Last month we were awarded the accolade of the Gold Mental Health in Schools Award. Only 6 secondaries in the country have received it, and we are the first school in Oxfordshire.
For Children’s Mental Health Week we opened our doors today too share our vision and our provision with others. At Aureus we don’t talk about mental health, we talk about ‘mental wealth’. 20 visitors came to Aureus to experience our culture and ethos, and our partners came to share their collaborations with us.
We were delighted that Lucy Butler, Director of Children Services for Oxford County Council and Richard Venables the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire joined us to celebrate our award.
Our DHT for Culture and Wellbeing, Julie Hunter, who is dot B trained, was due to share our mindful start to the day to ensure that all learners are ready for learning but, unfortunately, got stuck on a motorway so had to narrate it instead. Our Student Council explained how Mindfulness prepares them for learning and helps them be emotionally resilient.
Culture for Wellbeing:
Julie presented our ‘mental wealth’ programme, our universal entitlement to all of our students. We pride ourselves on being preemptive, proactive and preventative, not reactive and responsive. Julie spoke at length about our commitment to staff wellbeing so that we put well staff in front of our students. She was joined by Bogusia our Chair of Governors and Holly and Patrick, two of our Student Council who all passionately shared their experiences of our values-based school.
We took our guests for a walk around our school site to share how we have created ‘safe spaces’ and invested in a staffing model to ‘nurture hearts and minds’ to ensure that all can ‘grow, learn and flourish’. Our safe spaces include:
- wellbeing studios
- staff wellbeing room
- Thrive room
- Nurture room
- Sensory room
- Art therapy room
We call our holistic education our ‘Inner Curriculum’, a phrase coined by Dr Neil Hawkes, the founder of VBE. We also shared our VBE artefacts such as our values chandelier and our values totem poles.
Being outward-facing and collaborating brings value to our community. Our best practice session enabled us to share who we are working with and why. Micro presentations were shared by:
- Lucinda Powell – Oxon MH & WB Network
- Dan Knowles – Oxfordshire Mind
- Sophia Cleverly – Relax Kids Oxfordshire
- Lisa Harker – Art Room & Place2Be
- Me on behalf of VBE
- Liz Dawson & Rachel Bostwick – MH in Schools Award
Each contribution demonstrated that we believe we are ‘stronger together’. Lisa summed it up as our “pluralist approach” to collaboration. A phrase I will be magpie-ing!
I also gave shout outs to Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, Dr Pooky Knightsmith, Edukit , Clare Erasmus, Mike Armiger and Paul Dix and the Pivotal Approach – partners we work closely with but who were not present on the day.
Family Dining Experience:
Our visitors also experienced our community time and saw first hand how we invest in our relationships. We believe that we are what we eat, a focus on healthy eating underpins our values-based culture. We use our lunch times as an opportunity to connect and build our relationships with students.
Vision to Provision:
We are 4 nearly 5 terms old and are still a work in progress, but we are proud of what we have achieved to date. Our consideration of why we do things and the choices we have made of how we do things have led to what our school looks and feels like. Subtle choices about the structure of the day and what we call things are nuances of our values based culture.
Our Choices and Intentions that have become our DNA and our USP at Aureus:
- We do not need bells, we line up for lesson start.
- We start every day with mindfulness.
- We do not set, we believe in mixed ability.
- We have coaching groups, curriculum groups and global citizenship groups.
- We do not allow mobile phones on site, we do not have white noise from radios.
- We do not allow packed lunches on site, we have a family dining experience.
- We have mixed year group coaching groups and all belong to a faculty.
- We have coaching time not tutor time.
- We do not set homework, we have optional extended learning.
- We have personal development time, not enrichment time.
- We do not do detentions, we use restorative practice.
- We have created safe spaces for students and for staff.
- We have invested in the staffing and infrastructure of our Nurture, Thrive and Student Welfare Team.
- We have all had training from CAMHS and we have staff becoming experts in Thrive, mindfulness, MHFA and counselling.
- We underpin our schools’ culture and ethos with our values.
- We are a STEAM school and we celebrate the Arts.
Each choice comes together to develop our approach in creating a happy, healthy school where we ‘nurture hearts and minds’ that our community may ‘grow, learn and flourish’.
Check us out on BBC Oxford Radio from 7am on 5/2/19 and BBC South News from 6.25pm/ 10.30pm news!
Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher
Currently feeling hopeful about:
- Schools working with the Carnegie Centre to secure the Mental Health in Schools Award
- Educators making a difference by doing things differently
- After watching Resilience this week – we are hoping to get a licence to encourage more schools to become ACE aware.
- Come and join us on March 27th at the Oxfordshire Youth in Mind Conference
Currently reading and thinking about:
- Here are some quick links to articles I have read this week:
- I am also looking forward to the publication of Clare’s book: Mental Health and Wellbeing Handbook
Currently feeling grateful for:
- Julie for her vision and tenacity in making it come to reality
- Liz for her coaching and support for achieving Gold
- Bogusia for being a chair of governors who has invested a lot of time in investing in additional reading
- Lucinda for leading the Oxfordshire MH & WB Network
- Our Aureus team who are passionate about mental health and wellbeing