St Edmund’s Junior School is an environment in which originality of thought and effort is encouraged, and where resilience and a capacity for collaboration are developed across every subject and in every lesson.
Here, the Head of St Edmund’s Junior School, Andrew De Silva, discusses the school’s pastoral care provision and how its children’s wellbeing is a top priority for St Edmund’s.
The importance of wellbeing
At its most recent inspection, St Edmund’s was judged as providing ‘excellent’ pastoral care and that “personal development of the pupils is an unequivocal strength of the school”.
So what makes pastoral care at St Edmund’s Junior School so unique?
The Junior School is part of the whole school’s pastoral provision, which caters for the learning, emotional and spiritual needs of children aged three to 18.
This affords the school wonderful extra provision – over and above its thought-provoking, concept-based curriculum – including two school counsellors, an independent listener and a fully staffed medical centre.
Of course, as a parent, I am fully aware of the importance of a fantastic education, but realise that schools must fit children just as much as children fit schools.
As pupils are now back at school, I would like to reflect on our pastoral offering over the past few months.
During lockdown, 97% of the parental body agreed that we provided the right level of pastoral care.
Our driving force as a school is to do the right thing for our pupils – to go the extra mile to ensure that they are okay and, if they are not, to help them realise that it’s okay not to be okay.
Following the lockdown last year, there were national concerns about the lack of contact between schools and their pupils.
As such, all children began their virtual day with Form Time with their tutor.
Each Monday, the children took part in a Mindfulness Line (assembly) led by our Head of Additional Educational Needs, which helped children to focus on the moment by taking part in short, mindful activities.
This positivity was supplemented further by our Growth Mindset Line, led by our Head of ICT and Computer Science, where children reflected on how they could flip situations with the power of the word ‘yet’.
I also spoke to the children each Friday during Head’s Line, drawing on themes from the week and those pertinent to our everyday lives, ranging from New Year resolutions and citizenship, to the notion of perseverance and the importance of loving yourselves.
These life lessons are important, as are their consistent application, which is why I am impressed with our dedicated staff, who have provided children with at least three face-to-face live lessons a day, in addition to our extensive co-curricular offering.
Continued and widespread support
Our teaching and learning provision is only part of our pastoral jigsaw at the Junior School.
Head of Pastoral Care, Mrs French, has provided teachers with guidance to better support pupils; a key component is the meticulous logging of a child’s wellbeing via an online platform to raise any concerns.
It is important that we address these concerns as they arise so children can be supported, for example, through virtual one-to-one hot chocolate sessions.
Importantly, any child who received support when they were learning on-site from Mrs French, continued to receive support – albeit virtually – during lockdown.
The phrase ‘family school’ is particularly relevant at St Edmund’s, as we have two boarding houses for Junior School pupils: School House and Choir House – home to the Canterbury Cathedral Choristers.
School House children received regular emails from the House Parents, in addition to weekly boarder sessions and half-term quizzes, and children in Choir House (aged eight to 13) had twice-weekly catch-up sessions with the House Parent, as well as Sunday afternoon quizzes and a weekly newsletter update.
Each school is special, but we believe that our school is unique, not only because of our high level of teaching and learning, facilities and approach to child-centred development, but because of our wonderful relationships with parents and children.
We have an amazing opportunity to be positive role models to our children and we realise the role that parents play and are grateful for the support we get from them, as well as the support we give.