As we returned to school in the UK, post-lockdown, I started to reflect on what we had experienced and learned at Surbiton High School. In what was, undoubtedly, a challenging time for the young people attending our school, the national picture looked the same, but was it the same everywhere? What about other countries, some of whom have only just started to come out of lockdown? Were young people and, in particular, young women struggling in the same way everywhere?
The Royal Academy of Dance is an international organisation that operates in 85 different countries. So, when I was asked if I would speak to their dance teaching members and share my experience and advice, I wanted to find out what they had seen. I was excited to share what we had learned in Surbiton, to the benefit of young people across the world, but also about the opportunity to find answers to the questions I had about the global impact on young people.
I didn’t know if dance teachers from across the globe would want to know about the safeguarding and mental health issues of young women in Surbiton and was astounded to find myself speaking to over 50 dance teachers from 18 countries, with every continent where young people live represented. So, I took the opportunity to ask them what they worry about for the young people they teach in a post-lockdown world, and you can see their responses in the image above. What amazed me was that young people around the globe were struggling in the same way. The issues we had supported our pupils and their families with were truly global. Maybe it shouldn’t have. Young dancers are highly motivated and hard-working, with high standards and expectations, much like our pupils at Surbiton High.
The words may not paint a very positive picture, but it is the current reality for many young people. However, the dance teachers and I were comforted to know that we weren’t alone; it wasn’t just our young people struggling. Perhaps the best part was realising that I am lucky to work in a school that prioritises support for mental health and has the resources to support our pupils quickly. We have created a Healthy Mind Toolkit that seeks to provide meaning for our community with simple activities that promote positive well-being. We also developed our Mental Health Awareness Pathways to guide pupils and their families to seek help when they don’t know where to turn next. Sharing these resources with other teachers and signposting organisations we have developed relationships with, such as kooth.com and the eating disorder charity SEED, might be the best silver lining of the experience so far. The Royal Academy of Dance is working hard to support its members, and I am glad that Surbiton High School could do its bit to help them. It has been challenging, but sharing the experience means more young people will get the help they deserve.
– Mr Murphy, Assistant Principal Pupil Development & WellbeingCategories: Whole School