Wellbeing in church schools

Published on: 1 September 2017

Working in our church schools is a real privilege. It is so rewarding to see children develop, acquire new skills and interests and make great progress during their formative years.

In our church schools especially, it is pleasing to see the children growing in the spiritual, moral, social and cultural aspects of their development. They are also great places for staff development with many teachers and support staff expanding their skills and expertise. Church schools can be a fun and rewarding experience for all who teach, support and learn.

In recent years, there are increasing pressures on all schools to continually improve standards, meet higher targets and be prepared for the Ofsted inspections as well as the church school inspections. In addition, schools face audits and monitoring visits from a variety of people looking at school performance on a regular basis. This can all combine to lead to potential increasing levels of stress amongst both staff and children.

In the Diocese of Norwich, as well as pastoral support from many of the clergy, every Church of England school, whether it is Voluntary Controlled, Voluntary Aided or an Academy, has an allocated Diocesan School Support Officer (DSSO). They are all retired headteachers with many years’ experience of working in schools and are there to provide advice, help, training and pastoral support. The role of the headteacher is acknowledged to be potentially very stressful, with pressures from many external and internal sources. DSSOs are a listening ear to support headteachers and other staff through those challenging times as well as being there to acknowledge and celebrate all the achievements of the school.

Many of our church schools also have programmes in place to support the well-being of the children. At St Andrews Primary Academy, North Pickenham, they are justifiably proud of being a nurturing school.

Headteacher Emily Gore-Rowe writes:

“The nurture group is available for all the children who need time away from their usual class, with time to think, communicate and reflect, before returning to their class.

The ‘Thrive’ approach helps children to develop their skills to deal with the social and emotional issues they may encounter. The school has a number of ‘peaceful places’ where children can collect an olive branch from the classroom and take specified time out to reflect on what is upsetting them.

They are encouraged to draw or write about their feelings. Pattern work is used to clear heads before returning to class and a restorative approach to settling disputes amongst the children is used successfully.

All the children have made prayer beads, with each bead representing one of the schools’ core Christian values. They are encouraged to hold these and reflect on them when feeling upset. Children can also contribute prayers to be shared in collective worship.”

These strategies not only provide ways to support the well-being of our children in schools but they are vital life-long skills to enable them to thrive in an increasingly stressful and challenging world.

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