DLD College London has pioneered several wellbeing initiatives leading to recognition as the first school in the UK to receive the gold award for the ‘Boarding school mental health award’. The pastoral care and provisions offered also resulted in the school winning several other awards, including the Independent Schools Association’s ‘Excellence and innovation in mental health and wellbeing award 2021’ and the Boarding Schools’ Association’s ‘Wellbeing award 2021’.
James Kidd, senior vice principal (pastoral) at DLD College London shares an insight into how the school is supporting staff and students’ mental health.
In 2018, DLD College London’s wellbeing centre was officially opened by the government’s mental health tsar, Natasha Devon MBE. Situated in the heart of the school, the centre allows access to wellbeing provisions ensuring not only those students feel supported, but also that the ethos behind it is demonstrated by its physical and symbolic location.
The creation of a head of wellbeing has been instrumental in delivering on that, and alongside a team of counsellors, staff members are trained in coaching techniques to mentor and coach students who require that level of support. To extend and strengthen the provision of pastoral support, the tutors in each house receive specialised coaching training.
At DLD College London we are also committed to ensuring all members of staff and all student mentors are mental health first aid trained. We have more than 40 students and over 70 members of staff and parents trained to date, who actively support the community to spot signs and symptoms of mental health concerns through assemblies, events, and student-led clinics. Therefore, students have several staff members and fellow students that they can approach about challenges, with the reassurance that they will receive support and signposting.
By equipping each member of the college community with the tools to have conversations around mental health, we hope to further empower students and staff to create a mentally healthy, supportive environment in their family, peer or friendship group. We have also provided training in mental health and coaching to a number of other schools, demonstrating our passion to support the wider community as we enriched practice in our own setting.
DLD has a strong focus on character development and is working with several renowned specialists in sleep, diet, exercise, and positive psychology to develop a unique student leadership programme. We have pioneered a selection of new courses for students which impact specifically on their character development, aimed at not only increasing self-awareness, but also allowing the development of the students as leaders. These include specialised training in peer-coaching, sleep training, inclusion, and diversity. The long-term impact of these combined initiatives is to develop the self-awareness in our students, enabling an understanding of how their mind, body and spirit impact their sense of wellbeing, so that they can manage levels of stress and anxiety at DLD College London and beyond.
We pride ourselves on the willingness of staff to understand the motivations and challenges that each student faces and have successfully implemented two key pastoral tracking systems in the school which have allowed a more proactive approach to the wellbeing of pupils – an internal pre-induction wellbeing questionnaire and our affective social tracking tool (AS) developed by STEER.
From September 2019, we initiated a pre-enrolment questionnaire aimed at establishing a further insight into the life and experiences of our incoming students, enabling the members of staff who will be supporting them to build an understanding of motivations before they arrive. Upon arrival, new boarders are then offered wellbeing packs, including several ethical and sustainable products and information aimed at beginning the journey, with the students establishing the importance of wellbeing within our culture. The measures aim to align all students to our commitment to their holistic education.
The school also meets the STEER education accreditation standards and has STEER AS tracking accreditation, in recognition of our demonstrated proactive and targeted evidence-based pastoral care. We have exhibited a shift in cultural mindset, equipping our teachers with the tools, shared language, and strategies to move pastoral care from reactive to proactive, from generalised to targeted, from intuition to evidencing the pupil voice. DLD College London has become a beacon school and is sharing best practices with others.
Comment from ISA chief executive on the work of its members
DLD College London is part of the Independent Schools Association (ISA) via their head’s membership, and Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, chief executive officer of ISA, wholly supports the initiatives to support mental health and wellbeing that are taking place across ISA members’ schools, of which there are soon to be over 600 across the UK and overseas.
“Over at DLD College London, significant steps have been taken to transform the cultural mindset surrounding mental health and wellbeing” _ Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, chief executive officer of ISA
“ISA Members are dedicated to maintaining cultures that promote wellbeing for both staff and students. There are numerous examples of environments that are progressive in supporting mental health across the ISA.
“At The Unicorn School, their innovative integrated therapy approach has been tailored to the specialist needs of the students they care for, and the outcomes are fantastic ─ school is an embracing, nurturing environment for young people who have been challenged with low self-esteem and anxiety during their time in education.
“Similarly, the team at another ISA school, Malvern St James Girls’ School, has cultivated a positive environment for their entire school community. The development of The Hive, their dedicated wellbeing hub for pupils, a growing pastoral care programme for staff and a reformed PSHEEC provision that develops mechanisms for pupils to take beyond school are all central to this.
“Over at DLD College London, significant steps have been taken to transform the cultural mindset surrounding mental health and wellbeing. Pastoral care strategies have been extended to become proactive, rather than just reactive. The focus on pupil voice has created a space which is empowering and supportive for students, staff, and families.
“At ISA, fellowship has always been at the heart of what we do, and this has allowed for a growing network of pastoral support for Heads and school staff to flourish for over 140 years. Crucially, these connections continue to provide us with the opportunity to share best practice in promoting wellbeing and supporting mental health across our entire membership and the wider education sector.”
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