What’s the Story?

On Friday I attended a meeting of The Eight at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, a group which brings together Heads and Governors of schools such as Wellington, Harrow and Benenden to explore issues of mutual interest. I was inspired by all of the speakers, but particularly so by Dr Sam Guglani, a consultant oncologist, poet, and published novelist. Among his many themes was the need for medical professionals to develop both expertise in scientific understanding and also a broader appreciation of the human condition, expressed so fluently by writers and artists throughout the ages. In all our interactions with others, Dr Guglani argued, we should ask the questions, so often heard in hospitals up and down the land, “What’s the history?”, “What’s the story?”.

 

This applies as much in a school setting as it does on a hospital ward, particularly in the context of the current teenage mental health crisis. The iceberg model of human behaviour is well-established: our behaviour being what is visible above the surface, with everything that is driving what we say and do being hidden deep below and away from view. Only by exploring the question, “What’s the story?”, will we begin to understand the whole child and be able to put in place an appropriate response to issues as they arise. As we begin the conversation around mental health this week, through Monday’s Assembly and Thursday’s 24-hour Danceathon in aid of the mental health charity, Mind, I will be highlighting the importance Dr Guglani’s advice with all members of the College community.

 

“What’s the story?” is a question which equally applies to our focus on developing pupil voice this year, and the College Prefects have launched two initiatives this morning to improve our provision in this area: firstly, they have set up a telltheprefects@ email address so that any Wellingtonian can raise a query which will then be discussed at our weekly prefects’ meeting in the Lodge; secondly, they are introducing a weekly ‘drop in’ surgery in the Heads of College office so that all pupils have a regular opportunity to discuss, in person, the issues about which they feel strongly. I am confident that both initiatives will be welcome additions to College life and I look forward to hearing what Wellingtonians have got to say.

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