Promoting good Mental Health & Emotional Wellbeing amongst all our girls is a central tenet of our school vision – and whilst we may not always make this intent obvious, it is at the very heart of all that we do. From the curriculum and extra-curricular opportunities we offer to the staffing and site developments we invest in; how we set targets, how we schedule tests and mock examinations, the tone of our communications, our unsung hero award programme and even how we report on progress, we aim to do all we can to support, motivate and encourage our girls in all aspects of their development. We believe that an outstanding education must deliver a balance between intellect and character. An outstanding education is not either/or. It is both. Our school climbing wall is a perfect example – we built this knowing full well it was unsuitable for GCSE PE! We did not build it for qualifications but for the chance to do something else, try something new, to just have fun.
Students therefore do not complete an excessive amount of qualifications as a matter of course. We subscribe to a ‘quality, not quantity’ rationale and thus, students at FSG complete what we believe to be a sensible number of qualifications – one early too, to spread the load just a little. This allows students time to focus efforts on achieving the very best grades within these but also time to participate in the huge array of co-curricular activities that we offer.
We believe that ‘exam results are what you get; they do not define who you are and will play only a part in shaping the person that you become’. Exams, then, are only one definition of success and whilst we routinely are one of the highest performing schools in the country we further recognise that examination success looks different for everyone too. Within the headline figures of course are hundreds of individual triumphs and successes; and that’s not necessarily all about grades 7, 8 or 9 or A*/B. For some of our girls that grade 4 or 5 may have been equally hard fought and hard won and we recognise, value and celebrate those achievements, that progress made, just as much.
We have invested heavily in our pastoral care teams, with 7 Student Development Leaders, one for each year group, who move with students as they move through the school from Year 7 to 13. We have counsellors on site and staff dedicated solely to Personal Development & Character Education. Over half a million pounds annually on staff to support emotional health and well-being as girls move through the school.
It is clear then that it is our intent to not overload our girls and to provide adequate curriculum time to complete courses in lessons without the need for hundreds of hours of additional lunchtime or afterschool sessions. This supports our personal development and character education programme, the FSGBacc, in providing girls with the time to take part in and enjoy the many additional opportunities it affords. There is also time left to pursue other interests and activities at home and additionally, time to spend with friends and family; to watch Netflix; to hang out; occasionally to just do nothing! A justifiable balance between intellect and character.
So, we are a happy school with a relaxed but purposeful atmosphere. Our curriculum is framed around developing intellect and character and whilst we aim to deliver outstanding academic results alongside traits such as resilience and self-confidence, we are equally concerned to promote a work hard/play hard balance in our girls that will enable them to achieve success, at school and in the future, whilst considering their own mental health & emotional well-being.
|It is well known that diet impacts on physical health but there is also evidence to suggest what we eat also affects are mental health and wellbeing.|
|Sleep is as important to our health as eating, drinking and breathing! Poor sleep is linked to physical problems but also to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.|
|There is a growing chorus of experts calling for us all to be mindful of screen time! Phones are here to stay and a big part of our girls’ lives but some consideration should be given to a healthy amount of time offline. Our Phone free Fridays could be a start!|
|Just a short burst of 10 minutes brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. Regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem and reduce stress and anxiety. So make good use of the golden mile, climbing wall, mountain bikes, our fitness studio and get involved with sport!|
|Positive thinking means making good choices. Talking to friends and family when worried about something, focusing on the positives, taking time out for ourselves and finding time to do the things we enjoy.|
Eating. Obviously our school canteen serves food which meet the needs of a healthy and balanced diet. There are no sugary drinks or chocolate bars. Food is prepared using fresh ingredients on site – with no salt or sugar added. A wide ranging salad bar, fresh fruit and nuts and seeds are all available in addition to a wide ranging menu of hot meals.
Sleep. There is little we as a school can do to impact on students sleeping patterns bar, of course, ensuring that homework set is reasonable and can be done in good time.
Reality. Screen time, again, is mostly an issue for home. At school phones are allowed at teachers’ discretion as they can of course be excellent resources for learning. However, we encourage students to try and have a healthy balance in terms of screen time. Our ‘Phone free Fridays’ and ‘No Phone Zone’ are initiatives to encourage girls to switch off, to talk face-to-face and/or to try a new activity.
