Girls need a more proactive approach to health & well-being, GSA Heads tell educators world-wide

GSA Heads Helen Jeys and Claire Hewitt have recommended to educators from across the world that the occasional PHSE lesson is not enough if girls are to develop the resilience they need to withstand the stresses of the modern age.

At the Global Forum on Girls’ Education, they shared their own revolutionary approach to girls’ health and well-being which involves proactively and consciously including ‘character education’ in all aspects of school life – academic as well as pastoral – rather than the more traditional reactive approach.

Helen Jeys (Alderley Edge School for Girls) and Claire Hewitt (Manchester High School for Girls) are among a number of GSA Heads to share their expertise with 800 educators from across six continents at the Global Forum on Girls’ Education in Washington DC this week (June 18-20). The two Heads have worked together to develop this proactive, cross-curricular approach with great success; Helen was formerly deputy head working with Claire Hewitt at Manchester High School and introduced the same methods to Alderley Edge School for Girls, when she moved there as Head.

Their initiatives which are part of a cohesive approach across all aspects of school life, include:

  • Hug a Monster Week
    Whenever a girl embraces ‘failure’ or disappointment – for example by deciding to learn how to correct her mistakes when getting a low mark in a test, or by trying again when a chemistry experiment goes wrong, or by being gracious about losing a sports match – teachers send a congratulatory card home to parents.
  • Leap of Faith Week
    Girls try something that takes them out of their comfort zone, such as going up the climbing wall, handling a snake etc.
  • Celebration Board
    This highly visible noticeboard celebrates a wide cross-section of individual girls’ achievements, whether in or out of school.
  • Balance Week
    Girls try out circus skills to get them to focus on getting a good work/life balance. Activities include stilt-walking, the trapeze, tightrope walking and skateboarding. The activities push the girls out of their comfort zone and develop self-confidence and inspire their imagination by doing something out of the ordinary.

Helen Jeys (Head, Alderley Edge School for Girls) says:
One PHSE lesson every now and then is not enough. Instead of addressing single issues in isolation, such as drugs and relationships, we teach the girls to be resilient, so they are less likely to give in to negative experiences. At Manchester High, I worked with Claire to introduce a cohesive programme of activities that involve both the pastoral and academic sides of school working together. For example, as well as workshops, mindfulness sessions and assemblies, we encourage girls to embrace failure and respond to disappointment in their subject lessons. If they respond well to a poor test result, we reward their attitude by sending them a ‘Hug Your Monster’ postcard. At my current school, our ‘Leap of Faith’ week encourages students to try new things and work outside their comfort zone. The important thing is to adopt a holistic approach rather than trying to teach character in isolation.”

Claire Hewitt, (Head, Manchester High School for Girls) says:
“The well-being lessons and associated activities we have introduced at Manchester High continue to help our girls build confidence and character, giving them the invaluable tools to flourish in all aspects of their lives.

“We recognise that many schools may be implementing similar activities, however, it is the way in which we combine the range of well-being activities into a coherent programme that has a real impact on our pupils’ development. We are collectively beginning to reap the rewards of these initiatives as our girls leave school and prepare to embrace life’s opportunities and challenges with a confident and healthy mind-set. Both Helen and I are delighted to be sharing our approach on a global platform, with the ultimate aim of reaching and benefitting many more girls beyond those who study within our own respective schools.”

Global Forum on Girls’ Education – a unique partnership

The Global Forum is supported by a unique partnership of international educators committed to the best education for girls throughout the world. Led by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools in the US, they include UK Heads from the Girls’ Schools Association, the Association of State Girls’ Schools and the Girls’ Day School Trust. There are 16 partners altogether and around 800 delegates from 20 countries across six continents including the US, Argentina, Colombia, UK, Tanzania, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Keynote speakers include Lt-Col Lucy Giles, whose attendance is sponsored by the Girls’ Schools Association, and tennis legend Billie Jean King.

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