This week our school theme has centered on mental health, incorporating World Mental Health Day on Tuesday. The wellbeing of our children should be the number one priority of us all and we pride ourselves at BPS on keeping this aim central to all we do. There is still a widely held belief that in order to prepare children for the next stage in their life we must make excessive demands on their pace of progress, overload them, push them forward and demand they work, live and learn way beyond their years. The evidence clearly shows that this approach is not only counter-intuitive, it also poses a significant and genuine threat to the wellbeing and mental health of our children. I shared this quote at our recent academic achievement evening by author Tom Stoppard, which I think challenges this notion well.
“Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up. But a child’s purpose is to be a child.” He goes on to say, “Nature doesn’t disdain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into each moment. We don’t value the lily less for not being made of flint and built to last. Life’s bounty is in its flow, later is too late. Where is the song when it’s been sung? The dance when it’s been danced? It’s only we humans who want to own the future.
I love these words, the message is clear and entirely accurate. The fact is that our children will learn, will make fantastic academic and social progress, will flourish, will enjoy life and learning, if they are happy and content.
To be completely clear, to focus on this is in no way about lacking academic ambition or limiting achievement, quite the opposite. Greater depth learning is much more than simply moving on to the next level or age range, it is about using curiosity and understanding to make links, problem-solve, ask questions and explore deep learning. It has nothing to do with volume and everything to do with quality. Children are much better equipped to do this when they are in an environment where they feel safe, where they feel they can make mistakes and where they are free to learn without overt pressure and fear of failure.
This week and every week we find ways to keep the children happy and relaxed. Mrs Windett, our Head of Pastoral, led a series of activities to promote wellbeing – doing something you enjoy that makes you feel good. Year 5 suggested joining Pre Prep at playtime for a game of Duck Duck Goose. The children also took part in group skipping with the big rope, played Top Trumps and Year 5 helped show other children how to finger knit, which was very popular and actually very relaxing! Across the week, the children and staff have had the opportunity to have Mindful Moments, a period of time to stop, relax and unwind.
This week I am setting some whole school family homework to promote wellbeing at home: get out and enjoy nature, make someone’s day and think of 5 things you are grateful for.