Our School Counsellor
The British Association for Counselling and Psychology has this definition of school-based counselling:
"Counsellors offer children and young people an opportunity to explore and understand their difficulties within a relationship of agreed confidentiality."
Counselling is conducted on a one-to-one basis with a trained professional and is based on 'humanistic' or integrative principles. These approaches to counselling aim to provide young people with an opportunity to talk through their difficulties in a welcoming and supportive environment and to find their own way of addressing any issues.
To what extent does having a school counsellor help our young people?
Statistics from the nationwide BACP survey:
more than 82% of children and young people reported that counselling helped and supported their emotional wellbeing.
90% of teachers reported that counselling had a positive impact upon concentration, willingness to participate in class and increased motivation for young people to attend school and study.
Who can access counselling?
Access for all
Students may refer themselves to the school counsellor if they feel they need an individual outside of home or school to talk with.
Students may be identified by parents, school or other authorities as potentially benefitting from counselling; however, it is never compulsory.
From the UK government: Ensuring confidentiality between the child or young person and counsellor is crucial to the success of the relationship and the outcomes of counselling.
Child protection concerns and the welfare of children and young people will, at times, need to take precedence over confidentiality.
Our counsellor will explain confidentiality and its limitations at the start of a counselling relationship. Students aged under 11 will require parental permission to attend. For our printable parental consent form please see here or ask in the school office for a copy.
Older children who ask for counselling and are capable of fully understanding what is involved may get counselling in their own right, without needing permission from a parent.
For further information about how we support all our students with their mental and emotional well-being please see our PSHE policy.
Leanne Collins, 2020
Wotton House Mentoring Programme
What is it?
A mentoring programme is a partnership between a more experienced individual (mentor) and a less experienced individual (mentee) setup to support the development of the mentee. Within the school context we will refer to the mentee as the student.
What is the aim of a mentoring programme?
The aim should always be to enable the student to develop their own skills, strategies and capability so that they are enabled to tackle the next hurdle more effectively and achieve their goals with or without the mentor's presence.
What qualities are we looking for in a mentor?
Ability and willingness to share your know-how and experience
Ability to actively listen
Approachability and availability
Honesty with diplomacy
Objectivity and fairness
Compassion and genuineness
Why are we doing this at Wotton House?
We are implementing a mentoring programme at Wotton House to:
Enable personal growth and accountability
Enhance personal awareness
Enable SMART personal objectives
Support positive behaviour
What is expected from a mentor?
Mentors are expected to (as a minimum) meet with each of their students once within the first two weeks of each term and then again within the last two weeks of each term. In addition to the two formal meetings, mentors are encouraged to check-in with their students once a week to continue building the relationship and supporting accountability.
A check-in, could be a 5 minute chat at lunch/break or a more formal meeting during an independent study period. The important aspect is that some regular interaction takes place to ensure we continue momentum and display a commitment to them and our role.
What happens in the formal meetings?
The initial meeting each term is for the mentor to support the student to set 3-5 personal objectives/goals for the forthcoming term.
Safeguarding the student and the mentor at all times is a key priority. Evidence shows that a good mentoring programme supports an open and safe working environment. This is a real positive in terms of safeguarding as it will enable students to be more open to disclosure. However this means that we all need to ensure we follow basic safeguarding guidelines.
If during a mentor meeting a student discloses anything that concerns you then you MUST follow the safeguarding procedure and contact Becky Gwynn or Dr Daniel Sturdy.
Below are some basic guidelines to support a healthy mentor meeting:
Meetings to last 15-30 minutes
Be scheduled during independent study, lunch or clubs
Take place in an open space or in a class room with the door left open
Chairs should ideally be situated side by side or at a 90 degree angle to support facilitation rather than a teacher/student dynamic
Manage your time to ensure you have enough time to agree personal objectives or review
If you would like any further support regarding mentoring best practice then please contact Becky or Nathan, if you would like any further support regarding safeguarding best practice then please contact Becky Gwynn or Dr Daniel Sturdy.
