Happy children, better outcomes

Posted on 29th Apr 2020 in School News, Prep Schools Guide

Nicky Lee-Browne, Head of Marketing and Admissions at Spring Grove School, explains that wellbeing is embedded in the culture of the school

Spring Grove School – “We love the outdoors, we enjoy competition, we sing, dance and play, explore and love to learn.”

With reports of increasing numbers of children suffering from mental health issues, the importance of wellbeing in schools has never seemed more important. Put simply – happy children learn better. And a recent study has shown that primary education has a profound effect on children’s happiness and learning long after they have moved on to their secondary schools.

At Spring Grove School in Wye, Kent, the wellbeing of every member of the school community – pupils and staff – has long been at the heart of everything the school does. It is embedded in the school’s ethos and mission to ‘develop all the children who join Spring Grove to their full potential; academically, socially, physically and emotionally in a supportive, caring and friendly community.’ But what does this mean in practice and how can it be measured?

We are lucky that the small size of our school means that staff – from the Head down – genuinely know all the children, and the staff:pupil ratio in the classroom allows for individualised attention and learning. There is no ‘one size fits all’. Add to this a strong family ethos – visitors often comment on the warm welcome from both pupils and staff, and the friendly atmosphere around the school.

Prioritising the mental health of our pupils has been a focus at Spring Grove long before ‘wellbeing’ became the buzzword that it is now. Every child from Nursery upwards has weekly PSHE lessons with Mrs Saxby, our Deputy Head, who has an overview of pastoral issues across the school. But wellbeing is not something that can be bolted on as an extra to the curriculum – it is part of the culture of the school and the way it is organised. Sometimes surprising things can make a difference. Community singing is a major focus at Spring Grove – we sing together as a school every morning and we see how singing helps to release stress and boost self-confidence in children of all ages. Forest School, too, plays a large part in allowing children to explore new ideas and skills, to develop resilience and independence, and often to shine in areas outside the academic sphere.

Measuring happiness and wellbeing sounds counter-intuitive – but it is possible through regular pupil surveys, and more indirectly by looking at academic outcomes. We are constantly asking: are we allowing pupils to fulfil their potential and are we sending out confident, happy and responsible children? Increasingly these measures seem just as important as Kent Test results or scholarships to independent schools (both, incidentally, outcomes that we do very well).

Spring Grove is set just outside Ashford in 14 acres of beautiful Kent countryside, and our children have both the physical and mental space to play and explore, experiment and learn. It is indeed ‘a great place to grow’. We want pupils to look back at their time here as magical and inspiring, and most of all for the happiness they have experienced here to set them up for continued happiness and love of learning as they move on through their education and into adult life.

This article first appeared in John Catt's Preparatory Schools 2020, which you can read here: