Mental Health at the Dixie Grammar School

Senior School Staff at the Dixie recognise that young people and adults alike face significant challenges to their mental health. The pressures resulting from examinations, puberty and the changes associated with secondary education are substantial and are further compounded by the presence of social media. Young people today face particular challenges online – to conform to behaviours, to seek and receive approval for image, lifestyle, choices etc. The national figures concerning mental health in young people are alarming and this understandably is of great concern to parents. Along with concerns about the rise in mental health difficulties among young people are very grave concerns about the difficulties faced by youngsters and the adults that care for them in accessing support services. As well as this, there is rightly a focus among professionals about how to prevent mental health difficulties. We are not believers in one-off programmes, catch-all cures or knee-jerk responses but this does not mean that we do not take the school’s role in preventing and responding to mental health concerns very seriously. Prevention There is lots of research that suggests that we can prepare our young people for the challenges of life by providing a balanced approach to life for them from their earliest steps. Experts tell us that we build resilience in children by allowing them to fail sometimes, by helping them resolve their own difficulties and by standing back on occasions whilst they work out their friendships, relationships with peers and elders. Of course, there are times when as parents it is exactly right that we step in to help our children and certainly knowing which situation is which is one of the real challenges of parenting. We recognise that mental health challenges exist in any and all circumstances – for the student facing a shocking life event such as a parental bereavement, the child with low self-esteem, a youngster experiencing identity challenges or the high achiever putting undo pressure upon themselves. Here at the Dixie the factors that contribute to building resilience include: Generous PE allocation compulsory until Year 11 – exercise is vital to good mental health. DOSE for Year 6 – team-building, outdoors education, problem solving activities. Emphasis on trips and outdoor education – managing the challenges of room allocations on a trip, sorting Duke of Edinburgh groups, being responsible for one’s own passports, staying with a family abroad, these are all mechanisms by which young people can learn and importantly test the skills needed for adult life. Strict rules in school and on school trips regarding the use of personal phones. PSHCE embedded in the curriculum Years 6 – 11. These lessons provide an opportunity to explore topics not covered elsewhere on the curriculum, including drugs and relationships education as well as to respond to difficulties within year groups as they arise. Balanced approach to exams – all year groups complete end of year exams which is good preparation for external exams but for students early on in their school careers there is very little fuss or stress associated with these exams by staff. Low key assessment of the teaching is the message. Increased formality associated with exams in the senior part of the school is appropriate and helps to prepare students for the demands of GCSEs and A Levels. Study Leave for Year 10 students and Year 11 during mocks also helps to prepare them for the ‘real thing’.

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