Let's talk about it

I remember the Head of Brighton College introducing ‘happiness lessons’ back in the early 2000s. Most of us at the time thought this was a bit whacky, that we already did enough to look after our pupils in the hope they would turn out to be happy adults – and that happiness wasn’t anyway something you could teach. He was, of course, ahead of his time and is now Sir Anthony Seldon, whose views on education are often quoted in the media. Since those early days, life and educational theory have moved on somewhat, and we all understand how important it is to nurture our young people’s well-being and indeed to look after our own.

Reading the Times over breakfast yesterday was not the happiest of experiences, as I was met with two articles: ‘Why we’re all anxious all the time’ and ‘British children’s unhappiness grows over lives, looks and school’. In the former article, psychotherapist Owen O’Kane, a former NHS clinical lead for mental health and author of How To Be Your Own Therapist, is quoted as saying:Given the past few years, it’s understandable. The pandemic, the Ukrainian war, cost of living crisis, it would be unthinkable not to have an anxious population at the minute, because all of the external circumstances are driven by threat.......We live in very uncertain times. And I think what a lot of people are struggling with is the not knowing.” He goes on to talk about some of the ‘grounding’ techniques we sometimes advocate in school, acknowledging too that none of us will feel happy all of the time and that a degree of anxiety can be a good thing if it stimulates us to take positive action, thus increasing our ability and confidence to deal with situations: “Ninety per cent of what we worry about doesn’t come to fruition. But it’s difficult for a person to hold on to that, in times of crisis.”

I strongly believe that our pupils’ success stems from the supportive culture of the school, with an increasingly proactive emphasis on positive well-being and building resilience in the face of what life can chuck our way, sometimes, in the case of our children, via the bombardment of social media. At the same time, we have significantly increased our well-being provision over the last three years, and it is undoubtedly the case that we are supporting more children with more complex difficulties than ever before. Of most importance in these situations is that they are talking to us or talking to you at home.

Earlier this week, we benefited from an excellent, interactive presentation (including Mentimeter) on Relationships Sex and Health Education by a speaker from ‘It Happens Education...Let’s talk about it’, who worked with three year groups during the day and will return in February to work with four other age-groups. Those parents who attended gave very positive feedback, and we have also been pleased to welcome many others into school for our Year 7 and Year 9 ‘Meet the Tutor’ evenings. Again, one of the key messages has been: Keep talking and listening to your child, and please talk to us, as we aim in partnership to give the best possible start in life to our young people. And another important message: Support each other as parents by insisting that mobile phones remain downstairs at night – for otherwise children will ‘talk’ to each other when they need to be sleeping and they will also be exposed to voices and images which are unhealthy and risk affecting their happiness.

LGS is a happy school community and it’s been wonderful to see so many smiling faces since term began. Yet not every day can be a happy day for every child. We do our best to pick up on this as we welcome our pupils in the morning, but please never hesitate to talk to us if you have concerns.

Best wishes,

John Watson