The month of May was marked by Mental Health Awareness Week. Even before the pandemic cuts to wider services have resulted in schools being left to support pupils with their social and emotional needs, often with a lack of training. The pandemic has exacerbated this situation greatly with children being affected by the stark reality of the last fifteen months: bereavement, increased anxiety, and limited / restricted social and physical interactions. Although Stonesfield is a small, rural school with limited resources I am proud of the emotional and pastoral support we offer our pupils. Our provision for mental health aligns with our relentless drive to achieve excellent academic outcomes and having high expectations for all our pupils.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week was ‘Connecting with Nature’. As one of only two schools in Oxfordshire to be a recognised Forest School provider, thanks to Sarah Walker, our Forest School leader, children here are lucky to have the ‘full fat’ experience. All our pupils up to Year 6 have regular Forest School sessions; witnessing children thrive in this environment is one of the many pleasures of my job. Last week children were thrilled to tell me of their discoveries in the pond: newts, dragonfly larvae, and a grass snake. Connecting with nature works wonders for our mental health, but our children are also learning to care about our environment and issues of sustainability. With children like ours the future is in good hands.
Forest School is only one tree in our mental health woodland. At the start of the year children completed a survey which identified barriers to good mental health, including sleep. Teachers used PSHE Association resources to address this issue and promote the importance of a good bedtime routine, including reading and a lack of screen time. The survey also identified pupils who would benefit from further support. These children have had the benefit of working with Evolve and Dare2Dream, two companies who specialise in bespoke social and emotional wellbeing programmes.
Over the coming months I will share the journey we have been on to improve standards in English and Maths. I am proud to be able to offer children in the village (and from further afield) the dream ticket: a winning combination of a great curriculum and high standards in English and Maths, along with a truly nurturing environment. It’s been a challenging year but our pupils are blossoming.
Mr Ben Trevail