With the application process now complete, we are excited to have launched a new programme for selected 6.1 students – the Badley Mentors.
The Badley Mentors are leading on promoting ‘wellbeing’ for the Bedales community whilst also providing peer support for the younger years. The group will be working primarily with Block 3 students; meeting new students and parents on our induction days, accompanying the Outward Bound trip to Cobnor each September and organising various student social events throughout the year. The Badley Mentors will also be leading Saturday tutor times each week and are attached to a Block 3 tutor group, facilitating discussions on topics such as respect, inclusivity, befriending, values, freedom, identity and living in the Bedales community.
The mentors have completed a full day of training delivered by Peter Bradley, CEO of Safe Child Thailand and former Director of Kidscape, whose experience with safeguarding matters and issues such as bullying is immense. The mentors will be available to the entire student community as a friendly, listening and approachable ear for one-to-one peer mentoring, in addition to meeting parents, reviewing school polices and visiting the Day and Boarding houses. I am excited to be working with the Badley Mentors on this new endeavour and the possibilities it holds.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, the Health Centre would like to highlight some great resources for children and their parents, ranging from local charities to nationwide organisations.
We recognise that following this last year’s events, everyone is in a different place concerning their mental health and if you are looking for any information on specific conditions, support networks or wellbeing information please look at the websites and phone numbers below. We are always open to be contacted by parents or students for further support or signposting to relevant organisations at email@example.com.
Young Minds, the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people’s mental health, has information for parents here. Parents/caregivers can also contact Young Minds via their helpline (0808 802 5544) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Hope Line UK is a confidential support and advice service for children and young people under the age of 35 who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, or anyone concerned that a young person could be thinking about suicide. Contact their helpline (0800 068 4141), send a text (07860039967) or email them (email@example.com).
Sane is a leading mental health charity with a range of information and resources available on their website and a helpline (07984 967708) operated by professionals and trained volunteers.
Rethink is a charity helping to improve the lives of people severely affected by mental illness through our network of local groups, services and expert information.
Mind offers information and support for anyone living with or supporting someone with a mental health condition. Their website includes information for young people aged 11-18 here.
Headspace is an app designed to improve the health and happiness of the world through meditation mindfulness. The app is free to try, and you can subscribe for full access to meditations and mindfulness exercises covering everything from negative self-talk to how to improve motivation.
No Limits is a an award-winning, Hampshire-based, independent charity providing a unique combination of prevention, early intervention and crisis support to young people. Details about their virtual services, drop-ins and support groups can be found on their website.
As Head of Wellbeing I’ve watched and listened with interest to our students’ responses in the aftermath of the Sarah Everard’s killing. I’m so very proud of Block 5 student Bella Cutts who organised the wearing of red for the day to highlight sexual violence experienced by women. Savvy use of social media meant Bella was able to spread the action and schools such as Marlborough, Beneden and Teddies took up the red wearing baton later in the week. Contributions to an art exhibition in the Quad this week were moving, articulate, harrowing and rightly laced with fury. The women of Bedales are formidable.
The voices of our boys and men are vital to social change within the Bedales community and society. It is these voices we now need to advocate, intervene and upstand in support of women. The Wellbeing curriculum challenges the normative binary dialogue surrounding consent, rape culture, pornification and sexism.
The need to do more to reduce violence against women is now widely agreed. But for progress to be made, one of the central issues has to be about men, male attitudes and actions, and what men need to do.
What should men do in these circumstances? “Man’s silence around issues of sexist language and behaviours is of concern,” says Graham Goulden, former policeman and trainer in violence prevention. “Whilst many men as individuals possess healthy views of women, their views on what their friends think is often skewed. Men often misperceive that friends support sexist views which leads to them either joining in or saying nothing. This leads to a perfect storm of non-abusive men doing nothing, and abusive men acting with impunity.”
