under considerable strain and accessing support can be difficult due to referral thresholds and extensive waiting lists, we are fortunate that we are able to offer our pupils one-to-one mental health support without delay with Mrs Laura Danby, Nurse and Mental Health Lead, within a comfortable and familiar setting with a member of staff whom they know and trust.
All mental health support sessions are tailored to meet individual needs and can take place over a number of weeks allowing time to work through areas of concern and to develop coping strategies.
Pupils can also seek guidance from the Independent Listener, Mrs Linda Hunter, who is able to act as a sounding board and offer answers to some of the more complex questions our young people have.
Sport at Mowden also plays a part in our mental health - sport is therapeutic; it is a way for pupils to be sociable and stay fit and healthy. We believe the wide ranging development of young people in sport goes beyond winning, and Mowden's sporting values provide a fantastic backdrop to enhance pupil wellbeing.