The St. Helen’s College approach to education is genuinely holistic; as well as academic, creative and physical development, we place great value on personal development. This involves the nurturing of social and emotional strengths and the development of personal awareness and fulfilment.
All areas of school life and all members of staff are influential in fostering personal development of the pupils. The main classroom focus is in our weekly SPAHCE lessons, which are taught by specialist teachers and the form teachers. Some strands from our innovative programme are briefly described below.
All children from Nursery to Year 6 are taught Philosophy for Children (P4C). The children are given a stimulus and they devise a ‘deep’ question which is then discussed. The P4C theme links into our assembly theme and gives the children a chance to think about, reason and debate issues that mean something to them. Through hearing each other’s ideas, children get to know each other better and learn how to respect the opinions of others.
This follows the Jenny Mosley scheme, encouraging the children to make good choices, and links to Golden Time when the children are rewarded for their good behaviour during the week.
In Year 4 each class has a term of 'Pawsb' and in Year 6 each class has a course in '.b.' These are courses developed by Mindfulness in Schools Project or MISP. The courses were originally developed as a response to the large number of young teenagers who were suffering from depression or anxiety.
Mindfulness means being aware of the present moment and living life to the full. This involves watching our own thoughts and being able to stand back and see what is being presented to us; the ideas that we have are not necessarily facts. Our minds cleverly fill in the gaps in certain situations so that we can inadvertently invent something which isn't true, such as believing that someone is ignoring us when they might simply be short-sighted or be wrapped up in their own problems.
My child really enjoys Mindfulness; it is great to be able to offer that.
The children are also given tools to calm down, and they find these really useful in all sorts of different situations from calming anger to settling nerves before a recitation or exam, or simply sitting and being.
We also run Mindfulness for Parents courses to ensure that parents understand the principles and are able to practise Mindfulness with their children.
St. Helen’s College children learn the skills needed to counsel each other and resolve disputes before needing teacher intervention. Throughout the school, trained children play the part of ‘Playground Pals’, caring for each other in the playground and mediating disagreements.
The children follow a year–long course in Year 5 which teaches them to watch their thoughts and choose not to think negatively. They learn to do kind acts and how to be still and that happiness often comes through helping others. This is a year when the children can really get to know each other and form some deep friendships as speaking honestly about their experiences and feelings helps to develop a mutual trust between the class members.