23 June 2022
The recent beautiful weather and high temperatures were perfectly timed as students and staff at North London Collegiate School celebrated Feel Good Week. During a number of focus weeks over the year, which include Kindness, Celebration, Mental Health & Well-Being and Anti-Bullying, NLCS aims to highlight key areas that are central to their pastoral ethos. Although cynics might be quick to call such themed weeks gimmicks, NLCS believes that by placing the spotlight on these vital areas is helping to embed their fundamental principles. NLCS is proud of promoting a kind, considerate and happy community; the benefits of coming together as staff and students to explore behaviours, values and ideals in a concentrated period of time are exciting, rewarding and impactful.
Feel Good Week is a particularly interesting concept. We know that we can’t always feel good, whereas we would always want to be called kind; there are extra challenges in making sure that this particular focus has a long-lasting impact. The week commenced with a whole school assembly, delivered by the Pastoral Deputy Head, outlining the aims and exploring the plethora of feelings and emotions one might feel during any normal day. We can’t always feel good but we can learn what makes us feel good. Feel Good Week is just one way to help equip students to develop resources to become more self-aware, resilient and confident.
Such weeks will only work if the whole community commits and joins together. The Heads of Middle, Upper and Sixth Form worked closely with their Form Tutors to develop a programme of activities to deliver in Form Time. Having prioritised bringing the community back together and re-establishing those vital connections between students after lockdowns and bubbles, it was impressive to see Sixth Formers take such a lead during this week. The Sixth Form Senior Committee led from the front, working with all year groups, to create a whole school feel-good mural. The team of wonderful Peer Mentors led a range of workshops whilst support staff contributed with their own events for students. In every sense, this was a whole school experience.
Feel Good Week is not about feeling happy all the time, it is about understanding what and who make us feel safe, supported and positive and, this is going to be different for everyone. For this reason the week was packed with variety and choice to provide something for everyone. At the heart of the pastoral ethos at NLCS is that everyone matters, and ensuring that every student is well-known and cared for. Students are celebrated for their unique interests, passions and aspirations and supported in fulfilling their unique ambitions. The feel good week included form time carousels where year groups had the opportunity to mix up and try a completely new activity. Workshops included sessions in art, dance including contemporary and Latin, yoga and Qi Gong. Students had the chance to play traditional games such as sack-racing, to ‘walk and talk’ around the beautiful grounds with peer mentors, to be still and reflect whilst colouring in and to enjoy scenes from feel good movies. At the end of each day the community received the light-hearted digital ‘Afternoon Tea’ Feel Good Newsletter which included pictures, uplifting quotes, recipes, music that staff and students recommend to lift our mood, news stories as well as links to books, podcasts, websites and further information on some of the activities of the day.
Certain moments stood out as particularly special. At the start of the week, in response to these post-pandemic days when many of us have developed the tendency to remain a little insular, all members of the school community were encouraged to smile and greet one another. Initially this was, perhaps, seen to be a little contrived but, it didn’t take long for old habits to re-emerge and by the end of the week it seemed natural again. One of the Heads of Houses set up a Wall of Fame and students were invited to post a simple message about what had made them feel good that week. Among many uplifting and inspiring examples the simple ‘I felt good because I tried hard’ stood out. In the middle of the week, the pastoral team delivered a small bar of chocolate to all members of the school community. The thanks and pleasure this simple gesture provoked was immensely touching. It was a reminder that a small act of generosity can have such a powerful impact on all of us.
The beautiful weather reflected the sunny atmosphere created in the school all week; students and staff spoke with enthusiasm about the many events and activities. The spotlight brought this particular theme to the foreground and it will remain at the heart of the complex pastoral provision we are proud to deliver. The founder of NLCS, Frances Mary Buss, demonstrated remarkable drive and resourcefulness in establishing the first academic school for girls in 1850; she is likely to have approved of Feel Good Week as a way to provide the best possible experience for all the students.