Head's Blog - Time To TalkPosted on: 17/11/2017
Over the past couple of weeks, many other Independent Prep School Heads have contacted me as part of our collaborative network to discuss what we offer our pupils in terms of personal development and in particular additional pastoral support for children who may benefit from further nurturing.
We are very fortunate here at St. Helen’s College that all our staff go that extra mile for each and every pupil at the school but we also do have our very own special listener for the children, Mrs. Brooker. It occurred to me that this is one of the many excellent things that happen at school every day, but of which parents might be unaware.
From time to time, children may feel that they need to speak to someone about something that is bothering them. Whilst class teachers allow time for children to talk through a programmed timetable of one-on-one tutorials as well as being available whenever needed, we offer an additional service at St. Helen’s College whereby Mrs. Brooker can make some time for children to explore how they are feeling. In addition to her role as a Teaching and Learning Assistant, Mrs. Brooker provides a pastoral role in the form of Time to Talk sessions. She has completed a Certificate in Counselling Skills course at level 2 and is currently undergoing a level 3 training course in Counselling Studies at Brookfield Adult Education Centre.
Children can self-refer for Time to Talk sessions via a green card in the red letterbox in the hall, or they may be referred by their class teacher directly. Once Mrs. Brooker receives a green card, she arranges some time to see the child. Initial meetings with the child involve asking what brings them to the session and how they are feeling. Children are offered a range of simple activities (colouring, Lego, Play Doh) to help them feel comfortable in sharing and exploring their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. An assessment of the child’s needs is discussed with the class teacher and additional time slots are made available during lunch times where necessary. In addition to children being listened to in an empathic manner, sessions may involve instruction in relaxation exercises, such as mindfulness, breathing techniques or resetting energy dials. The sole focus of attention is on the wellbeing of the child. Literature on the various exercises may be sent home for further practice.
We are most fortunate to have Mrs. Brooker on our staff. It is quite unique for a stand alone Prep School to offer a bespoke service to support the mental health and personal development of pupils in this way.
Next Friday, Mrs. Crehan and I will be attending a Mental Health Conference in Oxford with some very reputable speakers and practitioners. I am sure the day will be very valuable and that we will glean some new ideas and make new connections. However, I also have every confidence that, with what we already offer through our holistic approach to education and our creative curriculum, we will find that St. Helen’s College is already strides ahead in this area!