Mentors should aim to enable their student to set 3-5 personal goals for the term.
Goals or objectives should follow the SMART objective setting process. So they are Specific, Measured, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.
Mentors are encouraged to use their student’s most recent Skill/Passion assessment as a focus for the goal setting process.
Please use the Personal Goal Setting sheet to record student goals. You may also wish to encourage students to create to maintain a soft copy of their goals on their chrome books so they can easily access them for their reference.
If anyone has any queries regarding this document and the mentoring programme then please contact Nathan.
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting:
SMART goals help improve achievement and success. A SMART goal clarifies exactly what is expected and the measures used to determine if the goal is achieved and successfully completed.
What exactly do you want to achieve? The more specific your description, the bigger the chance of success. For example, instead of setting a goal like ‘I want to get better in Maths’ be more specific ‘I want to learn my times tables.’
Measurable goals means that you identify exactly what it is you will see, hear and feel when you reach your goal. It means breaking your goal down into measurable elements. You'll need concrete evidence. Enjoying English more is not evidence but achieving an excellent in English is.
Is your goal attainable? That means investigating whether the goal will, with application and commitment, be attainable by you.
Is reaching your goal relevant to you? Does it support your long term goals? Is it aligned to your passion or skillset?
If you're lacking certain skills, you can plan trainings. If you lack certain resources, you can look for ways of getting them.
The main questions, why do you want to reach this goal? What is the objective behind the goal, and will this goal really achieve that?
Can you achieve your goals within the available time frame? You will have a maximum of one term (usually 10-12 weeks) to achieve success. If you have a goal that can be reached within a shorter time frame then set a clear date for completion.
Safeguarding: Negative and Positive
What does safeguarding mean? For some it has become one of these weasel words, like 'Healthandsafety' which is too often wheeled out to mean 'no', or, even worse, to mean 'I'm going to impinge on your freedom by reporting you to an unspecified higher authority'. It shouldn't be like this, of course, but I fear that future generations will look back and think that much of the work done under the flag of 'safeguarding' did more harm than good. This is absolutely not to deny the central importance of keeping children safe, merely the manner in which it is done.
The 'official' government definition of safeguarding can be found in the DfE document Working together to safeguard children (2006, 2010, 2015, 2018):
protecting children from maltreatment
preventing impairment of children’s health or development
ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes
The first two parts of the definition are, in effect, 'child protection' and they amount to the requirement to hold children safe in the face of harm. This can be thought of as the negative side of safeguarding. The second two parts are the positive safeguarding duties, although they could hardly be written in blander, less inspirational language.
The purpose of the Working Together document is to provide guidance to "inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children". But if the definition of safeguarding already includes the requirement to promote the welfare of children then this is a strangely tautologous phrasing. Regardless of this the specific guidance which relates to education settings is called Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE; 2015, 2020, 2021)
The NSPCC has a neater definition than the DfE and is preferable as the positive duty comes first:
Safeguarding is the action that is taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.
Much safeguarding training is concerned with understanding what is meant by 'harm'. The usual definition is centred around the four types of abuse: Physical, Emotional, Neglect, Sexual; but also includes Cyberbullying, Forced marriage, Female Genital Mutilation and Radicalisation.
In order for staff to carry out their statutory safeguarding duties, some organisations refer to the 5 Rs:
These are all very necessary but they all refer to negative safeguarding. We believe that equal importance should be attached to positive safeguarding, which essentially means building children's capacity to resist temptation, to risk assess dangers, to choose the right option, all of which can be summed up by another R:
Resilience is defined by the US Department of Health as the "ability to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity and stress. In other words, resilience can manifest as maintaining or returning to one’s original state of mental health or wellbeing or reaching a more mature and well-developed state of mental health or wellbeing through the use of effective coping strategies."
