As a school, we strive to do more than equip our children academically for the future. Developing resilience has perhaps never been as important as it is now and our forward-thinking Usherwood pastoral programme has this aim at its heart. We focus on teaching children how to proactively manage their mental health, how to appreciate and celebrate the community’s diversity, particularly neurodiversity and how to show compassion and kindness within the St Dunstan’s community and beyond. The work of our form tutors, allowing children to experience mindfulness practice or reflecting with them on good sleep hygiene is supported by the work of our state of the art Wellness Centre. This tranquil space is home to peer mentoring, counselling, and physical and mental health services.
At St Dunstan’s College we recognise that students will thrive when they feel happy and supported. It is with this in mind that our pastoral care is fully integrated throughout our teaching and learning structure to ensure that we effectively and positively meet the individual personal, social, emotional and academic needs of our students.
We know that strong working relationships between students and the staff who are there to support them are essential and our timetable is structured so that each school day begins and ends with at least thirty minutes of form time. This gives ample time for form tutors and Heads of Year to develop positive relationships with students, so that they know and understand them as individuals. This time is used by our form tutors for relational activities such as circle time, the delivery of our Usherwood programme and also one-to-one consultations, to review academic progress.
The Wellness Centre
Strong, supportive relationships are at the heart of our approach to pastoral care, and further contribute to the sense of community felt around the College. We understand that meaningful early intervention is the best way of preventing mental illness from developing and mitigating its effects when it does; to this end, we have undertaken an ambitious programme of training Youth Mental Health First Aiders amongst our teaching and support staff and Sixth Form students. This nationally accredited training programme ensures that students at St Dunstan’s have a number of educated, caring adults and young people to whom they can turn when they need additional support.
Pastoral support is provided constantly throughout the College, in classrooms, during co-curricular activities and in the corridors. However, we are also very proud to have a dedicated Wellness Centre on our main College site. This centre provides a hub of services, including the College Nurse and healthcare team, the College Chaplaincy, two counsellors, our student Peer Mentors and our Youth Mental Health First Aiders. Additionally, Wellness Centre provides our students with much-needed break-out space; the large, inviting reception area with its café-style seating is in near-constant use by students during break and lunch times, and offers a quiet respite space at other times.
We know that some young people have needs that cannot be met through school-based early support, which is why are confident in working with outside agencies, including Lewisham Compass and the South London and Maudsley Hospital, to provide additional specialist support where needed.