Mrs Hanbury headmistress talking with students outside
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The statistics speak for themselves; we have reached a crisis point. Never before has the mental health of our children and young people been so high on the political agenda or been so at risk. Now is the time to act. At LEH, the wellbeing of our students underpins everything that we do. We are proud to be leading an initiative in collaboration with other independent and state schools, coming together with this shared, common goal: the wellbeing of the next generation. The findings of The Coalition for Youth Mental Health in Schools must be heard by those who can swiftly translate it into public policy. 

As schools are called upon to respond to the impact of Covid on the emotional, social and intellectual development of this generation of young people, it is increasingly apparent that we are being asked to support the mental health as well as the academic development of our pupils. The recent report from the Youth Mental Health Coalition makes the following recommendations to ensure that all schools are equipped to meet the changing needs of the children we teach. This requires regular staff training and support, the provision of a range of counselling services, and a sensitively and expertly delivered pastoral programme. We further recommend that this is coordinated by a Senior Mental Health lead appointed in each school. 

We must not lose sight of the fact that, for those who find it hard to cope, there are ways in which we can help – things are not hopeless, and we are not helpless in the face of teenage anxiety or depression. 

First and foremost, in LEH we seek to teach pupils how to understand their anxiety and manage it so that it doesn’t spiral out of control. 

We devote a great deal of time and effort to pastoral care, supporting the students’ physical and mental wellbeing. In October, the whole school came off timetable for a Wellbeing Day, when activities were designed to promote physical and psychological wellbeing included brain training for emotional resilience, techniques to “rewire your anxious brain”. Wellbeing Day is part of a comprehensive pastoral programme that is integral to LEH’s ethos. The aim of this programme is to help pupils to find balance and fulfilment in their, often hectic, lives. By understanding how their body and mind function, they have a better chance of looking after themselves during times of stress. 

We have two counsellors at the school, who work alongside the school nurses, and pupils can refer themselves at any time. We also have our very own school dog, who may well be the most popular member of staff! A quick cuddle with Barney can be just what it takes to help a pupil unburden herself of anxieties. 

In a school like LEH, where top exam results are the norm, I believe strongly that it is our responsibility to prioritise wellbeing. Exam success is not the be-all and end-all, nor is it something that can only be achieved at the expense of good mental health. We are absolutely convinced that exam success and student happiness are not mutually exclusive – on the contrary, exam success is unlikely to be achieved without a certain level of contentment which will reduce anxiety. 

In the past I have written in my blogs about building resilience, battling perfection and the power of “yet”: all these issues are relevant to good mental health and are taken very seriously at LEH. And we don’t just do it ourselves: over the past year we have supported both students and parents with guidance from experts in teenage mental health. 

All parents should feel confident that the staff at their child’s school are properly equipped to help with any concerns regarding their child’s mental health. No pupil will enjoy learning if they are not thriving mentally. Ensuring student wellbeing must be an absolute priority and I am determined to do what I can to make sure that all schools have the resources to provide the sort of support we can afford at LEH – and more.  

By Mrs Hanbury - Head Mistress of LEH School

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