Painful experiences cause negative emotions but it does not automatically follow that they must be avoided at all costs; it is a question of proportionality. Difficulties and challenges are not only unavoidable in life, they are also essential for growth and development of character. At a certain level of difficulty, of course, experiences become scars and it is now generally accepted that having experienced large number of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ie a high ACE score) is linked with later ill health, both mental and physical.
When difficulties fall towards the outer limits of someone's coping capacity they are a stimulus for growth. As Gever Tulley, author of 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), says:
Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.
There are lots of scales which attempt to measure resilience but none of them are reliable because it is so idiosyncratic. Nevertheless some general themes emerge when looking at what makes someone resilient (taken from Courtney Ackerman in PositivePsychology.com):
"Optimism – those who are optimistic tend to be more resilient as well since they are more likely to stay positive about the future even when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Altruism – the most resilient among us often turn to help others when they need to relieve stress and boost their self-efficacy.
Moral Compass – people with a strong moral compass or steadfast set of beliefs about right and wrong generally have an easier time bouncing back.
Faith and Spirituality – while not a required factor for resilience, people often find their faith helpful in surviving challenges and coming through stronger and wiser on the other side.
Humor – people who have a healthy sense of humor and are able to laugh at their own misfortune are at an advantage when it comes to bouncing back, for obvious reasons!
Having a Role Model – this is also not a requirement for resilience, but those who have a role model in mind can draw strength from their desire to emulate this person.
Social Supports – unsurprisingly, social support is important when it comes to resilience; those with strong social support networks are better equipped to bounce back from loss or disappointment.
Facing Fear – this is not so much a characteristic as an action or tendency to act, but people who are willing to leave their comfort zone and confront their fears are more likely to overcome their challenges and grow as a person.
Meaning or Purpose in Life – it shouldn’t be surprising that those who feel they have a specific purpose in life or find a tremendous amount of meaning in their lives are more likely to recover from failure or disappointment; when you fervently believe you have a purpose, you are less likely to give up when faced with tragedy or loss."
This looks very like a good definition of what a good education should be about and in fact these nine factors have lots of overlap with the IB Learner Profile (which we describe in detail in our page on Enrichment), which the IB describe as their mission statement in action. Taken together these characteristics describe someone who is scoring high on wellbeing, someone who is thriving, or flourishing. Naturally the Ancient Greeks had a word for this: eudaimonia, literally 'good spirits', which was, for Aristotle, the highest human good.
Surely this is what safeguarding actually means, but only the YMCA seem to have made the connection with their groundbreaking research report in 2016 into Eudaimonia: How Do People Flourish? Average wellbeing score across all respondents was 6.13. The top five factors which made the biggest difference to this were:
1. Financial: Happy +19% Extremely Worried -33%. Total swing 52%
2. Positive relationships +17%, Negative relationships -33%. Total swing 50%
3. Mentally stimulating life: +13%, Mentally unstimulating -35%. Total swing 48%
4. Active: +13%, Inactive -19%. Total swing 32%
5. Educational experience: positive +10%, negative -20%. Total swing 30%
This last finding is hugely important and deserves to be emphasised because it shows, with bitter irony, that for some children, mainstream school itself is an Adverse Childhood Experience which leaves lifelong scars.
"Our research revealed a 30% disparity in wellbeing scores between those that have had positive and negative experiences during their time in education. That means, if you have a bad time at school because you didn’t fit in, you were bullied, or mainstream academia wasn’t right for you, it could leave you feeling 30% less happy long after you’ve left. That could include feelings of stress, issues surrounding confidence, depression – even thoughts about suicide."