Exercise. All students have 2 hours of timetabled PE classes per week and we are lucky to have a wide range of sports and activities on site to engage with, and ever improving resources too. We have a purpose built fitness studio, dance studio, mountain bike trail, rock climbing wall and archery equipment – in addition to handball, netball, table tennis, soccer, tennis etc…
Positivity. Our school ethos is all about positivity and balance. We believe our girls are capable of amazing things – both in and out of the classroom. Life is not all about qualifications and this belief is at the heart of our school vision as to what makes an outstanding education. Our curriculum and our FSGBacc are designed to ensure that all our girls can try new things, can find their own balance and can have time to hang out with friends and family. Time to do well and to be well…and when things do occasionally get difficult there are a number of staff here to talk to.
In addition to the whole-school measures which are described above, we provide a wide variety of support options which are specifically aimed at providing our students with the tools and strategies to maintain good mental health. Our programme consists of both group and one-to-one solutions which students are given the option to attend.
We aim to identify girls early and to intervene early and believe that the work we do is innovative in its approach. For example in year 7 we seek to identify shyer and more anxious students and provide adventure therapy sessions to support them . This could be learning to swim, to ride a bike or perhaps learning bush craft – but learning a new skill and overcoming a challenge – and meeting new friends along the way. A friendship group that can remain there throughout the journey through school. In years 7 & 8 girls benefit from our FSGBacc afternoons which aim to build self confidence and to educate our girls in the need for a balance between work & play and that physical activity is good not only for physical but for mental health too; the opportunity to lose yourself in an activity be that an adventurous activity such as climbing, archery, biking or a more sedate activity like art or animation. Our FSGBacc camps in the first few weeks of Year 7 and the ensuing FSGBacc afternoons support transition and help instil the habits of mind of giving something new a go – of joining in, taking part, signing up!
We are also currently part of the Headstart programme - a Lottery funded project which is part of Kent County Council’s Early Help and Preventative Services. Through this we have been able to access some funding and support with staff training in relation to promoting good mental health in our young people. A number of our pastoral and teaching staff have received some training in promoting resilience, mindfulness and Mental Health First aid. More details on this project and its aims, can be found here: https://www.headstartkent.org.uk/about-the-site/about-the-headstart-project
In order to make the most effective use of the resources that we have at our disposal, we have tiered our programme, allowing students to begin with some lighter-touch intervention initially and to ensure that there is sufficient provision for those with the greatest need. Below, you will find some examples of the support available to students:
- Cognitive Behavioural Approaches (CBA) and mentoring with SDLs or member of SEN team – this is aimed at those who struggle with anxiety
- Kooth – On-line counselling and information service
- Peer Mentoring
- Adventure Therapy – group sessions involving outdoor activities and team building skills
- Mindfulness sessions – Group and one-to-one
- E-safety sessions
- Well-being club – this is open to any student who would like to work on strategies or complete activities to promote their emotional well-being.
- Wellbeing Mentoring – One-to one sessions. These sessions are aimed at those who are suffering with anxiety, social integration issues and family difficulties.
- Work with organisations such as Porchlight and Project Salus
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – one-to-one with qualified practitioner
- Work with organisations such as Befree
- Children and Adults Talking Therapy Counselling (CHATTS) – Two Counsellors at school each week. One-to-one sessions where required, we also work closely with Early Help, Specialist Teaching Service and CHYPMHS to ensure that our students receive the most appropriate support.
Although changes in behaviour in young people are not uncommon, particularly in adolescence, it is important to watch for signs that there could be something more significant going on. Below are some of the possible signs that your child needs more support:
- Mood changes. Feelings of sadness or withdrawal from friends and family over a prolonged period of time.
- Intense feelings. Extremes of feeling such as overwhelming fear and anxiety for no reason. Fears and worries are making daily tasks seem impossible.
- Behaviour changes. Drastic changes in behaviour and personality which could include violence and out-of-control or risky behaviour.
- Difficulty concentrating. Trouble focusing and sitting still which may be beginning to affect academic performance.
- Unexplained weight loss. Sudden loss of appetite or changes in eating patterns and diet.
- Physical symptoms. Children can experience unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach-aches.
- Physical harm. Signs of self-harm such as unexplained cuts and bruises.
- Substance abuse.
If you have concerns that your child is struggling to maintain positive mental health, it is important to seek medical advice in the first instance and of course you will want to liaise with us here at school to ensure that school life is supportive.
During months of lock down our use of social media has exposed us to lots of posts about body image; whether this is about getting fit, lockdown workouts or just seeing lots of people post there before and after photos. Exposure to lots of these posts may have a detrimental impact on the perception of body image, even if some of these were well meaning. Below is a good link to talk about and encourage good body image.
Some useful websites:
https://www.kooth.com (online counselling)
https://mindedforfamilies.org.uk (Information about Mental Health for families)
https://papyrus-uk.org/ (suicide prevention charity)