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Mrs Hanbury headmistress talking with students outside
  • Head's Blog

The past few weeks have seen some alarming statistics about the degree of mental distress felt by many teenage girls in England. The reasons which underlie this growth in stress and anxiety are hard to pin down, but undoubtedly include the pressure to perform, to look and to (appear to) be perfect at all times.

We’ve just finished another public exam season and I am extremely proud of the achievements of LEH students. They are a fantastic bunch who always prepare well and, on the whole, keep a sense of perspective on the matter. I have no doubt, however, that every single one of them did, at some stage in the months leading up to the exams, get themselves into a fandangle of worry. I also know that, for the majority, they got through it with the support of family, friends and teachers. In my blog of advice to parents of exam students, I mention the importance of differentiating between what is passing worry (albeit very intense) and what is long-term and potentially serious stress and anxiety. The vast majority of young people experience the first and, if they learn how to manage their way through this, it will be of enormous value in preventing them from developing the second.

We also mustn’t lose sight of the fact that, for those who find coping very difficult, there are ways in which we can help – things are not hopeless, and we are not helpless in the face of teenage depression and anxiety.

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 girls’ physical and mental wellbeing. Last year, the whole school came off timetable for a Wellbeing Day in Octoberwhen activities designed to promote physical and psychological wellbeing included brain training for emotional resilience, techniques to “rewire your anxious brain”, creative and mindful responses to Art. We will be repeating Wellbeing Day on 9th October this year.

Wellbeing Day is part of a comprehensive pastoral programme that is integral to the school’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 bodies and minds function, they have a better chance of looking after themselves during times of stress.

We have two full time counsellors at the school, who work alongside the school nurse, and pupils can refer themselves at any time. We also have our very own therapy 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 well-being. 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 of these issues are relevant to good mental health and are taken very seriously at LEH. And we don’t just do it all ourselves, over the past year we have supported both students and parents with guidance from experts in teenage mental health, including Janey Downshire and Natasha Devon MBE.

If you find yourself worrying about your own daughter’s mental health, please do not hesitate to contact either her Head of Year or Head of Section.

By Mrs Hanbury - Head Mistress of LEH School

  • Head's Blog
  • LEH Pastoral Care
  • Mental Health
  • Wellbeing