Despite enormous efforts, and endless policy and guidance re-writing, the UK consistently scores poorly on measures of childhood wellbeing. IN 2007 a Unicef survey placed it bottom of 21 wealthy countries. In a follow up study in 2013 it had improved, but not much: 16th out of 29 countries, well above the USA which was down in 26th place. The countries at the top of the leaderboard were all small, Northern European countries with very different attitudes to childhood than the UK:
There are doubtless many factors at work but one of them is clearly the importance the Dutch attach to play, and especially outside play:
"In the Netherlands, play is encouraged and considered an important part of childhood development. This idea is evident based on the endless amounts of children’s playgrounds, petting zoos, and even kid-zones in stores! Not to mention, it’s normal to see Dutch kids playing outside whenever they can on their bikes, scooters, tricycles, rollerblades. Through play, children learn how to react in situations, confrontations, and social settings." (Heather Hager, 2021)
Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. Aristotle
Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. Aristotle
“Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl
Evidence is presented that the mass suppression of emotion throughout the civilized world has stifled our growth emotionally, leading us down a path of emotional ignorance. Wayne Payne, 1985, Introduction
“Strong, negative emotions (fear, anger, anxiety, hopelessness) tend to narrow our minds—it’s as though our peripheral vision has been cut off because we’re so focused on the peril that’s front and center.” – Marc Brackett
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
… our level of emotional intelligence is not fixed genetically, nor does it develop only in early childhood. Unlike IQ, which changes little after our teen years, emotional intelligence seems to be largely learned, and it continues to develop as we go through life and learn from our experiences…
Daniel Goleman, 1998, p. 7
“It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head — it is the unique intersection of both.” — David Caruso
New findings on the social nature of the brain reveal the need for principals to fashion a school culture of warmth and trust. Daniel Goleman, 2006, p. 77
… new studies reveal that teaching kids to be emotionally and socially competent boosts their academic achievement. Daniel Goleman, 2008, p. 8
“From the vantage point of the brain, doing well in school and at work involves one and the same state, the brain’s sweet spot for performance. The biology of anxiety casts us out of that zone for excellence. “Banish fear” was a slogan of the late quality-control guru W. Edwards Deming. He saw that fear froze a workplace: workers were reluctant to speak up, to share new ideas, or to coordinate well, let alone to improve the quality of their output. The same slogan applies to the classroom—fear frazzles the mind, disrupting learning.” ― Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships
“Martin Luther King Jr. observed that those who failed to offer their aid asked themselves the question: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man what will happen to him?” ― Daniel Goleman, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence
The core skill in social awareness is empathy—sensing what others are thinking and feeling, without them telling you in words. Daniel Goleman, 2011, p. 13
There is an old-fashioned word for the body of skills that emotional intelligence represents: character. Daniel Goleman, 1995, p. 285
Emotional intelligence has a significant impact on happiness. Reuven Bar-On, 2010, p. 58
“Emotional intelligence, more than any other factor, more than I.Q. or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work… I.Q. is a threshold competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.” – Warren G. Bennis
Emotional intelligence is the single most important influencing variable in personal achievement, career success, leadership, and life satisfaction. Darwin Nelson & Gary Low, 2011, p. xxiii
As more and more artificial intelligence is entering into the world, more and more emotional intelligence must enter into leadership. Amit Ray, 2017
Social Media Advice for Parents:
-including age requirements and mental health considerations
Young people seem irresistibly drawn to the use of social media, and with the excitement of keeping up with their friends or favourite celebrities, and the opportunity to share their own content, it's not surprising!
Studies show that use rose dramatically over lockdown, as young people turned to social media as a way to stay connected and entertained.
It can be hard as parents to keep track of the ever-changing social media trends, and ensure that our children are staying safe online.
These websites have some useful guidance on the age suitability of various sites, and some insight into the mental health concerns that can arise through social media pressures.
Sometimes we may need extra support, either for ourselves or for our young people - whether this is a website to read advice, someone to chat to online, or to meet face to face to talk things through, or to access specific support, whether you are concerned about self harming, eating disorders, behaviour management or you would like to connect and share the experience, joys and challenges of parenthood!
The following resources include some local support that can be accessed without needing a referral:
If you feel concerned about your child's mental health and are unsure where to turn for help, the following websites offer guidance and access to counselling, mental health support and guidance for young people
Designated Safeguard Lead