One fundamental is that men – whether they think of themselves as liberal, progressive or enlightened – need to stop being defensive and making excuses. Educator, filmmaker and author Jackson Katz has worked on gender-based violence and wider inequalities and stresses that men (as well as women) saying “not all men” in debates on male violence are not being constructive. “I keep hearing people saying: ‘Not all men!’ To which I would say: if you have the impulse to say ‘not all men’, don’t. It’s silly, and it’s not a good look.”
This is not just about semantics: “Because, yes, although men are more likely to die violently than women, and yes, not all men are violent, there’s no doubt that the overwhelming majority of violence that happens between the genders happens by men against women. And the vast majority of violence that men suffer is at the hands of other men.”
Men have to recognise and call out sexism in other men. This became – in the work of Katz – known as the ‘bystander principle’, whereby men take responsibility and challenge the problem behaviour of other men; not leaving it to women or leaving it in silence, thinking it can always be passed off as somebody else’s problem.
Men need to think about how to challenge other men, whether it is the jokes that nearly everyone laughs at, and what is called ‘locker room banter’. The first thing that individuals can do is to stop separating the likes of rape and ‘sexist banter’, states Katz. “They are connected and addressing the banter will help reduce the violence we read about in the media. Abusive men often think their attitudes are supported. That needs to change. Men should speak to women in their lives.”
There has to be an understanding that male entitlement and resentment towards women are two sides of the same thing, and that hate, sexism and misogyny are learned behaviour. In the words of Katz, these are reinforced and reproduced by “media culture, sports culture, peer culture and porn culture” until it becomes mainstream and part of the norm of what it is to be a man.
Violence and problematic male behaviour is not just about the individual, but about societal norms and hence it is the responsibility of all of us, and in particular, all men. Silence is not an option but is in reality collusion, it is complicit consent. Women and men need men to have the courage to speak up, to listen to women, and to challenge other men.
Dr Jackson Katz discusses why all men need to be part of ending violence against women, and what they can do to help, listen to the podcast here.
Over time, we have seen the conceptualisation of resilience shift from being a trait – you either have it or you don’t – to a characteristic, something you can change over time that is very internally focused. Ultimately, resilience is a process one has to continuously cultivate. This was the message in Wellbeing lessons before half term.
Nutrition can help you build resilience, so you aren’t as affected by stress and are able to weather the storm when difficulties and struggles come your way. This is a good thing because it means that when it comes to using your diet to up your resilience, you can continually work to improve (and if you decide to have cake for dinner one night, it doesn’t mean you have failed!)
Often I hear students complain of fatigue, poor concentration, low mood, anxiety and sleeplessness; before exploring the wellbeing of their mind, we need to examine their food lifestyle. Potential deficiencies in vitamins and minerals (few adolescents are eating an optimal diet), what they are choosing to eat and drink (see food pyramid below), portion size and timings (breakfast is vital for teenagers) all affect mood, sleep, motivation and wellbeing.
Arming adolescents with nutritional knowledge and the self-awareness of how food affects their bodies and mind is key to building resilience and wellbeing. For further information on diet and nutrition for teenagers, I recommend following The Nutrition Guru, Tina Lond-Caulk. Tina has just released The Teenage Health & Wellness Guide. As well as tasty and nutritious recipes and advice, the book also includes recommendations such as encouraging teenagers to consume a daily quality multivitamin and mineral, and the importance of supplementing vitamin D, magnesium and calcium. The latest scientific research also strongly suggests a link between mind health and gut microbiome; Symprove is an excellent choice of daily probiotic.
If we focus on eating for wellbeing, realise that we can love and take care of ourselves and have self-compassion, and focus on what we’re consuming, we tend to be healthier in both body and mind.
The focus for wellbeing this term is on cultivating resilience, the cornerstone of which is self-awareness. This week, students have completed a wellbeing assessment using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) to measure good wellbeing. The assessment was used to facilitate a discussion about how we need to be using our Wellness Jar to ensure we look after our mental health, which we hope will increase our scores on the WEMWBS when we complete it again in the coming weeks. You might wish to complete the assessment yourself as it could scaffold a reflective, sharing conversation. Access the WEMWBS here.
