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Mental health and wellbeing under the spotlight at Ashville College

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While mental health and wellbeing are an ongoing priority for Harrogate’s Ashville College, they have been under the spotlight more than usual during a week dedicated to these vitally important subjects.

Children’s Mental Health Week 2021 (1-7 February), the theme of which this year is ‘Express Yourself’, saw pupils from Ashville’s Prep and Senior Schools participating in a series of online and offline activities to promote ‘The Five Ways to Wellbeing’.

Originally developed by the New Economics Foundation and promoted by the NHS, the five steps are to: connect with other people, be physically active, learn new skills, give to others, and take notice of the present moment.

Ashville Prep School saw pupils joining in with an initiative from the Children’s Commissioner – the ‘Digital 5 A Day’. Each day, they watched a different ‘Digital 5 A Day CHALLENGE’ video led by vlogger, Simply Luke, which then formed the basis of a tutor-time discussion.

The school continues to have tutor time twice a day for children to speak with class teachers should they need to, and class teachers are available during the afternoons for pastoral meetings on Microsoft Teams or via a phone call.

And whilst the lockdown continues, Ashville Prep School’s home learning timetable has been designed to have time in an afternoon away from the screens, so that children and families can undertake a variety of activities such as baking, reading and walking.

In the Senior School, pupils in Year 10 and 11 have been participating in regular assemblies with the College Chaplains to explore how they are part of a wider community and to remind them of the support systems available to them. Pupils have also been working to make a list of some SMART objectives and goals that they hope to achieve in the near future, to help maintain positivity and forward thinking at this challenging time.

Year 9 pupils have been asked to complete a different task that supports their mental wellbeing. These included ‘get outside and notice five things that are beautiful’, ‘contribute positively to a good cause’, ‘get back in touch with a friend you miss’, and ‘go to bed in good time and give yourself time to recharge’.

Year 8 pupils created an ‘Action for Happiness’ Calendar on a PowerPoint display. Designed to limit screen time, the pupils copy the day’s activity and carry it out. One such task was to ‘Say hello to a neighbour and get to know them better’.And, despite the recent weather, the Year 8 pupils have also been set a number of outdoor tasks to boost mental wellbeing.

Meanwhile, Year 7s have enjoyed some ‘pet therapy’ to boost their mood and over 80 pupils brought along their pet to a virtual assembly.

With animals ranging from cats to horses, there was quite a collection of animals taking part! Year 7 pupils have also collaborated to compile a ‘happy playlist’ of songs to inspire and motivate each other, which was then shared with the whole year group on a music streaming site.

Laura Jackson, Ashville College Acting Deputy Head (Pastoral), said:

“Wellbeing and mental health awareness is an ongoing priority at Ashville, and not just something we pay lip service to one week every year.

“This year, the focus in PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education) and wellbeing lessons has remained firmly on mental health.

The impact of COVID-19 and the three lockdowns has had a huge impact nationally on children’s mental health, and this is something we are acutely aware of.

“The College is always looking at ways to improve the wellbeing of both staff and pupils, and we regularly share lots of tips with our pupils during tutor time and wellbeing lessons.

“We use breakout rooms on Microsoft Teams to give pupils the opportunity to chat with each other, as this is one of the vital things missing from remote education.

“Making sure nobody feels lost or alone, we have daily tutorials for form groups to touch base with one another and start their day together.

“Through awareness, engagement and recognition we hope our pupils continue to feel confident to talk about how they are feeling and to recognise it’s ‘okay not to feel okay’.”

For more information about Ashville College, please visit www.ashville.co.uk or call 01423 566358.

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