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How to grow happy kids

Wellbeing is an important word in any school, at any time. But the advent of Covid has magnified its significance and forced schools to address a myriad of new issues. We chatted more with the Head at Chinthurst School in Tadworth.

The Coronaviris pandemic is unprecedented, and while there have undoubtedly been some positives to the school closures this year, with children spending more time with families and developing greater resilience, there has also cause for worry among children.

Chinthurst School, an independent co-ed prep school in Tadworth, has always had a strong reputation for excellent pastoral care. So much so, it has been shortlisted for an Independent Schools of the Year award in recognition of their Wellbeing at Heart programme. Keen to know more about how they’ve handled all things Covid, we collared the lovely head teacher, Cathy Trundle, for a chat.

Pupils at Chinthurst school in Tadworth, Surrey

How did Chinthurst handle remote learning?

When the new lockdown was announced in January, the school was able to smoothly transition to remote learning, based on the success of our online schooling last year. We further developed our programme this time round, drawing on experience and feedback, to ensure the children continued to receive the creative and exciting education that Chinthurst is renowned for, whilst progressing academically as they would have done had they been with us onsite.

What measures did the school have in place to help support pupils’ wellbeing?

Wellbeing is always at the heart of everything we do at Chinthurst and this continued to be a focus of our remote learning. Strong and close relationships between children and staff are absolutely fundamental to welfare and during the first lockdown, we recognised how crucial it was that these relationships continued whilst the children were at home. We put in place a programme of virtual form times, live lessons and regular two-way feedback to facilitate this, which was hugely successful. Throughout remote learning, our children have continued to feel loved and supported and our teachers have been able to provide help and encouragement when needed.

With schools returning on 8 March, how will you manage children’s concerns about coming back to school post lockdown.

The answer to this once again lies in the strength of relationships we have with the children and our open communication with families. We know that children with strong emotional wellbeing have a better ability to cope with pressure and change. As a school, we have always focused on this, forging strong relationships with each child individually, building their confidence and resilience so they are willing to try new things and mistakes can be turned into positive learning experiences. As our children return to us, we will continue to make sure they feel happy and safe, and to encourage them to talk to us about any worries they may be having.

We have a school wide Wellbeing at Heart programme that helps our children to understand how their bodies and minds work and gives them the skills to look after themselves through life’s inevitable ups and downs. This will continue to form an integral part of the curriculum.

Inevitably, some children will find the return to school easier than others and our families know that we are here to provide support when needed and ready to talk at any time.

How important is time in the great outdoors for good mental health?

It is a well-known fact that time spent outdoors in nature improves wellbeing and this took on even more importance when our children were at home. Within the remote learning timetable, we strongly encouraged the children to go outside whenever possible. Even on the darkest winter’s day, moving away from a screen and into the great outdoors has enormous benefits.

With the children coming back at school, we will continue to take every opportunity to use the school grounds and the power of being outside to enhance the children’s wellbeing. There is nothing like playing, splashing in mud and generally letting off steam to make wellbeing soar. We are great believers in outdoor learning too. Often children can solve problems and grasp concepts outside that they have had difficulties with in the classroom.  Lessons outside are fun too! Maths might be brought to life by finding patterns and shapes in nature around the school grounds, or a science class might include looking for signs of spring.

Chinthurst is an independent co-educational day school for children aged 2-11 years in Tadworth. There’s a strong family vibe, a big emphasis on community and the school is known for its pastoral care as well as the excellent academic results.

Read our full Chinthurst School review here.

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