Chinthurst School: Building Resilience
We find out about the period of change and development taking place at Chinthurst School in Tadworth
Chinthurst School in Tadworth became part of the Reigate Grammar School family in February 2017, and under new head, Cathy Trundle, has undergone a period of dynamic change. The curriculum has been transformed to focus on personalised learning and individual progress. The children now embrace risk-taking and making mistakes as a normal part of the learning process and their confidence has soared as a result. Academic outcomes are outstanding with the majority of leavers heading to the school’s highly selective senior school, Reigate Grammar.
However, it is the importance placed on the wellbeing of the children which really sets the school apart. Kindness is at the centre of a whole school pastoral care system and the teachers give priority to building relationships with the children over everything else. In recognition of this, the school has been shortlisted for Independent Prep School of the Year 2019. Cathy Trundle tells us how wellbeing is at the very heart of Chinthurst and why our children’s resilience is so important to their future success.
Why is resilience important?
Junior school children have such active and varied lives. The extracurricular programmes on offer at most schools these days, on top of diverse and challenging curriculums, provide experiences and opportunities that will shape children’s thinking and define the adults they become. So, it is vital that our children have the resilience and coping skills to deal with challenges that will undoubtedly arise as they progress.
How do we build resilience?
An all-encompassing and thorough wellbeing programme is essential. Children with strong emotional wellbeing will have a better ability to cope with pressure and it is vital that schools allow them to develop this in a safe and caring environment. At Chinthurst, the children are encouraged to take risks, try new things and failure is turned into a positive learning experience. This builds confidence and provides a strong foundation from which they can fulfil their potential.
The children have good relationships with staff and know they can talk to us at any time. Each of our children has a ‘bubble’ with their name on it which they can quietly place on a teacher’s desk when they want to talk to them privately. Our school councillor is a valuable resource to help children with more complicated issues.
To ensure our children develop healthy mind habits for life, we have introduced a daily mindful minute. Mindfulness is a useful tool for decreasing anxiety and promoting happiness and children are uniquely suited to benefit from it. It promotes skills that are controlled in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain where connections are created at their fastest rate during childhood. Research shows that practicing mindfulness can enhance focus in the classroom, reduce attention problems, improve social skills, and enhance behaviour regulation.
For our children, the mindful minute takes place after lunch and is an excellent way to settle into afternoon lessons or sport. Each day focuses on different activities which range from simple breathing exercises to focusing on all five senses. During some sessions, the children quietly think about something they can be grateful for. They write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a ‘mindfulness jar’. Later, if they are feeling stressed or anxious, they can use the thoughts in the jar to calm themselves down. ‘Zen pig’ is a character who is full of wisdom and thoughts and helps the children during sessions.
We are already seeing a difference in the children’s ability to focus since the mindful minute was introduced.
Of course, parental support is absolutely vital to children’s success and wellbeing at school. Unrealistic expectations are harmful and have a negative impact on a child’s confidence. However, low expectations can be just as damaging as having expectations that are too high, so some aspirations are healthy and one-to-one time at home can really boost confidence and achievement. It is important to remember that children need time to be children too and relaxation, play and fun are an important part of preparing them for a happy adulthood.
There is no doubt that a child’s mental health and wellbeing is as important as their knowledge of fractions or adverbials when preparing them for senior school. The journey to adulthood is different for every child but to be successful and happy, they all need to feel genuinely valued and secure. At Chinthurst, we can stretch our children because they have the resilience and confidence to try new things, knowing that failure is an important part of their ultimate success. We can also enjoy watching them develop as happy individuals knowing that they have the tools to thrive wherever they go.