During an especially challenging year, Norwich High School for Girls’ wellbeing programme has prioritised students’ mental health.
Following a staff training day, the school realised that some students would never be comfortable reaching out to a teacher, so it established its Big Sister programme to promote peer support, involving a group of sixth-formers with whom younger students can share their concerns. A director, deputy director and topic leads assist the smooth running of the project.
Meanwhile, Headucate mental health ambassadors and a buddy system for the lower school ensure the availability of a range of people for students to speak to when they encounter problems.
The school nurse is involved in the delivery of the PSHE curriculum, highlighting difficult subjects, such as domestic abuse in relationships and how girls can examine their breasts for lumps.
Students are encouraged to raise their worries with the pastoral deputy head, who also eats lunch with girls who struggle with disordered eating, so they don’t feel under pressure as a result of having lunch in the dining hall with the other students.
Students can self-refer to the school counsellor confidentially and access face-to-face counselling sessions during the school day, which take place in a quiet, cosy space away from the main school. The school runs an ongoing programme of self-care and education for staff and students through PSHE sessions, assemblies and staff CPD, as well as a regular counsellor’s blog, online wellbeing talks and Q&A sessions. It has also further developed its LGBTQ+ Alliance group, which holds weekly meetings in the senior school, with all year groups invited.
Lead judge Durell Barnes said: “We were very impressed by the way in which peer support was embedded in and central to the pastoral life of the school, providing growth opportunities both for those seeking support and those reaching out to them.”