King’s is a school with a pastoral heart where all pupils can thrive in a kind, optimistic and encouraging atmosphere. It is a supportive and happy school, and this enables pupils to develop a positive outlook. In a small and close-knit environment, we recognise and value individuality and nurture and develop characters.
The promotion of well-being, caring and respecting each other lies at the core of our School. King’s well-being focuses on four areas that interconnect to create a holistic approach. Innovation and research inform our practice:
Pupils are empowered to have an opinion on how the School is run through various groups - The Junior Council, School Prefects and Heads of House meetings, through the Sixth Form Club Committee, The Food Committee and The Digital Council. These open forums encourage pupils’ views and encourage decision making. The councils encourage a sense of belonging, positive relationships and improved self-esteem because pupils are active contributors in their school. Pupils also have a huge choice in the 70 weekly extra-curricular activities available.
This is essential to reduce stress and encourage a positive lifestyle. Initiatives such as inviting Shetland ponies and rescue dogs into School, whole school dances, tutor walks, themed lunches and whole school bingo and barbeques are placed strategically throughout the term with the aim of promoting fun.
Staff encourage a positive and encouraging environment in lessons, sport, music and the performing arts. Staff are also supportive of pupils in their extra-curricular pursuits. Success is acknowledged and rewarded in Assembly and daily in our reward system. Restorative Justice is used by staff in incidents of bullying to improve positive outcomes. Mediators also work to create a positive environment. They are pupils who have volunteered to offer a listening ear after formal training. Their work is supported by the Princess Diana Anti-Bullying Trust who run workshops at King’s. Pupil mediators play a key role in bolstering the resilience of fellow pupils.
This helps to reduce stress and leads to cognitive flexibility and learning. Realistic goals are set through academic targets, outdoor pursuits such as CCF and Duke of Edinburgh, sport, music and the performing arts for pupils to accomplish which are celebrated in School Assembly, House meetings and Tutor groups. In this way, pupils are recognised, and their success acknowledged. There are inter- house challenges with over 20 inter house competitions each year as well as more personal challenges, such as achieving academic results and overcoming personal struggles.
King’s monitors pupils’ mental health through 6 monthly assessments online. Whilst we place an importance on excellent pastoral care, there are some vulnerabilities that pupils are often determined to hide. This tracking highlights pupil’s challenges such as over regulation or low self-disclosure which would otherwise be undetected. Having this early warning system, ensures pupils are supported and burn out, a fear of failure or a lack of perseverance is avoided. In the Upper Sixth, pupils are given their assessments to give them an understanding of their vulnerabilities. They can also reflect on methods that helped them through this period. Having a positive outlook is also encouraged. Last month all pupils kept a ‘Nice November’ diary which encouraged them to reflect on one positive event in their day. The idea is to slowly change their negative thinking into positive.
This award is given to schools that offer effective provision to promote the emotional wellbeing and mental health of both staff and pupils. This award validates a high level of commitment made by the School to promote and constantly improve mental health provision. It also recognises that the School has tailored provision to provide for the needs of the whole community.
King’s has chosen to adopt an online facility called Mindworld to help assess pupils’ mental health needs. It gives us a head-start to act early and effectively to safeguard pupils from the risks associated with poor mental health. Teenagers sometimes struggle to make wise and emotionally healthy choices as they engage in the world around them. This technology, developed by two psychologists, highlights these struggles and staff are then able to intervene sensitively at an early stage to provide extra support. The data does not replace observations of staff, but instead it works in tandem to support pupils at an early stage.
King’s raises awareness of mental health by providing opportunities to have fun and recognise how we can maintain positivity. Self-help cards are distributed every year for all pupils and staff on a specific theme. Developed in partnership with psychologists, the cards aim to encourage our pupils to practice methods that help nurture well-being and cope with stress and anxiety enabling them to thrive.
Mediators are pupils who have volunteered from each House to offer a listening ear. Mediators have received formal training in active listening. They are able to offer advice, and if necessary, find the right adult with whom problems can be shared and appropriate support received. Their work is supported by the Princess Diana Anti-Bullying Trust who run workshops at King’s.
Pupil mediators play a key role in bolstering the resilience of fellow pupils. They are trained not to judge, but instead offer perspective and pragmatic advice. Each pupil brings personal experiences to the role. Some have overcome leaving home to board and some have travelled across the world away from their families to fulfil their academic education in a foreign language. Others have suffered bullying at previous schools and want to make a difference at King’s. Many simply enjoy school and want others to experience similar joys during their time at the School.
Pupils are empowered to have an opinion on how the School is run through the Junior Council, School Prefects and Heads of Houses, through the Sixth Form Club Committee, the Food Committee and the Digital Council. A pupil has the opportunity to become Head for the day, to experience life in the hot seat. These open forums encourage pupils’ views and encourage decision making to inform change. The councils encourage a sense of belonging, positive relationships and improved self-esteem because pupils are active contributors in their school.
Lectures on a variety of topics help our pupils reflect on making the most of their lives. Parents and staff also can benefit from their expertise, so messages are clear and strengthened. The importance of mental health has been a focus of staff training, with the aim of improving awareness and recognising teenage mental health. Staff knowledge has been enhanced especially in situations that trigger stress and anxiety.
Every year, our School Councils choose two charities for fund-raising. The charities not only therefore relate to our pupils, but they also enable pupils to empathise with others who are less fortunate or experience the world from a different perspective. Thinking of others and understanding their lives helps us find our place in the world. Meeting those we raise money for puts our lives into perspective, reduces loneliness, improves our confidence and helps with our need to contribute in the world.
