27 Feb 2020

Wellbeing Update during School Closure

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope you are staying well during this period of uncertainty.

My purpose in writing to you is to share with you some student feedback and to offer suggestions, and support, as you navigate the home learning context with your child(ren).

The Guidance and Achievement team, which comprise the Heads and Deputies of Year, the Heads of Section and myself, are working in harmony with the Tutors each day.  We are doing our utmost to ensure that your child is confident, feels listened to, understood, and is reassured that we genuinely care for her/him. Naturally, we are working in tandem with all our curriculum leaders, too, as they continue to deliver high quality lessons.

Nevertheless, school closure does present challenges for us all.  For this reason, all teacher and senior staff meetings continue, albeit mostly online, as we critically and creatively tackle unforeseen issues and problems. In circumstances like these, it is perhaps predictable that emotions can dominate, but as we are all aware, young people need consistency, routines, to be able to anticipate what will happen and for the adults in their lives to be calm, patient, reassuring and forgiving.  This is what our teachers are modelling, whilst concurrently being aspirational for each child’s academic goals. The majority of our students are remarkable.  We are proud of how quickly they have adjusted to the new arrangements.  Overall, we are impressed with their dedication to schoolwork and their intrinsic motivation.

Surveys and other data indicate to us, though, that some students are feeling overwhelmed with the volume of work and they are anxious about a myriad things. Examples of words more than 250 students used in our most recent survey included:

Tired, lonely, irritated, bored, lethargic, having strained and blurry eyes (from so many hours at the desk in front of laptops), scared, indifferent, unproductive, restless. 

Our ‘Online Learning Protocols’ (on the STC website) are an excellent reference reminding us of our obligations to innovate and accommodate student needs but there are limits to what we can do at the school level.

This is why it will benefit your child enormously if you can please make sure that she/he:

  • Has an established routine. Conversation with your child can begin with questions about her/his timetable and the expectations for each lesson. Teachers are factoring in consolidation time, approximately every third lesson, so students can reflect upon what they have learned, but also prepare for the next steps in learning. Students tell us they enjoy their families speaking with them about their learning, despite perhaps giving parents monosyllabic responses, on occasion!
  • Responds to emails or other messages from teachers as soon as possible. Robust communication is vital. It is also essential for our duty of care that parents, too, reply to teacher emails.
  • Checks in with you, or another trusted adult, regularly throughout the day. It is tempting for adolescents to be distracted and scientific research confirms that no one can concentrate for indefinite periods without refreshing breaks.  Standing up, moving around and stretching head and neck muscles is something we recommend, just for a few minutes, at least every 30 minutes.
  • Goes outside every day. This cannot be overstated. Many of our students are feeling imprisoned being in their apartments indefinitely, with no end in sight. They miss going outside, even if just briefly and in the safe confines of their local neighborhoods. The feel lost without their friends and sporting teams, they miss travelling on buses and trains and just having a little fun away from their laptops.
  • Eats well – small meals regularly.  Lots of colourful fruits and vegetables, too. Feeding your Teenager
  • Sleeps a minimum of nine hours each night. As the expert, Dr Matt Walker, tells us this is by far the BEST thing we can do for our brains. Sleep is Your Super Power
  • Remembers that teachers will not be present for entire lessons every day and that some tasks are given which do not require students being at her/his laptop for the entirety of each lesson.
  • Is definitely not expected to work late into the night.  Senior students may need to work longer, we appreciate, but the Middle School students should not be at their desks/laptops all day and also into the evening.  This is time for relaxation, hobbies, exercise, being with family, detaching from all technology and finding balance.

We want our students to be resilient and persistent. We know that resilience helps protect young people against problems related to wellbeing and mental health. It can be fostered by creating very strong bonds within caring relationships where unconditional love and trust are demonstrated. If home is an emotionally safe place where parents talk openly to their children, they are better able to maintain a positive perspective. These are extraordinary times and we all have to be adaptive, to live with ambiguity. We know, for example, that the students yearn to see their friends and teachers online and yet wish for less time on screens! There is no perfect scenario, but there is enormous goodwill and partnerships with you are crucial.

In closing, please look after yourself and thank you very much, indeed, for all you are already doing, in conjunction with us, during this period.

Warm wishes,

Christine Rowlands
Vice Principal