Eaton House Schools’ new Head of Wellbeing, Paula Kearney, discusses why it’s never too early in a child’s education to prioritise pastoral care.
The role of a nursery is to nurture children. They teach foundational skills and support young people, safeguarding happiness and generating a lasting love of learning and building relationships. Wellbeing is a focal point for nurseries as there’s an undeniable correlation between the wellbeing of a child and their rate of development. If we’re caring for children and catering for their emotional needs, we’re giving them the best possible start.
There are two co-educational Eaton House Schools nurseries – one in a modern building on The Manor’s Clapham site, the other in a Georgian Belgravia mansion. Children start at age three, with both nurseries leading on to single-sex pre-prep and prep schools for ages four to 13, and providing a cosy, welcoming environment for their small charges. Our nurseries’ staff view pastoral care as the nuts and bolts of what they do. The wellbeing of each individual child is paramount, but the wellbeing of parents is never forgotten. Staff ensure that there’s an awareness that the mental and general health of a child of any age is something to be nurtured with care. Importantly, they’re always sure to check in with the basics: sleep, nutrition and time outdoors in fresh air.
An open-door policy at the beginning and end of the learning day is valuable for both nurseries. It allows Headteacher Roosha Sue and the nursery staff to form positive relationships with parents and carers and gives adults the chance to check in with one another. If a parent needs support or advice, this is offered warmly and without judgement. With Covid-19 came new on-site parental visits rules, but essential contact didn’t lapse; it just needed to be adjusted. The new way to communicate meant there were more chats at the school gates and phone calls, but the connection with each child and family remained the priority. What highlights the quality of Eaton House Nurseries is the focus staff puts on truly knowing each child: their likes and dislikes, their interests and achievements, the personalities they’re developing and the people they’re becoming. This sincere investment builds trust with families and boosts an invaluable sense of confidence and comfort within children.
Learning during these formative months is an opportunity not to be missed, and something which happens with greater ease when wellbeing and care are the core intention behind everything.
Wellbeing is very much on the agenda for Eaton House Schools’ pupils from Nursery upwards. Teachers take pride in focusing on each individual’s talents and requirements. My recent appointment also allows for further consultation on the health of pupils, parents and staff, and provision of practical intervention to meet the community’s changing needs. Parenting is a complex role that’s constantly evolving. At times, it can be useful to simply talk things through. I’ve helped to create a Wellbeing Hub on the school website for anyone interested in our wellness initiatives. One such initiative allows parents to book 30-minute meetings with me, and this, of course starts with the youngest nursery children.
There are many factors that prompt people to seek out help with their own health or advice for supporting loved ones.
Often, parental wellbeing priorities and focus shifts with subtle things, such as the change in season or more significant issues such as divorce, or indeed, global pandemics. Meetings take place via Zoom, over the phone or in person. Parents are free to discuss concerns they have for their own wellbeing or that of their child in a safe space. I’m happy to work with parents to develop practical solutions, or indeed, just listen if that’s what’s needed. Sessions can be one-off or recurring, depending on the the concern. They aren’t therapy, but sometimes talking can be therapeutic. The hope is that there’s a shared sense of togetherness and unwavering, non-judgmental care, helping our pupils become not only academically successful, but happy and resilient.
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