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5 key features of Wellbeing at Hilden Grange

How do we REALLY build a positive mental outlook in our children? Top Kent prep, Hilden Grange, share their tips for proactively boosting self-esteem...

As every parent knows, only happy children will learn and thrive. So we asked Natalie Brown, Head of Pastoral Care at Hilden Grange Prep School, to give her Top 5 Tips for boosting wellbeing within an educational setting.

1. MAKE COMMUNICATION A HABIT

Open communication is the key to wellbeing. We encourage open communication between parents, staff and pupils using the language of wellbeing. Children are given lots of opportunities to discuss mental health and wellbeing, for example in tutor time, so that mental health becomes something that children will discuss openly rather than viewing it as a taboo topic.

Communication is one of the key strands of our ‘Language of Learning’ which permeates through everything that we do at Hilden Grange. The other words are Challenge, Responsibility, Confidence, Perseverance and Positivity. We have a whole school merit system that starts right down in the Nursery acknowledging and awarding a merit for these six areas.

Pre-Prep have used the language of learning to create characters such as Responsibility Rabbit and Perseverance Penguin. Our younger members of the school are rewarded with puzzle pieces when they demonstrate these values on a regular basis, and these are then used to complete a Language of Learning puzzle. This is something anyone can incorporate into how you talk at home and it’s incredible that you can ask some of youngest pupils about these words and they are able to tell you what they mean.

2. UNDERSTANDING EACH CHILD

Knowing a child – and putting a face to a name is one thing. But truly understanding them and what makes them tick is even more important. The key is staff who really know each child, and also understand and treat them as individuals.

Hilden Grange prides itself on being a ‘family school’ that knows its community well. We appreciate that all children have different challenges and individual learning styles and we are able to cater for these individual needs. Staff meet weekly for a formal pastoral meetings and communicate throughout the week to ensure that pupils are happy, safe and secure. 

3. TEACH EMPATHY & RESILIENCE

Empathy and resilience – so often talked about by schools aren’t just things we’re born with. You have to teach these skills, just like any other.

At Hilden Grange we strongly believe that these skills do not come alone by maturity, but by being explicitly taught how to respond – whether that’s during a difficult period of time, like family stresses or a Covid pandemic. These skills are vital and they need to be taught, nurtured and encouraged. 

We apply a Growth Mindset approach to learning about right from wrong and we use our older senior students as role models for the younger children (pictured above). We do this by using everything from Buddy systems – to the older children acting as Prefects for wet play times.

We also have a group of older pupils that meet weekly in the Nurture Hub (a dedicated room where children can come to chat in a relaxed space – we even host Nurture Clubs – involving games and a biscuit!) These older pupils have now been trained to be Mental Health Champions.

4. NOT AFRAID TO FAIL

It’s essential, especially in a school where children enjoy so much success, to provide an environment in which children are not afraid to fail, and in which they learn the importance of learning from their mistakes. At Hilden Grange, this approach starts in the Early Years Foundation Stage classrooms.

A real stand out feature at Hilden Grange is the Early Years Foundation Stage Outdoor Learning Area. It sits right at the heart of the school and the ethos is very much that outdoor learning is a vital, integral part of the curriculum for the Early Years.

Sports is also a brilliant way to learn how to be part of something competitive – where the outcome can be to win or lose but the main thing is doing your best and enjoying the process. All children at Hilden Grange are given the opportunity to represent their school in a full fixture list on a very regular basis at whatever level is best for them.

5. BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE

Rather than just giving lip service to ‘pastoral care’ and saying ‘we support our pupils’ at Hilden Grange we take lots of really practical steps that make a tangible difference. For example, we regularly invite specialist speakers to talk to the children, whether that’s Naomi Riches, (whose inspirational story of her triumph at the London Paralympics had the children enthralled), or experts on Mental Health workshops. Sessions for this were creative, interactive and full of tips on how to recognise different emotions. Children learned how to meditate and make calm jars.

Parents, children and staff form a triangle that needs to work as a team. So we proactively support parents as they navigate these years by holding workshops and inviting in speakers to talk to parents direct on practical topics such as Sleep Therapy, and on issues related to Mental Health.

There was a well received (online) evening for parents last June on ‘Bringing out the Best in Your Child.’ This covered practical techniques to help children feel good about themselves and allow their confidence, motivation and behaviour to improve and to be the best they can be.

Attend their Whole School Open Morning on Fri 11 March from 9am – 10:45am and from 10:15am to midday. Malcolm Gough, Headmaster, will give a talk at 10.30am

Find more ideas here

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