“Promoting physical and mental health in schools creates a virtuous circle reinforcing children’s attainment and achievement that in turn improves their wellbeing, enabling children to thrive and achieve their full potential.”
Chief Medical Officer’s annual report 2013
Over the past week, schools, youth groups and individuals across the country have taken part in activities to promote Children’s Mental Health Week. The theme this year is ‘Growing together’ and we have encouraged the children in our school community to think about who they are, how they see the world and how to feel good about themselves. ‘Growing Together' is about growing emotionally and finding ways to help each other grow. Challenges and setbacks can help us to grow and adapt, and trying new things can help us to move beyond our comfort zone into a new realm of possibility and potential. However, emotional growth is a gradual process that happens over time, and children often need help in finding the skills they need to fall back on when life gets tough. Today we celebrated ‘Love Yourself Day’, by wearing clothes that make us feel comfortable and happy, which was a very fitting end to the week.
Research shows that education and health are closely linked - promoting the health and wellbeing of pupils within schools has the potential to improve their educational outcomes and their health and wellbeing outcomes. As a school community, one of our primary aims is to develop our children into becoming happy, confident, well-adjusted citizens. The children at Gateway have lots of opportunities to explore different skills through a wide-ranging curriculum, with plenty of sport, art, music and drama, in addition to focused wellbeing activities such as Mindfulness. We work hard as a staff to make sure that we know the children well, and support them however and whenever they need it, whether through careful differentiation in class, mentoring, weekly pastoral meetings or assessing data from questionnaires which we ask the children to complete. We pride ourselves in involving parents, particularly through and since the pandemic, making sure that we talk to them about concerns about their children, as well as their achievements in and out of school. We create many opportunities for the children to talk to us about their thoughts, feelings and their lives, and we celebrate their successes in celebration assemblies. We actively encourage pupil voice, decision making and child led approaches.
Next week, the whole school will be taking part in ‘Take One Picture Week’, a wonderful whole school initiative based around the painting ‘A Shipwreck in Stormy Seas’ by Claude-Joseph Vernet. Every year, the National Gallery encourages primary schools to focus on one picture from their collection and respond creatively to its themes and subject matter, historical context, or composition. The painting will be a starting point for work, not solely in art, but across the whole curriculum. The children are always engaged and have wonderfully creative ideas before and during Take One Picture week and I know that the staff enjoyed hearing their responses and ideas when we revealed the painting a couple of weeks ago. One of the most exciting parts of the project is the way in which the students lead the learning, and for some children, the painting will draw out unknown talents and interests which might not otherwise come to light. The Take One Picture project is the perfect vehicle for raising our pupils’ self esteem and it will provide a superb platform for celebrating the children's creative responses to Vernet’s painting. The results will be displayed at our annual Take One Picture Exhibition, on Friday 11 March; this is always an impressive event.
One of our three school priorities this year is enhancing and enriching wellbeing, and over the next few months we will be creating a Gateway School Wellbeing Charter, a declaration of support for, and set of commitments to, the wellbeing and mental health of everyone in the school community. This framework will enable us to adopt a whole school approach so that we all work together to create a supportive school and classroom climate and ethos which builds a sense of connectedness, focus and purpose. We are fortunate that our school community is already built on a caring and respectful basis, but we are keen to ensure that we recognise and celebrate these qualities. As a school we will be working towards how we can include the important and wide-ranging aspects of wellbeing into our day to day routines, to create a commitment that the whole school community (pupils, parents and staff) can be a part of.
I wish you a restful weekend.
Head of Staff/ Head of Creative Arts