Health & Wellbeing
Mental Health and Wellbeing
Talking about mental health and wellbeing is very important at Merton Court as it helps to increase children’s and teachers’ understanding and reduce the stigma around these issues. Putting pastoral needs, wellbeing and happiness at the centre of everything is vital. Without support, children may not even be aware that their mental health is deteriorating and feel silenced or shamed and be afraid of seeking help.
Children and teachers alike are encouraged to have open discussions about mental health – this makes it easier to identify issues early on, and this will help to build confidence in the subject.
Merton Court understands that ideally, mental health needs to be talked about in the same way as physical education or healthy eating is. Research has shown that when schools adopt a comprehensive approach to discussing mental health it supports all children, particularly those who are experiencing mental health difficulties already.
Creating a safe space – S.T.O.P means stop…
Merton Court recognises that children do better in school when they feel safe. This means ensuring that bullying incidents are actively addressed and kept low, including any incidents of cyberbullying. Particularly, we talk to the children using the acronym ‘S.T.O.P.’ – ‘Several Times On Purpose’, to highlight the signs, incidence or frequency of bullying.
Merton Court works to promote a mentally healthy environment by sharing our values, encouraging a sense of belonging, ensuring pupils have good peer and teacher relationships, and making sure they feel listened to, when they raise concerns. Merton Court provides opportunities for pupils to be heard through activities such as Circle Time, PSHE, safe spaces, and school committees.
Support for all – a ‘Mentally Healthy’ school
Our staff consists of a family-focussed and closely linked group of individuals, ranging from teachers to teaching assistants, kitchen, estates and office staff. Every individual has a role to play in creating our school environment and making it a safe setting where mental health can be discussed openly. This can only be achieved if we drive forward a culture of positive wellbeing across the whole school community.
Staff and children need to feel valued and listened to, and as a school, we need to continue promoting family wellbeing and supporting the needs of parents. We have members of staff trained in mental health ‘first aid’, giving them the confidence to support children, parents and fellow colleagues in times of need. As a community we need to work together to achieve our goals – never more so than in the current circumstances.
We recognise that looking after children’s mental health isn’t just something that can be done on a small scale, it involves a shift in the way everyone not only works together, but also communicates on issues. We strive hard to engage with parents at events such as, coffee mornings, assemblies, curriculum workshops, information evenings, sports days, prize givings, musical and drama performances, together with our FOMC social events. These are all good opportunities for parents/carers to be able talk to staff and build friendship and communication groups between themselves.
As these events are not possible at this time, we have turned to ways to connect virtually. To date, we have hosted Zoom sessions with Parents entitled “How Are We Doing?”. This was primarily set up to give everyone the chance to talk about how they are feeling. It has been very successful and a safe forum for feelings to be aired, problems and concerns to be shared, with answers and opinions coming from staff and parents alike.
We were also delighted with such positive feedback from parents on how we were doing too! We have also arranged Zoom coffee mornings with our Early Years and Reception yeargroups to facilitate friendship among parents. We will continue with all these initiatives, moving forward.
We run many non-academic, co-curricular and social activities which have a proven and positive impact on children. These provide a space for them to work through their emotions, develop strategies to address their challenges and feel a sense of success outside of the classroom. It also gives them the opportunity to form friendships across other year groups.
Leaderful Children – getting involved….
Our School Council is formed of S4 pupils and broken down into smaller committees. Amongst other things, they are responsible for our virtual school newspaper, running charity events, estates and maintenance, food committee, and curriculum. All these are opportunities for the children to work as a team, sharing ideas and learning to work together. They also become school prefects where they develop empathy and awareness and become role models for others. Pupil voice is always listened to, and is a great way for the children to help form the environment, they themselves experience day to day.
We have ten children as our Digital Leaders, who take part in a twelve week external training course to become trained and efficient in the ‘online’ world. They are then assigned to year groups, giving them the opportunity to lead, support and offer advice to other pupils and share their knowledge.
We also have Yr 5 Deputy Prefects, House Captains, Sports Captains and Y4 Eco-Prefects.
During the children’s time with us, there may be occasions where they are faced with difficult and emotional circumstances and may need to seek further help. For this purpose we operate a ‘Buddy’ system, where children are partnered up with other children who can look out for them. This works really well from both sides; it empowers children to show empathy and kindness to others if they are either new to the school or feeling low, and gives the support children need, to succeed in a positive way.
Our whole aim is to provide a safe, caring, and nurturing environment. We prepare children to be confident, ‘can-do’, well-rounded young people, well prepared and ready to embark on their Secondary school journey and beyond….
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