Spread a little kindness

9th February 2017

I am writing in the midst of a busy but highly successful spring term at BGS. As I look out my window across the Governors’ lawn, the days are getting longer and the wintry chill in the air does at last seem to be lessening. This week is ‘Children’s Mental Health Week’ and their aim this year is “To encourage everyone — adults and children alike — to spread a little kindness.”

Here at BGS we take the mental health of our pupils extremely seriously and a number of related events have taken place so far during the course of this academic year, including the latest from Jeremy Thomas, an award winning author, producer and speaker who gave a talk on ‘How to stay sane in an insane world’, based around his own experience of dealing with addiction and manic depression.

These have been designed not only to raise awareness amongst pupils, parents and staff but also to offer sensible and practical strategies that can be implemented during our busy lives. Finding opportunities for reflection is extremely important, as well as eating healthily and taking regular exercise. All of these areas are championed at BGS, though I could certainly do a bit better at incorporating them into my lifestyle!

The extensive co-curricular programme here at the School, run by our tremendous staff, encourages the boys and girls to try new pursuits or to extend their development in areas of personal interest. It is not primarily designed to result in further academic study for the pupils unless it is absolutely necessary. We certainly feel that the everyday things like the long lunch break here at BGS gives our boys and girls an opportunity to decompress during the busy, but very fulfilling, school days.

An essential element of BGS that we are particularly proud of is the proactive and extensive pastoral system and team with the School. Caring and committed Tutors, supportive and agentive year group teams, two School Nurses and three Designated Safeguarding Leads on the Senior Leadership Team, clearly demonstrates that we take the well-being of our pupils extremely seriously.

We very much feel here at BGS that if our young people are happy, they will go on to be successful in whichever field or pursuit they specialise in. We are very clear that happiness needs to come first.

We are of course not naïve enough to think that all of our pupils are happy and this is where the pastoral system at BGS plays a vital role – on keeping our eyes open and identifying pupils going through difficult times. These moments are priceless in terms of significance. Asking “How are you?” is one of the simplest questions in life but also one of the most powerful.

We are not perfect, but we very much understand the importance of making time to listen to all our pupils and to make them feel heard. Electronic devices, and in particular the widespread use of social media, will never replace the power and humanity of enquiring about the welfare of others and showing an authentic interest in their response.

I asked one of my Year 8 pupils the other day what made her happy: “My friends, my teachers and playing sport” and I think it was a very succinct summary of what a 21st Century school is all about. Imparting knowledge, creating and maintaining a strong connection between pupils, teachers and parents and championing the importance of stepping away from one’s studies to pursue a hobby of personal interest and enjoyment.

As we approach the launch of our ‘Spotlight on happiness’ resource, it is worth reflecting that what ultimately resides in the forefront of our consciousness at the end of a fulfilling day, week or life are the happy memories that we created with others and the contentment at making the most of the opportunities that came our way.