Wellington's Dr Feelgood takes happy feelings to the state sector

24th September 2010 at 01:00
Positive psychology expert to boost pupil wellbeing in comprehensive

When a wellbeing guru was recruited by elite public school Wellington College, headlines followed about "happiness lessons" for its privileged pupils.

But the expert behind the programme - Cambridge University psychologist Nick Baylis - has now embarked on a similar long-term project with a state school.

Dr Baylis will advise Hendon School in north London in a bid to boost pupil wellbeing, under the Leading a Wonderful Life project.

"I will ask each individual to close their eyes and to consider how they can take an emotion that's so strong it's hurting them, and consider what goal, what journey, would be a worthy match for that emotional energy," Dr Baylis told The TES.

"My challenge to the individual will be: 'Create something beautiful from your painful emotion.'"

Dr Baylis has used similar techniques with professionals, from bankers to airline pilots. He began working at Wellington in 2006, with the aim of turning its #163;9,595-a-term boarders into "well-rounded" students better able to cope with life beyond academic study.

Dr Baylis will visit Hendon - rated good in its last Ofsted inspection - once every half term over the next year.

"It's a lively comprehensive with several full-time and part-time counsellors on site," said Dr Baylis, who is also known as Dr Feelgood for his weekly Times column.

He will work with a core group of sixth-formers and all 120 members of the teaching staff. Both groups will write a poem or a handwritten letter to someone, do a kind favour, or cook for someone as an act of generosity.

They will also watch a scene from Oscar-winning film Once as an example of how to turn heartache into something positive - in this example, a song.

The school's sixth-formers will present what they have learnt to all form groups in PSHE lessons throughout the year.

"They've given me six days to work with the children," said Dr Baylis. "Although it sounds like a small amount, it is a huge investment taken from the curriculum."

Cathy Ward, Hendon's student wellbeing co-ordinator, said: "We want to ensure our students are making informed choices with realistic pathways and happiness.

"I read that having happy lessons correlates with good exam results. If it's good enough for kids paying #163;9,000 a term, why isn't it good enough for state school kids?"

The school - which also runs a peer-to-peer massage programme for pupils - refused to disclose the cost of the year-long project with Dr Baylis.

However, his teacher-training days are priced at #163;375 per participant.

Dr Baylis said. "I never find any difference in selling wellbeing. You can get youngsters who are offenders or youngsters in a fee-paid college and find they all want the same thing in life: love and security."

Wellbeing tips

Here's how

- Own up to the pain in our lives

- Make many small changes in our everyday lives to overcome our inertia

- Develop the skills of relaxation

- Lead our lives in slower motion

- Let more of our behaviour be playful

- Face and challenge our fears and emotional traumas

- Honour and explore our heartfelt passions.

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