Blog

Christmas Thoughts

04th January 2018

School is sometimes a strange place during any holiday period - whilst frequently very busy with scheduled works, the school is simply not the same without the children.

The winter term officially ended on Friday 15th December with the service at Wolverley church. This is always a special afternoon of spirituality and celebration. The children left with much festive cheer and into the arms and warm cars of their parents. The pupils will return to school on January 8th with many stories of the visit of Father Christmas, family festivities and time spent with loved ones.

In contrast, Age UK say that 873,000 people will have little or no contact with others on Christmas Day; the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates around 20% of the UK population is living in poverty. Jack Monroe, the popular food writer and activist once described Christmas as “a festival of all the things we couldn’t have … Adverts on telly show families spending loads of money and you’re just bombarded with it everywhere you go –  this faux festivity and cheer.’

Whilst perhaps an overused cliché, Heathfield Knoll School community is there for each other, and not just at Christmas but always - and the latest results of the pupil and staff wellbeing surveys support this. And whilst the school may currently feel rather empty, I know that the space will again be filled with the warmth of friendships when staff and pupils return in the new term.

A belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

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Are you tired?

14th December 2017

Are you tired? Are you reading this with a feeling that an extra few minutes (or longer) of sleep would have really helped this morning? Sleep deprivation is not ‘cool’ - despite the late night tweets of the US President, staying up late and then getting up next morning for work or school is not good for your health. Just how harmful sleeplessness can be is now only just beginning to emerge. Put simply, if you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, then the chances are that you didn’t have enough sleep the night before. Sleep deprivation is the term used for individuals who have 6 or less hours sleep. At this level, aside from the physiological impacts of sleep deprivation there are long-term negative consequences on our learning.

Research estimates that over 60% of British pupils are sleep deprived - and this figure worsens into teenage years (to the point whereby FE Colleges are beginning to trial late morning starts and later finishes to accommodate the sleep patterns of this age group).  Pupils who have longer and ‘quality’ sleep are statistically likely to achieve higher marks at school. Conversely, pupils who are sleep deprived are likely to be emotionally more volatile and disruptive. Studies are currently underway to try and quantify just how much learning is lost through sleeplessness. The impact on learning is not just on the individual but on others in the class whose learning is negatively affected by those suffering from sleep deprivation.

We are all guilty of not preparing for a good night’s sleep. Do please consider limiting screen time ahead of bedtime, avoid sugary drinks and allow your body to relax (reading a book is always good). Physical activity during the day is also important - even a short daily stretch outside is important for our wellbeing. And if proof were needed of the dangers of working late or sleep deprivation, then read the aforementioned tweets of Donald Trump, sent early in the hours of the morning….

 

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Understanding Depression and Anxiety in Children

01st December 2017

‘Teenagers struck by depression epidemic’ appeared as a headline in a recent edition of The Times. Reading behind the headlines, the facts make for a depressing read:

  • Half of all adult mental health issues manifest by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 18 (Murphy and Fonagy, 2012)

  • Anxiety is the most frequent mental disorder in young people and the median age of onset is just 6 years old (Merikangas, 2010)

  • 1 in 4 girls is depressed by the age of 14. (The Millennium Cohort Study)

The costs of anxiety go beyond a debilitating distraction at school. Studies have shown that it negatively affects self esteem, school learning, stress tolerance, motivation and relationships (Maldonado, 2013 and Layard, 2015). Unaddressed and unchallenged, adolescent mental health issues develop into wider societal problems - current estimates suggest a £70 -105 billion cost annually to UK society (DOH, 2014). In short, improving mental health early in life reduces inequalities, improves physical health, reduces health risk behaviour and increases life expectancy, economic productivity, social functioning and quality of life.

We all have a part to play in responding to this health challenge. As a school, much work continues to take place in supporting the mental health needs of our pupils. Oft widely  quoted but arguably less frequently applied, wellbeing may be defined as ‘flourishing, not coping’. Our PSHE programme, including wellbeing enrichment lessons in Lower School, aims to teach resilience. Our focus on relationships, channeling positive emotion and celebrating each individual all have a part to play in developing resilience. The role of Head of Wellbeing is central in leading  this but so too are the conversations that happen daily between teachers and pupils and parents. Early intervention is important when dealing with any illness and, for example, our use of pupils as role models and informal counselling all have a part to play in school. There is also much that can be achieved at home - for instance, studies have shown that a good diet, physical activity, sleep and, of course, positive behaviour and role models all help to counter anxiety and stress.

Of most importance is raising awareness and starting the conversations when you notice physical or emotional changes in your son / daughter - perhaps, mood changes, dietary concerns or overuse of electronics at the expense of meeting and interacting with friends in person. All of the pupils have wellbeing business sized cards with some useful websites as well as contact details of the Head of Wellbeing. Please do get in touch should you have unanswered questions.

Mr L Collins

Headmaster

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