Sophie Baber, Headteacher at Brookham School in Hampshire explains how mental health and wellbeing underpins everything they do at Highfield and Brookham Schools.
Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the top three considerations when choosing a school, as identified by our 2020 parent, is well-being and pastoral care.
Outstanding pastoral care often appears relatively effortless. With a relaxed yet respectful air surrounding the relationships between staff and children, everything looks easy and natural; however, rather than speaking a language fluently or driving a car, one should not be lulled into thinking that it all just happens and is somehow innate. Quality pastoral provision is far from simplistic, nor can it rely on or rest with one or two individual members of staff.
In this respect, all the children at Highfield and Brookham benefit from our boarding provision. Though many will pass through the schools without ever boarding a single night, this aspect of the school’s life adds an additional facet to our pastoral responsibility. We truly understand what it means to be in loco parentis and we take that responsibility very seriously indeed.
We know that parents recognise pastoral care as a strength at Highfield and Brookham Schools, which is of course incredibly pleasing.
From the moment children join us in the nursery, the systems underpinning pastoral care are complex. First to note is that every staff meeting and INSET day starts by discussing safeguarding and pastoral provision, or providing training in these areas. This ongoing investment in staff and central focus ensures a collective understanding that this element of our role is at the forefront of everything that we do. It sets the tone for our day to day efforts.
Though there are a number of colleagues specifically dedicated to the pastoral care of all our children, such as our Safe Guarding Leads, School Councillor and the Emotional Literacy Support Assistants, all staff play a pivotal role in ensuring outstanding support and care for the children.
To realise this whole-school aim, a significant amount of time and energy is allocated to the communication of pastoral information. The daily conversations between staff are vital but are only the tip of the iceberg. Weekly pastoral meetings take place at both schools, ensuring a constant flow of information between teaching assistants, class teachers or form tutors, boarding staff, nurses, Heads of Year and the Senior Leaders.
Every conversation, every detail is recorded using our safeguarding, pastoral and wellbeing tracking systems. Through this interconnection, everyone who needs to know is kept constantly informed, with the aim that every child is supported in a manner that is appropriate to them.
Children are nothing if not just. They expected everyone to be treated fairly and as a result, a consistent, coherent, whole-school approach is paramount. However, this must be put alongside recognising each child as an individual.
Children must be known and understood, with their multiple influences recognised to ensure effective and supportive relationships. Every child has their own special talents or interests, whether they are doing magic tricks, growing vegetables, playing sport or a musical instrument, climbing trees, caring for pets or a passion for fashion, I could go on. The community, day and boarding, ensures there is the time and space for these interests to be expressed, recognised and celebrated.
It is so important that children recognise that they are surrounded by adults who are invested in them, who will look after them, listen to them, commiserate with them, people who will laugh with them and delight in their achievements, no matter how big or small.
When this is the case, respect is built and trust develops and children have the confidence to share their thoughts and problems knowing that they will be heard and acted upon in a meaningful and supportive manner. That does not mean that the children and adults will always agree. We don’t have to, as long as the children understand that our response is predicated by the desire to care and nurture them as an individual.
At Highfield and Brookham Schools, we are blessed to work alongside colleagues who are extremely dedicated and committed. They see building strong relationships with pupils through kindness, care and patience as fundamental to unlocking every individual’s potential. The stringent systems must be in place, but it all comes back to relationships, with children at the centre of everything we do.
Highfield and Brookham Schools are a truly independent Nursery, Pre-prep and Prep school with day and boarding options in the heart of the South Downs National Park. Set within 175 acres of stunning grounds, they are located an hour from London, on the borders of Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex. Highfield and Brookham Schools achieve excellent academic results and feed the top senior schools in the country.