Scotland’s independent schools understand that pupil mental health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance. As part of Children’s Mental Health Week, we are continuing our series of blogs exploring how Scotland’s independent schools are supporting the wellbeing of their pupils.
In this blog, we hear from George Heriot’s School who share the ways in which they support the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils.
In the Junior School
The foundations for promoting positive mental health and wellbeing are set in the Nursery and built upon at each subsequent year group in Junior School. Mental health and well-being initiatives abound, from Relax Kids classes teaching relaxation techniques, to the LIAM programme which addresses anxiety issues with one-to-one mentoring.
Story Massage, part of the Learning Enhancement programme (nurturing resilience, collaboration, team building, mindfulness) has proved popular with parents.
During lockdown, workshops supported parents with wellbeing concerns, seeing over 100 attendees apiece. Pastoral support is continuous and includes wellbeing spaces on the virtual platform for pupils and parents helping with anxiety and sleep, as well as a digital ‘worry box’ where pupils can send alerts to their teacher.
Assemblies reflect the focus on positive mental health and the embedded Seasons for Growth programme supports those who have suffered bereavement.
In the Senior School
Pastoral Care in the Senior School goes beyond the boundaries of the dedicated, experienced team of 12 guidance teachers and Head of Pastoral Care.
There are 48 enthusiastic class teachers, a thriving Support for Learning Department, a dedicated ASD Co-ordinator and Educational Psychologist, and an onsite Medical Centre. In each area, staff place individual pupil wellbeing at the centre of their practice.
The personalised care received by each pupil from their designated Pastoral Care team is complemented by a range of wellbeing support services, designed to help pupils when they need a little extra input. These range from time spent with Hugo, Heriot’s ‘Pets as Therapy’ dog to boost relaxation and aid communication, to ‘Drawing for Talking’ therapy sessions with a trained member of staff to support good mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Joy in January Campaign
The Rights Respecting School and the Love your Mind groups launched a campaign called 'Joy in January' to promote wellbeing and encourage moments of joy in every day.
As a health-promoting school, we introduce the concepts of healthy eating, nutrition, exercise, wellbeing and resilience early on in the Junior School. In the Senior School, pupils have led the way in ensuring that mental health is discussed openly and honestly.
Registration lessons have been filled with the ‘Joy in January’ theme, encouraging pupils to think about ways to boost their wellbeing, and bring them joy. Pupils were also encouraged to write down things that make them happy and share these with others.
Move Your Mood
The ‘Move your Mood’ programme offers a tailored exercise plan with progress check-ins to improve wellbeing. Two PE teachers are running these sessions each week, in response to the number of pupils returning to school after lockdown who were feeling anxious.
The programme lasts for 6 weeks and during this time, pupils are engaging in various different types of exercises (running, walking, cycling, rowing, etc) to help with their mood and feelings. To date, the programme has proven to be a real success.