Prioritising wellbeing as pupils return to school

15/03/2021
Bedales Prep, Dunhurst

Pupils at Bedales Prep, Dunhurst returned to school on 8 March after seven weeks of online learning, with wellbeing at the heart of their back to school programme.

The first day back began with a staggered return for pupils in Blocks 1 and 2 (Years 7 and 8), who arrived at set times according to year group, and underwent lateral flow testing before they entered the building. Pupils had been briefed before the day itself with a video showing them what to expect upon arrival at school, while parents had been asked to complete a survey about their lockdown experience to help Dunhurst staff best support their child on their return.

To aid the transition back to school, pupils spent the first day taking part in a range of activities designed to re-connect and reintegrate, with a pastoral focus. These included an extended Tutor Time, giving children the opportunity to chat, play a team sport such as netball or football, or simply enjoy the outdoors; an assembly with an emphasis on treating one another with empathy; walks in pupils’ year group pods; and an afternoon of carousel activities in Music, Art, Sport, Outdoor Work and Philosophy.

Bedales Prep, Dunhurst
Bedales Prep, Dunhurst
Bedales Prep, Dunhurst

As well as their usual lessons, pupils will take part in similar activities throughout the remaining three weeks of the Spring Term. On 12 March they enjoyed an art morning and afternoon tea, with a number of other opportunities, including a ‘Badley’ Morning inspired by Bedales’ founder John Badley and a special Easter-themed charity event, the ‘Hot Cross’ country run, due to take place before the end of term. As always, pupils will also be able to take advantage of everything the school grounds – set in 120 acres in the heart of the South Downs National Park – have to offer, including regular visits to the school’s working farm, which is home to cows, pigs and lambs.

All of the activities within Dunhurst’s back to school programme have been designed with the ‘SWAN’ framework – Safety (Physically and Emotionally); Welcoming and Warm; All Together; Nurturing – in mind, an approach that has been shared with the pupils and highlights Dunhurst’s commitment to exceptional pastoral care. Head of Wellbeing Debbie Baty explained: “We ensure empathy and kindness is at the core of all we do.”

The programme also meets Dunhurst parents’ top three priorities identified from a recent survey, for their children on their return to school – social/friendship activities, team/group activities and the creative arts – and ties in with the national picture, which shows that two-thirds of parents believe their child’s wellbeing is more important than academic attainment.

Head of Dunhurst Colin Baty said: “It has been wonderful to welcome everyone back to Dunhurst this week. With children back at school, there may be an understandable inclination to accelerate learning to make up for the time they have spent at home, but this is not going to be effective or beneficial. There will be time and procedures to identify and support learners’ needs, but we believe it is more important at this time to re-connect and re-establish how we learn and find a sense of routine. What we do now lays the foundation for how pupils will be next term, next year and into their adult lives.”