Wellbeing at Ashford School during lockdown
Wellbeing had already been elevated to one of the key strategic focuses of Ashford School before the world found itself dealing with a global pandemic, so when the beginning of January saw the UK head into another lockdown, Ashford School was ahead of the game in supporting students, staff and parents to deal with the many pressures that comes with it.
Headmaster Mike Hall joined Ashford School in September 2018 and very quickly laid out plans for how he envisaged wellbeing to be completely embedded within the School culture, and how the School was to become a centre of excellence for promoting and protecting positive emotional wellbeing among children and staff.
Mike Hall commented:
“Wellbeing and mental health is paramount to a child’s success. The saying ‘Happiness breeds success’ is often quoted in School and we cannot be complacent. The work that my team is doing is outstanding and I know that when it comes to wellbeing, we are leaving no stone unturned.”
With its own dedicated Wellbeing Team headed by Mrs Nicola Timms, Deputy Head (Pastoral), the School supports children with a Wellbeing Manager, Wellbeing Practitioner, four School Nurses, four trained mental health first aiders (three of whom are members of teaching staff) and a School Chaplain who offers spiritual guidance.
Key focuses for the Wellbeing Team during this lockdown period includes maintaining the Time4Me drop-in sessions that Lisa Ellis, the School’s Wellbeing Manager, set up in September 2020. Lisa is a Mental Health Professional with over 14 years’ experience of supporting children and families within a school setting. She set up Time4Me specifically to support the students’ autonomy and voice and to ensure that Wellbeing Services are available to all students across all year groups. The sessions have proved very popular. From October to December 2020, the Wellbeing Team held 143 Time4Me sessions for a total of 68 students.
“Accessibility is key. We aim to be proactive, not reactive, and with Time4Me as the foundation of our services, we can be sure that no child is left unsupported.”
In addition to the Time4Me service for students, parent and staff consultations are offered remotely; these are very easily requested via email. These services ensure a holistic approach to wellbeing. Children are not supported in isolation. Their families are supported alongside them if required. Including staff in the consultation services also ensures that the School can establish a much wider understanding of the difficulties that children and young people might be facing.
For those students needing regular, more targeted support, one-to-one sessions are offered in line with their individual needs. While we face a national lockdown together, the Wellbeing Team continues to facilitate services remotely, with parents receiving regular check-in meetings.
New for 2021 is the Wellbeing Team’s 8-week Mindfulness for Life Programme that is being delivered to Sixth Form students. Mindfulness offers a way to bring stability and calm to the mind and can offer students a way to regain mastery of themselves, rather than becoming overwhelmed with emotions and thoughts, promoting autonomy as well as physical and emotional wellbeing.
Finally, the Wellbeing Team are also offering a new experiential mindfulness course for staff. This explores the different elements of mindfulness practice, and how to integrate these practices into their daily lives.
Nicola Timms, Deputy Head (Pastoral), comments:
“At Ashford School we are dedicated to ensuring that every pupil is safe, cared for and happy. Pastoral care and safeguarding are at the centre of what we do every day and are so much more than just policy. We listen, we notice, we communicate.”
If you would like to know more about Ashford School’s approach to wellbeing, please contact our Deputy Head (Pastoral) Mrs Nicola Timms at [email protected].