What I accidentally learnt last week

By John Bishop, Evolve Managing Director

Laughter helps learning, why every school needs charcoal powder and what a cwtch is. These are all things that I learnt last week at a School Wellbeing Workshop that we hosted in three schools in Cardiff, Birmingham and Nottingham.

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Nina Jackson, from Independent Thinking, enthralled, inspired and entertained delegates for over an hour with her moving personal account which puts into perspective any adversity that we may think we are facing. She also provided her unique insight into how we should be addressing the mental health epidemic that is spreading through schools right now whilst senior education officials are arguing about grammar schools and deficit budgets.

I learnt why calm breathing is an extremely effective tool that pupils can use to deal with anxiety, along with numerous other forms of ‘mind medicine’ that Nina generously prescribed to delegates who were in attendance. In situations where freely available mind medicine is not strong enough, Nina also recommended essential content for every school’s first-aid kit, including charcoal powder, which resulted in a rush of orders the next day by many grateful headteachers.

The School Wellbeing Workshops were organised by Evolve and Independent Thinking to offer schools practical and tangible solutions to the mental health challenges that are currently facing an alarming number of children under their care. Rather than spending time analysing the size of the problem, where it stems from and whose responsibility it is, these workshops provide a much-needed antidote to the theorists, apologists and neglecters who seem to be passively occupying this space.

Dave Harris, Business Director of Independent Thinking, also spoke at the workshops and gave a thought-provoking presentation about how the education system is actually part of the problem for many schools and their pupils. He also provided solid rationale for why laughter in the classroom helps memory recall and why we must focus our teaching on all parts of the brain, not just the cognitive-favoured lobes. This led to discussions of wonder and awe, and how learning can be discovered by pupils rather than transmitted to them by teachers.
There was a common theme used by headteachers from host schools who presented thoughts at their respective event. They all spoke passionately about how Evolve Health Mentors are helping to prepare pupils for learning, using the unique rapport that they develop with them. This was especially relevant since last Thursday was National Mentoring Day, where the good work of mentors across all industry fields was showcased to try and raise the profile of this key role in society.

This was the first time that Evolve has organised events for staff and senior leaders from outside their network. It is often said that experimenting with different methods can lead to unintended consequences and this is definitely the case here. Evolve staff have benefited from an extremely useful CPD session that will undoubtedly improve their practice as various new strategies are adopted and become embedded within Project HE:RO. This was not an intended outcome of hosting these workshops, but it is certainly a very welcome one.

With this in mind, I really do admire schools that are brave enough to experiment with their curriculum and pedagogy. When achieved, planned outcomes are satisfying, but the unexpected results are often much more rewarding.

And for those who do not know what a cwtch is, you will have to sign up for one of the School Wellbeing Workshops in January to find out! They will be held in the following cities and on the following dates:

-Bradford: 17th January
-Coventry: 18th January
-London: 19th January

To register interest in one of these workshops, please add your details to this Google Form and we will keep you updated with all of the event information, including how to register.

School Wellbeing Workshops (January 2017) – register your interest here