World Mental Health Day is a great opportunity to reflect on how, at Surbiton High School, we support all our pupils through the highs and lows they experience as they enter different stages of maturity and different issues that life can throw at them. Our overarching aim is to equip our young people to cope with these challenges rather than shy away from them.
The School’s commitment to well-being is rooted in positive psychology, inspired by Martin Seligman’s concept of PERMA (Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment). These elements form the foundation of Surbiton High School’s Charter for Well-being and informs our decision-making, allowing consistency and clarity on decisions which in turn allow pupils to flourish.
To support parents across the three schools, we have a long-term reciprocal partnership with ‘Let’s All Talk Mental Health’. Recognising early intervention is the most effective. Live talks and a back catalogue covering a range of emotional issues and other mental health needs are available and nearly 50% of our parent community have tapped into these resources.
In the Senior School, every form has a Deputy Form Tutor and Form Tutor. Every year has a Head of Year and two Assistant Head of Years. For more significant matters, the teams are further supported by two nurses, three counsellors and four academic mentors; all support and guide families and pupils to the most appropriate source of help with the goal of providing them with strategies to move forward. This investment in staff reflects the School’s understanding that a happy child is a thriving child. To monitor pupils’ well-being, regular surveys are undertaken using the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale. Triangulating these results with observations and conversations allows us to better understand our pupils’ mental health.
Prep School pupils have small group mentoring as a timetabled lesson twice weekly from Years 3 to 6 and both schools have ELSA (Emotional Learning Support Assistance) trained Teaching Assistants, who are also trained in ‘Draw and Talk’ and ‘Walk and Talk’ therapy. The School therapy dog, Kona, is also trained to undertake individual and group work and will soon be joined by another therapy dog at the Boys’ Prep School. Specific clubs such as ‘Lego Therapy’ also support pupils as does the Buddy System, paring Year 6 children with Reception; we also buddy up newcomers to the School to help them settle; pupils and parents too! Pupil Leadership Team weekly assemblies focus on well-being, and our Well-being Pupil Ambassadors are there for ongoing support.
Our behaviour policy is restorative, rather than punitive; aiming to understand the core issues at hand and seek resolution rather than retribution.
Support for well-being comes in many guises and through other initiatives we also aim to allow pupils to build good habits, develop friendships and develop other areas of PERMA. One such example is the introduction of Yondr pouches for Senior School pupils to store their phones in, locked away in a case during the day. Young minds struggle against the algorithms of multi-billion-dollar corporations that encourage phone addiction. This introduction, motivated by instilling good habits, rather than necessity, is helping equip pupils to understand and have a healthy relationship with technology.
PSHE and PSCHE
Personal development is a crucial facet of well-being to help children on their journey into adulthood. The School were early adopters of the Government’s PSHE curriculum and it is now highly evolved and tailored to our pupils’ specific needs, covering all aspect of Personal, Social, Economic and Health Education (including Citizenship for Prep Schools). The Senior School SCOPE (Surbiton Cope) Day is a collapsed curriculum day focused on broadening the mind; expert speakers cover a range of issues to aid personal development. Most recently, this included David Wiseman – a soldier, swimmer, mountaineer, and published author of ‘Helmand to the Himalayas’, and Samira Ahmed – the Asian female journalist and writer, named British Broadcasting Press Guild ‘Audio Presenter of the Year’ in 2020.
The School values of courage, inquisitive, compassionate and respectful permeate everything we do. Nowhere is this clearer than in our House system which is structured vertically within each School and is focused on philanthropy through the giving of both time and money. It is well documented that an outward-looking approach and charitable focus aids mental health and can combat stress, depression and anxiety, and our pupils take part in numerous activities to raise funds or spend time supporting local charities. Our Prep Schools run homeless sleepovers at the School, whilst our Senior School pupils spend a whole day working on ‘Soul in the Community projects’, running bake sales, selling goods for profit to donate to charity etc.
In our pursuit of a truly holistic approach to well-being, we endeavour to equip our pupils with the resilience needed to navigate life’s challenges, guided by the profound ethos encapsulated in our school motto, ‘May love always lead us.’
Learn more about Well-being at Surbiton High School:Academic Whole School