Deputy Head's Blog: The Darling Buds of May

The somewhat erratic weather of late did provide us with a couple of hot days, hopefully to whet our appetite for a sun filled summer!

It was during the couple of hot days that I witnessed Mr Pollock engaging with some of the Juniors on our back lawn one Friday afternoon. Observing our Seniors practicing their dancing around the Maypole served to prompt yours truly to reflect upon the importance of happiness, both individually and collectively as a School community.

My reflection took me back in time to when Dr Anthony Seldon, then Master of Wellington College, Berkshire, announced that he was introducing ‘happiness lessons’ into the curriculum at his School. Such a brave and forward-thinking decision, made against a long history of a traditional Boarding School education, made headline news!

Dr Seldon deployed those Teachers coached in positive psychology to tutor well-being at Wellington College. His rationale was that:

"We are introducing classes on happiness. We have been focusing too much on academics and missing something far more important.

"To me, the most important job of any school is to turn out young men and women who are happy and secure - more important than the latest bulletin from the Department for Education about whatever."

"Celebrity, money and possessions are too often the touchstones for teenagers, and yet these are not where happiness lies."

"Our children need to know that as societies become richer, they don't become happier - a fact regularly shown by social science research.

Dr Seldon employed the services of Nick Baylis, a Psychologist at Cambridge University, to oversee the piloting of the school's happiness lessons.

Dr Baylis added that:

"Positive psychology is a relatively new branch of the science, which focuses on enabling people to live lives which are flourishing."

Dr Seldon, a political commentator and author, introduced one lesson a week for pupils, aged 14 to 16, in years 10 and 11. The classes offered skills on how to manage relationships, physical and mental health, negative emotions and how to achieve one's ambitions.

My reflection concluded with a genuine sense of admiration of the Cransley values. Simplistic in nature, yet tangible enough to measure, I feel that the underlying philosophy behind such values serves to produce successful and happy pupils.

We are entering a most exciting and positive stage of the Cransley School journey. Increased pupil numbers, the pupil gender gap is narrowing and recruitment of pupils from other Schools in the area are indicators of our success over the last couple of years. Yet such success requires an analysis of how best to embrace and support our School values, within a pastoral and academic framework that serves to embrace positivity, encouragement and support.

In conjunction with our Governors, Mr Pollock, the Senior Management Team and Staff at Cransley School, I have been reviewing our current pastoral and academic framework to identify areas that may be improved.

This review has led to the development of a Behaviour Ladder and set of Learning Expectations, which is almost ready to be distributed to our pupils. Such a document is the first step towards ensuring that, as the School moves forward, the School’s expectations and associated behaviour has a distinct point of reference. The creation of this document is not in any way a ‘knee jerk’ reaction to poor behaviour at Cransley School. Far from it!

In addition, and in preparation for the new academic year, a review of the Senior School PSHEE syllabus will take place, together with the roles of Subject Teachers and Form Tutors.

Consideration is being given to how to best improve our celebration of the many successes of our pupils, via an improved rewards structure.

Mrs Ward is currently assessing the ‘Girls on Board’ approach to pastoral support, specifically tailored for girls. This is an approach which helps girls, their parents and their teachers to understand the complexities and dynamics of girl friendships. The language, methods and ideas empower girls to solve their own friendship problems and recognises that they are usually the only ones who can. By empowering girls to find their own solutions, parents need worry less, schools can focus more on the curriculum and the girls learn more effectively – because they are happier.

I do hope that you share our view of how the benefits of a positive and supportive framework will assist with ensuring that the Cransley School values are subconsciously acted out on a daily basis to produce well rounded, articulate, confident and happy pupils.

After all, according to Dr Seldon:

“Truly happy people are made, not born!”