How to have a happy academic year – with happy children and happy staff.

woman dragging boy back to school

It’s that sparkly time of the year. All of the children have got slightly too big uniforms that ‘they’ll grow into’. The school building is looking spick and span, after its deep clean. Every wall display still has its border intact! And the staff are all looking a sight healthier than they did in July, as they crawled out of the door for their summer break.

For the academic year 2018-19, what are you most excited about? Perhaps it’s the thought of finally having your own class, if you are a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT)? Or, if you’re more experienced, is it the fact that you’re staying in the same year group, so most of your planning is done and it’ll only need a few tweaks – result! If you’re a senior leader we imagine that you are hoping for a successful, happy year, with your wonderful staff and pupils?

What, if anything, is making you slightly more apprehensive about starting or returning to work? Having switched off a bit and relaxed over the summer holidays, teachers often tell us that they are worried about maintaining their good health and happiness during term time. Laughology’s trainers are all fully booked up for the first couple of weeks back, delivering INSET sessions for many, many schools who are being proactive in supporting their staff’s mental health.

The other big, and increasing, concern is for the pupils’ wellbeing. Schools are asking us what they can do to give their children the skills that they need, to have realistic happiness and to manage the trickier moments in life. As well as our fabulous FLIP sessions for kids, we would highly recommend that schools invest in our new improved (and very reasonably priced) Happy-Centred School primary PSHE programme. Here’s why…

The SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) materials were introduced by the Department for Education in 2005. Which means that, if you were in the first tranche of Reception children who were taught PSHE skills (Personal, Social, Economic, Health) through SEAL, you may now just have received your A-level results.

To put things into even greater context, since SEAL was introduced:

  • Blockbuster video and DVD stores have been driven off the high street by Netflix, Amazon etc. People have access to every imaginable (and unimaginable) programme 24/7. The 6th Star Wars film was released in the summer of 2005. Now we’re up to film 184 – or something like that.
  • Myspace was the most popular social media network in 2005, having been launched 2 years earlier. The Facebook (as it was known then) was the new kid on the block and only 1-year-old. Instagram, Snapchat and their mates were but a twinkle in somebody’s eye.
  • George W Bush was the president of the United States, Tony Blair was the prime minister, the UK was definitely a member of the European Union and nobody had heard of Article 50 or Brexit.

As you can see, times have most definitely changed and the pressures on children have changed too. In 2016, the Children’s Worlds survey of 8-year-olds ranked children in England 13 out of 16 countries for life satisfaction. And, from research carried out in 2017, the mental health charity Place2be suggested that almost two-thirds of children worry all of the time. Children’s top concerns were: 

  • Family wellbeing - 54%
  • Wellbeing of friends - 48%
  • School work - 41% 

In addition: 

  • 40% felt their worries got in the way of school work
  • Almost 30% said that once they started worrying they could not stop 
  • 21% said they did not know what to do when worried

So, how does the HCS programme differ from other PSHE materials? How does it improve children’s wellbeing, help them to worry less and concentrate on their school work more? Whereas SEAL had themes such as New Beginnings and Going for Goals, the HCS focuses on the scientifically researched themes and skills that underpin happiness. These are:

  • Self-confidence
  • Achievement and Success
  • Positive Relationships
  • Support
  • Coping

For example, in thinking about transitions or new beginnings, the focus lies more heavily in identifying who your support networks are; understanding the types of friendships which are and aren’t helpful and developing coping skills, if you are struggling. In these sessions, children are taught the neurological reasons for why we react in certain ways. They are then given the strategies to manage irrational thinking and to develop a can-do attitude.

Not only are there plenty of games and fun activities, the HCS uses popular culture to engage children. Film clips are used to demonstrate the determination and work ethic needed to improve our self-confidence, achieve and succeed. By listening to people such as JK Rowling and Kid President, pupils are inspired to go for their goals. They learn how to power pose, develop personal mantras and negate limiting self-beliefs.

The programme doesn’t just develop children’s personal, social and emotional skills. It has also been credited, by current HCS schools, as improving pupils’ speaking, listening and debating skills. Rather than the more traditional ‘circle time’ the HCS programme uses Philosophy 4 Children at its core. This enables classes to consider big philosophical questions, challenge and build upon each other’s thinking and further understand their own moral code. It also removes the pressure from children who learn best by listening to their peers, but don’t want to contribute.

Other pluses of the HCS programme are that it’s a lot of fun to teach and it upskills teachers. Staff learn helpful wellbeing strategies alongside the children as, yep, they will be power posing, doing the Haka and writing mindfulness scripts too. The programme also provides assessment opportunities at the end of each theme, which allow teachers and teaching assistants to see the progress that their children have made. Those that aren’t yet developing the resilience and bouncebackability needed in our fast-changing world can then be further monitored and supported.

In a survey of 2000 teachers in 2017, the NASUWT found that:

  • 98% said there were pupils they came into contact with who they believed were experiencing mental health problems
  • Nearly half (46%) said they had never received any training on children’s mental health and recognising the signs of possible mental health problems in pupils

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, Mental Health Task Force Strategy 2016 identified the need for improved services and increased funding to support mental health difficulties. It also stated that more needs to be done, as a society, in terms of prevention. At Laughology, we know that the HCS programme works. You don’t just have to take our word for it though. Have a look at the Happy-Centred School page on our website to hear what the staff and children at Kaizen Primary in Newham think.

A final question. When the children of 2031 are collecting their A-level results and reflecting on their school careers, what do you want them to say about their primary education? Would you rather they said that, because of their primary school, they know how to use a fronted adverbial? Or that, because of the HCS programme (which their school wisely purchased in 2018-19) they have the lifelong skills, strategies and understanding to be a happier, more confident person?

 


 

Nominate your school for a National Happiness Award 2018

Despite a late surge of early September sunshine and the promise of decent weather into autumn, there’s no getting away from the fact that summer is firmly in the rearview mirror. Those halcyon heatwave days where every Friday evening was a haze of Asperol spritz and craft beer in the pub garden seem an age ago. Last night Laughology even had to put on a cardie. Boooo!

Even though summer in the Northern hemisphere doesn’t technically end until September 23rd, the first week back at school usually heralds the time when most of us draw a line under proper holiday season and trudge back to work. For many, the next few days will seem like a disheartening denouement.

But fear not plucky people. We have a trick up our sleeve that will sprinkle some unseasonal sunshine on your days; it’s called the National Happiness Awards and nominating someone for an accolade is proven to be one of the best methods of chasing away the post-holiday blues. Making a nomination not only gives you a warm glow, it also injects your chosen nominee with a feel-good factor.

The National Happiness Awards is the UK’s boldest and brightest honours scheme, where happiness pioneers in the workplace and in education are rewarded for using happiness to improve lives.

There are three easy-to-enter school categories:

  • Happiest School
  • Happiest School Person
  • Happiest Pupil

This year, the glittering award ceremony will be held on November 16 at MediaCityUK in Manchester. The awards are free to enter for individuals, pupils and £10 for a Happiest School nomination.

Making a nomination gives you the chance to recognise people who make the world a better place and as we now know, recognition is a reward, and reward motivates and reinforces positive behaviour. So, spread a little sunshine and make someone’s day. Nominate your school today.

 

Have a fantastic year, from all at Laughology x

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