Head, Liz McLaughlin, is firm in her belief that the two key ingredients for a successful school for any student is academic rigour and emotional wellbeing. If we were to only focus on academic rigour, and we fail to ensure the emotional wellbeing of our students, then those opportunities that we are able to provide our boys at the end of Year 2 would be difficult to achieve.
Our aim is to provide a safe space for learning, an environment where it is not simply enough to ask questions, fail at a task, or to ask for help, but positively encouraged. With this safety in place as they learn, we are able to watch with pride as our students run through the school gate with happiness every morning, and leave with reluctance in the afternoon.
We have a number of wellbeing initiatives in place at school, some of which are reinforced at home:
- ‘Gratitude’ sessions: these are when the students are encouraged on a daily basis to reflect on at least one thing they are grateful for in their lives. Reasons to be grateful have ranged from their Lego toys, to the sun shining to Chef Nay’s delicious lunches! Our families are also encouraged to discuss things they are grateful for at home.
- ‘Zones of Regulation‘: This is a research-based programme that has been implemented this year in every classroom. It helps our students learn to recognise and cope with their inner feelings. Each class has a Zones chart with the boys and teachers photos that are moved throughout the day to signal how they are feeling and if they need additional strategies.
- School counsellor: In addition to a dedicated SENDCo who is a permanent member of staff, and works closely with all the students ensuring that additional support is given whenever required, the students also have access to a trained psychotherapist onsite once a week. She conducts play therapy with boys in need and provides parent support sessions. The school will shortly be hosting a parent information session for the entire school called ‘Why Love Matters’, educating the parents on the neuroscience behind caring relationships and their child’s development.
- Therapy dog: The school also welcomes a therapy dog called Ziggy every week. The dog is a retired therapy dog from Great Ormond Street and is owned by one of the staff members who is trained in psychology. The boys are able to spend time with Ziggy and encouraged to write their worries and put them in Ziggy’s ‘Worry Box’ knowing it will be read and answered by a teacher and Ziggy.
Finally, we believe that Staff wellbeing is also essential in the school. Weekly ‘Wellbeing menus’ are sent out to staff with tips on how to take care of themselves, highlighting resources, and encouraging everyone to support each other. We have also had staff workshops focused on wellbeing led by trained psychologists.