Out of Character - Promoting emotional health and resilience in school

Posted on: 01 Jul 2014

By Bernard Trafford, Headmaster of the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle

One in ten children will suffer from a mental health disorder at some stage of their school career: that’s two or three in every class a teacher encounters.

We can’t always prevent it, but by helping the pupil develop character (sometimes termed resilience or grit), we can give them the environment, tools and strategies to cope with the bad times. Bernard Trafford, Headmaster and Sue Baillie, Pastoral Director of Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, are running a major Pastoral Conference that aims to show us how…

The statistics aren’t new: as many as one in twelve children and young people self-harm; one in four adults will experience poor mental health; a victim of bullying is four times more likely to suffer depression at a later date.

The pastoral debate in the staff room is often about the steep rise in issues such as self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety and depression in our schools.

The importance of teaching good health and resilience isn’t lost on us either. It is hardly ground-breaking to suggest that placing the emotional wellbeing of children at the heart of a school delivers the broad range of educational results which we all aim for.

The problem is (rightly or wrongly) that we feel poorly placed to deal with the reality of growing mental health problems, both in terms of our response to individuals and in terms of our strategic planning. The great success of the True Grit Conference at KCS Wimbledon in March demonstrated how keenly those leading and managing pastoral care in our organisations feel that they need to provide more specialist and informed care for our students.

The impact that good mental health can have on both students and staff, on lesson preparation, delivery and, yes, on academic performance, has made it a focus for the Newcastle Royal Grammar School this year, as it has for many other schools too.

We instinctively know we need to get this right for our schools. What we need in schools now right now are the tools to effect real change - not just in systems, but in attitudes among students, parents and staff alike.

In this context the RGS is hosting a Conference in Newcastle on 24th September 2014 entitled Out of Character? bringing together professionals to explore practical strategies for improving emotional wellbeing and resilience in our schools.

The emphasis of the day is very much on how to respond to issues, to explore what good support structures look like across the whole school and, at a very individual level, how we support our students and staff too. With such speakers as Dick Moore and Dr. Nihara Krause offering a national perspective and specialists in the fields of school counselling, staff wellbeing and self-harm running workshops to help develop better strategies, this important conference offers unparalleled opportunities for useful information-sharing and effective training relevant to teachers with a range of pastoral roles.

The RGS is proud to be hosting what we believe to be the first such event in the North of England. The school is situated ten minutes by Metro from Newcastle’s Central Station and is easily reached from all over the country.

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