To aid introspection and develop self-awareness, Blocks 4 and 5 have been practising mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn brought contemporary mindfulness to mainstream medicine and psychology through clinical intervention programmes such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and I trained in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) at the University of Oxford. At Bedales, we are using meditations from Calm. Calm incorporates mindfulness practices from MBSR and MBCT without religious or spiritual discourse; it features meditation for sleep, anxiety, focus, motivation, self-esteem and gratitude, as well as gentle movement, stretching, nature panoramas and music designed to help you focus and relax. Calm provides the structure and guidance necessary to facilitate a daily meditation practice and mindful awareness. There is also an ‘Emergency Calm’ meditation that provides relief for feelings of being overwhelmed or stressed.
Students in 6.2 or Block 5 who are about to embark on a week of assessments may wish to consider using Calm’s ‘7 Days of Calming Anxiety’ course, which is available as a free trial on the Calm app. As we have been discussing in Wellbeing lessons, we must all take responsibility for maintaining our mental health and placing self-care alongside our other commitments. Key to resilience is self-awareness of stituations that may ignite stress and/or anxiety, and the actions we take (self-care) to manage them. The ‘7 Days of Calm’ series was a huge help to me and explained to me why we feel anxious, how to pause and feel those thoughts instead of pushing them away. It was insightful and, of course, calming.
In Wellbeing, we are taking the opportunity during online learning to delve into the practical strategies that we should all have in order to cultivate a resilient spirit. Resilience is at the heart of wellbeing. Over the coming weeks, Blocks 3-5 will be focusing on practising the five pillars of resilience; fostering healthy emotional and mental health strategies for life; learning to manage the uncomfortable and struggles in life; mindfulness practice; and connection and support.
All five pillars of resilience are crucial, but in the coming weeks we will focus on developing self-awareness, self-care and mindfulness practice in our Wellbeing sessions. This week, Bedalians have produced a ‘Wellness Jar’ detailing the activities they are going to do on a daily and weekly basis (plus emergencies and treats) in order to be resilient, thus developing healthy emotional and mental health for life. Have a look at my Wellness Jar below. Students have been asked to share the contents of the Wellness Jar with their loved ones.
Additional strategies for fostering resilience discussed in our Wellbeing lessons have included the importance of keeping routines going – including 9-10 hours of sleep, meal times, exercise, play, cognitively stimulating activities, work and relaxation – so that days have rhythm and structure and are not spent inactive. Endless time without structure, meaning and purpose is unhealthy for the body and mind.
There are a number of resources available for parents and teenagers for mental/emotional health issues. Young Minds has a free helpline for parents (0808 802 5544, available 9.30am-4pm, Monday to Friday), as well as a useful website. Helpful information can also be found on the Royal College of Psychiatrists website. Young people can access support from helplines, text lines and online chat services at any time – Childline (0800 1111), Young Minds Crisis Messenger (text YM to 85258) and the Mix (0808 808 4994).
Beginning in Block 3 with the theme ‘Empathy’, Bedalians are encouraged through the Wellbeing curriculum to develop emotional and cognitive empathy, whilst demonstrating empathetic practice through a healthy curiosity for the lived experiences of others. I hope the 6.2 Wellbeing speaker this week – the convicted murderer and columnist Erwin James – inspired students to embody such practice.
Erwin was released from prison in August 2004 having served 20 years of a life sentence. At the time of his conviction, he was an inarticulate and ill-educated individual with, in his own words, “massive failings to overcome”. From unpromising beginnings as a prisoner with bleak prospects, it was encouragement from a prison worker that inspired Edwin to embark on a programme of part-time education. Six years later, he graduated from the Open University with an arts degree majoring in history. Around the same time, he began writing for The Guardian, with the paper publishing his first article in 1998 and a regular column, ‘A Life Inside’, from 2000.
