Coinciding with Children’s Mental Health Week, the School aims to raise awareness and provide practical support to enable pupils to flourish.
An instant success has been the newly introduced wellbeing dogs. The idea was proposed by Year 11 student Robyn Rogers. Robyn, who has two dogs at home, noticed their potential wellbeing benefit. She said: “Obviously school can sometimes be stressful, especially for those of us with public exams coming up. I wanted other students who may not be lucky enough to have their own pets to be able to de-stress in the same way that I could, so I decided to produce a research paper about the benefits of wellbeing dogs.”
Robyn worked with the Deputy Head, Pupil Wellbeing, Emma Watson to implement the idea. The wellbeing dogs all belong to staff at the school. After acclimatisation and an assessment from the school Health and Safety Committee the dogs are ‘pawthorised’ to spend the day meeting Berkhamsted pupils. They provide a source of comfort and relaxation and breathing space away from the usual academic environment.
Nala, a working golden retriever who belongs to Director of Girls Sport Jo Vila made a great impact on the pupils during her first breaktime session. The adorable Nala was excited to see the pupils. Happy and cuddly, it was like having a young member of the family in school.
Robyn added: “I’m very happy that the idea has been well received and that so many students have turned up to be with the dogs during break and lunch times. I feel like pupil wellbeing is definitely an important issue, and I’m glad that my voice was heard and that it has been a great success so far.”
In addition, pupils have the opportunity to read aloud to the four-legged visitors. Dogs, commonly referred to as ‘man’s best friend’, provide a reading environment that is welcoming, peaceful and non-judgemental. Research has shown than pupils grow in confidence as they tackle literature and academic texts in front of the reading dogs.
Reading week is another new initiative to help Berkhamsted pupils achieve a heathy and productive mindset. Year 7-13 pupils are being set less homework this week, enabling them the time and capacity to read for pleasure. The library team have been central to the success of reading week. They have provided many activities including imagination stations.
The library’s daily wellbeing article encourages pupils to read and discuss topics such as social media’s impact on anxiety. The article ‘Are selfie’s making you sad?’ in Teen Breathe magazine was a hot talking point as pupils understood the relationship between mindfulness and their online presence.
During house time, which has always been a period dedicated to pastoral care, pupils have been taking part in group reading sessions. There is strong evidence to suggest that such activities improve relationships with others, increases empathy and reduce the symptoms of depression. The wellbeing benefits blend with the outcomes of developing a broader vocabulary, increasing general knowledge and understanding culture.
Year 9 pupil Hugo Sharman (pictured centre) has been reading ‘Cider with Rosie’ – the classic memoir by Laurie Lee. He said: “I have been enjoying reading at home in the evenings. I was pleased to know that my mum had read it too when she was younger."
“Not having prep this week makes me feel like I can make time for reading which helps me to relax at the end of a long, busy day. It’s also a good break from technology. Overall, I think my concentration and energy is better in school because of the reading week initiative.”