12 March 2018
With mental health continuing to feature prominently in the news, the central importance of happiness and wellbeing is never far from our minds.Taking a positive approach to help students develop the ‘pillars’ of good mental health to stay well and optimise quality of life is key, and with careful planning this can become an integral part of school life.
At Heathfield School we have chosen to implement an innovative mental health and wellbeing programme which has taken Australia by storm and we’re fortunate to be the first UK school to adopt the programme. Rather than identifying those in distress or ‘at risk’, the ‘Flourishing at School’ programme aims to promote well-being from the outset.
As Flourishing at School is based on leading psychologist Martin Seligman’s work on PERMA (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishments), it fits well with Heathfield’s pastoral care system. In addition to this the programme includes a physical health element looking at sleep, diet and exercise which are key aspects of life in a vibrant boarding school.
The survey included in the programme only takes 10 minutes and can be done as part of a pupil’s PSHE lesson on their own laptop, slotting in well to the existing curriculum. The delivery of individual results takes place with senior pastoral leads and each feedback session is timetabled to fit in with the individual pupils’ own timetable; this can include use of tutor time, PSHE time and boarding time, making Flourishing at Schools well suited to the boarding environment. The results are scrutinised and an individual plan is created for each student, regardless of her ‘score’.
The results the pupils receive are taken directly from their own answers, as opposed to the results the senior pastoral leads see. This is done to protect the pupils from comparing themselves against average scores, and shows us where our pupils are already flourishing, while also identifying any areas that need further development or pastoral intervention. Crucially, this is a primary level intervention to make sure our pupils are mentally fit and healthy – and is proactive rather than reactive. It is particularly useful in a boarding school environment where we have such prolonged periods of contact with pupils – including involvement in their sleep and nutrition.
Our Director of Pastoral Care Kathryn de Ferrer and Director of Boarding John Gale, both hugely experienced individuals, take the lead in delivering the programme and individual feedback sessions, which we have been able to integrate seamlessly into our school day. They are supported by the PSHE team and Form Tutors, all of whom are skilled at delivering high-quality wellbeing initiatives and have adapted their experience readily to the Flourishing at School programme.
John Gale has worked with the founder of Flourishing at School, Jason van Schie, for over a year and a half now, bringing the programme to fruition. Jason has come over from Australia to spend time with us and has worked with our staff, pupils and parents, educating them with regards to the Flourishing at School programme. John also has strong background knowledge about the programme, having initially discovered it while looking for a process to establish a baseline for mental health and emotional issues for new pupils at his previous school. Our senior pastoral team has the strong foundations needed to deliver the programme.
And the cost of the programme in time and money? The ease of application of this programme and survey is surprising given the vast positive impact it has. When mental health is flourishing, you are better able to deal with problems or issues and develop resilience and grit.
Heathfield is the first school in both the UK and Europe to introduce Flourishing at School, and we hope to lead the way in creating a Flourishing at School network for schools in the UK that adopt the programme, with John Gale and Jason van Schie recently speaking to the HMC Wellbeing Committee on its success and ease of implementation at Heathfield.