Block 3 have been prompted to reflect on ‘character’ from The Guardian article, The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months. For centuries western culture has been permeated by the idea that humans are selfish creatures. That cynical image of humanity has been proclaimed in films and novels, history books and scientific research. But in the last 20 years, something extraordinary has happened. Scientists from all over the world have switched to a more hopeful view of mankind. As we are living through this unprecedented lock down and as our theme in Wellbeing for Block 3 this year is ‘empathy’ I felt this cross-curricular article would resonate with Bedalians. The real Lord of the Flies is a tale of friendship and loyalty; one that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on each other, and that we should always look for what is good and positive in people. As a Block 3 student reflects: “I enjoyed reading this article a lot. I found it very interesting and I enjoyed the expectations vs reality of it all. Books make it appear as if people being trapped on an island together will lose all sanity. Good to know that isn’t necessarily true!”
For Block 4’s theme on identity this year we have been exploring self-awareness and acceptance. Dr Brene Brown’s research and teachings permeate the entire Wellbeing curriculum provision at Bedales, so it was opportune to task students with watching her two TED talks. Dr Brown is perhaps best known for TEDx talk, The Power of Vulnerability. Recorded at an event in Houston in 2010, the talk is one of the five most popular in TED history, with more than 60 million views. It summarises a decade of Brown’s research on shame, vulnerability and courage.
By Al McConville, Director of Teaching and Innovation
The crucial role of sleep in learning and wellbeing has been much in the press recently. As scientists gradually understand more fully the underlying processes of memory and cognition, it is increasingly clear how central a good night’s sleep is to optimal functioning.
At a recent Friends of Bedales meeting, a group of staff and students presented the latest research on sleep and adolescence, and how it relates to our practice, now, and potentially in the future. What, for example, would the impact of a later start to the school day be…?
I produced a handout sharing some key messages harvested from several books: Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep; Till Roenneberg’s Internal Time; Sarah-Jane Blakemore’s Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain; and Dan Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.
Sleep is strongly correlated with success in laying down new memories and other elements of cognitive performance, including focus, understanding, speed of processing and problem-solving; age appropriate levels of sleep lead to better memory and optimal cognitive function overall.
During the day we store information in our short-term memory bank, the hippocampus. It needs to be cleared out daily to make space for new memories; that clearing out, or transfer to long-term memory in the cortex, happens primarily at night. Short-term memory capacity is refreshed in proportion to the number of ‘spindles’ that occur during sleep.
There is a strong biological setting in all individuals which dictates their natural waking/sleeping times – chronotypes. It’s not good for you to try and work against this; very little ‘entrainment’ (i.e. getting used to forced alternatives) is possible.
Sleep deprivation is correlated strongly with the full spectrum of mental health issues.
Even a relatively small but regular shortfall of the necessary sleep leads to sleep deprivation indicators.
The most important sleep for strengthening memory and learning (REM sleep) tends to happen at the tail end of the cycle, when the sleep is most ‘spindle-rich’, which is also the bit that is most often cut short.
Teenagers need nine hours’ sleep on average; 8-10 hours is the range. However, their chronotypes shift later by 1-3 hours during adolescence, so their natural bed/wake times shift later.
There is evidence from America in particular that shifting the same start time of schools back leads to improved academic performance. Locally, Alton College (sixth form only) starts at 10am.
Even with enough sleep, there are variations in the cycle as to when we’re most cognitively capable of doing different kinds of work: earlier in the cycle is better for analytical thinking, while later in the cycle is better for more creative, ‘diffuse’ work.
There is a big slump in attentiveness in the early afternoon for most people, adequately slept or not. This is somewhat later for teenagers. We’re ‘bi-phasic’ – people who know when their ‘slump’ is can (ideally) plan less cognitively demanding activities for that period.
Naps perform something of a corrective to sleep deprivation, though are only really a sticking plaster, since a full cycle is necessary to perform all the functions of sleep.
Watch out for alcohol – for memories to be fully, reliably ‘laid down’ takes several days, or rather several sleeps, and alcohol can wipe out new neuronal growth three days after a new memory is formed. Nicotine also reduces the depth of sleep.