Examples of our recent charity work includes raising money for Guide Dogs this year and we aim to sponsor and name a new puppy. Inviting a guide dog owner to explain how her life was transformed with her guide dog Nancie was a privilege and it also helped with new pupil homesickness – Nancie reminded several pupils of their own dogs. We also have important links with Somerset and Dorset Animal Rescue. They visit regularly with dogs and Shetland ponies who are too old or ill to be re-homed. It is a treat for both dogs and humans as affection is exchanged. Other important charities in the past have been PAPYRUS, raising awareness of preventing suicide in the young - a charity that we supported as the charity had been adopted by some of our Old Brutonians.
Every year a group of pupils and staff are sponsored to participate in the Race for Life in Sherborne and Yeovil for Cancer Research. It was whilst doing this that we noticed the Breast Cancer appeal for a new unit at Yeovil Hospital and decided this would be our local fundraiser. A future project involves the School becoming Dementia Aware.
Volunteering helps reduce stress and improves mental well-being. Carrying out good deeds does not need to take too much time or cost money. Examples include weekly visits to the elderly to complete a variety of jobs: clearing their gardens, playing chess or simply sharing a cup of tea with the aim of combating loneliness. Pupils visit local Primary Schools to assist in lessons and help those with Dyslexia. Pupils also volunteer to mediate between pupils who don’t see eye to eye, to represent their Houses in various councils, to help park cars, give parent tours of the School and help serve food at our various events.
Staff are trained to restore pupil relationships through restorative justice techniques on occasions when there has been unkindness or harassment between pupils. The aim of this method is to repair and apologise through empathy and personal reflection. Pupils are treated respectfully and not in an authoritarian manner: blame and shame are avoided. Whilst restorative justice is more time consuming, the outcome is more sustained. Forgiveness and reconciliation are also more likely as individuals are treated with respect and they have been encouraged to empathise and come to their own conclusions about their behaviour rather than be told about their wrongdoing.
The Chaplaincy sits centrally within the pastoral heart of King’s Bruton, seeking to offer warmth, support and encouragement to all pupils and staff, regardless of their faith or no faith. The Chaplaincy’s door is always open if pupils or staff wish to meet to discuss any issues in a non-judgemental, friendly and listening environment. Where appropriate, and for those who want it, the support of prayer and encouragement from scripture is also offered.
As Chaplain, I am deeply aware that the environment of school, coupled with exams, extracurricular commitments and future career plans, can at times become incredibly pressurised and overwhelming for pupils. Thus, please be assured that I am always wanting pupils to see that success and failure are not final. Of course, we all want the pupils to do well at their exams, sport, music, drama, careers etc. That said, I also want pupils to know that there are more important things to value in life such as family, friends, health, and for many of us faith.
The Health Centre promotes physical and emotional health in a nurturing environment. All pupils benefit from it being onsite and run by our friendly and qualified nurses. Our nurses are registered with the Nurses and Midwifery Council (NMC) and have worked across a wide variety of areas within nursing. It is a calm space, free from judgement and separate from school life.
Our nurses have experience with Accident and Emergency, mental health, paediatrics, surgical and medical nursing, immunisations, travel health and critical care. All the team are parents and the Health Centre offers a welcoming ‘home from home’ space for pupils when they are unwell. Staff are aware that if a pupil visits, they are there for a good reason.
The counsellor is available for a confidential talk for pupils and staff. It’s common for people to have 4 – 6 sessions for an hour a week but it’s possible to have less. Counselling is a time to talk about any problems that are causing a worry. Counselling is about helping recognise feelings and to gain an insight and help find ways of dealing with issues. Talking helps and sometimes, it can be useful to speak with someone who is outside the day to day life of school.
People attend counselling for lots of reasons. They may be experiencing major events like bereavement, parent divorce, eating disorders, self-harm or coming to terms with their sexuality, friendship problems or fitting in, feeling lonely, anxious or depressed. There is also the possibility of not being able to deal with school or home life or the building pressure of work. These are examples that can impact on anyone and that is when counselling can offer support and help to find ways forward.
NHS offer a section on their website under ‘Every Mind Matters’. They include information and further support including apps and an online quiz.
Mind offers an A – Z of definitions and outlines symptoms, causes, self-care, treatments and further contacts.
Mental Health Foundation provides excellent self-help booklets, and A - Z of definitions and who to contact. It is also possible to take an online metal health test.
Young Minds is a charity to contact for young people in crisis.
Childline offers a telephone helpline, one to one counselling, letter writing and email help.
The Samaritans offer a telephone helpline anytime: 116 123.
The Mix offers help for the under 25s on a broad range of subjects from relationships, mental health, drink and drugs, money and exams and the pressure to do well. There are some excellent articles giving ‘expert advice’.
Stem4 offers help for teenagers and advice on resilience.
Calm Harm – To help teenagers manage or resist the urge to self-harm
Clear Fear – To help young people manage the symptoms of anxiety
Combined Minds – To help families and friends provide mental health support
There are lots of adults with whom you can talk including our school counsellor. However, there is a free, safe and anonymous online support at Kooth.
Ideas on how to help others can be found at Mind.
SWEDA offers a range of services in Somerset and is based in Shepton Mallet.
BEAT runs a message board for anyone who has concerns about themselves or someone else affected by an eating disorder. There are 2 message boards: one for those under 18 and one for over 18.
MGEDT (Men Get Eating Disorders Too) supports men with eating disorders, carers and their families.
MermaidsUK provides a telephone helpline aimed at supporting transgender youth up to and including the age of 19, their families and professionals working with them.
Anxiety UK offers information on conditions of anxiety, access to therapy and further resources. There is a specific page for young people.