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Back-to-schoolers and why wellbeing is so important

We hear from Dr. Chris Stevens, headmaster of Bradfield College on how they are focusing on Wellbeing to ensure a safe, happy and healthy transition back into school for their pupils

Bradfield College’s aims begin with our desire for pupils to enjoy school. This will be especially important to remember this autumn when so much focus will be on practical issues. Returning to school after lockdown will bring mixed emotions and heightened anxiety for many pupils, parents and staff.

“The intentional promotion of wellbeing must go hand in hand with the enhanced focus on physical health and safety.”

Wellbeing is, of course, part of everything we do. It is integrated into our ethos of ‘education for life’ and promoted through all lessons and activities, as well as by our pastoral teams and in dedicated wellbeing lessons. Indeed, our twelve boarding houses, sports facilities, theatres, music hall and 220 acres are all ‘wellbeing centres’, just as all our staff support the work of the Director of Wellbeing.

We pride ourselves on being a talking school in which pupils can speak candidly with peers and trusted adults about their feelings and their concerns. On return to College regular conversations with tutors (which took place digitally during lockdown) will therefore remain pivotal alongside strong and supportive relationships with friends and house staff.

Creating a safe routine will be essential to managing a reassuring transition back into school. The Wellbeing curriculum will be adapted to respond to pupils’ immediate needs as well as ensuring long term strategies to maintain their emotional health. Lessons will reflect the increase in use of online technology, for example, focusing on safe live streaming, video chat and media literacy.

Relationships are integral to social and developmental growth and pupils will need time to (re)establish these.  House life and lessons will do this naturally but we will need to be creative helping pupils (re)connect with each other through socially-distanced drama, music, sport and events like The Bradfield Voice singing competition. We will continue to promote service activities for the positive dividends they bring for all involved and run established initiatives such as Mental Health Awareness and Digital Detox Days.

Where the impact of the pandemic has given rise to more serious concerns, pupils may need additional support. As ever, Personalised Welfare Plans for vulnerable pupils and confidential briefings will ensure staff have the information they need and concerns are appropriately monitored. Likewise, CBT, psychology and counselling services will continue to play a key role.

Finally, it is important to remember that lockdown will have brought new experiences which will have had a positive impact on pupils’ wellbeing and enhanced their resilience. The independence many demonstrated in their online learning, for example, is something to cherish and build upon in the coming term. Indeed, even though just being back at school will be challenging, we must never lose sight of our overriding vision of helping young people to flourish. I am optimistic that they will!

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