The very first day I set foot in my primary school, I felt ‘at home’. I vividly remember telling my Head Teacher, Mr Wheller, that I’d like his job when I was older because I wanted ‘to do assemblies’ (I’ve since learnt there’s more to the job!).
I loved school and as a pupil, who graduated with 10 GCSEs grade A*-B, I was deemed a ‘success’. However, for me it felt very different. I knew I was capable of much more, however, it was evident that personal circumstances, beyond my control, had taken their toll. By the time I left school, my wellbeing was extremely low and it continued to decline until, in my early 20s, I finally felt able to speak out and was lucky enough to access the specialist support that I so needed.
So why did it take so long to get this support? The reality for me was, despite having a voice, I just couldn’t use it. I tried but the words were not there.
I did learn something quite profound during this difficult time. Throughout my school career, I was fortunate to have one very astute teacher who noticed and tried his very best to find out what was really going on for me. I will always remember his dogged determination and, although I was never able to tell him what was really going on, the fact that he recognised that I wasn’t ‘ok’ meant more than he’ll ever know.
I remember thinking, aged 15, that more people within the education system needed to be like Mr Pascoe and if and when I worked in a school that I needed to have this approach too…
Throughout my time at Surrey Square Primary School, I’ve been lucky to work as part of an incredible team who believe the same. Over the past 16 years, we’ve set wellbeing as a priority for our children and embedded it into our fundamental practices. It really IS at the core of everything we do and doesn’t stop with the children. Staff wellbeing is critical to ensure that our staff are in the best possible state to work with and support our children.
In addition to this, we also recognise that although we are lucky to have the company of our pupils for, on average, 6 hours a day, they actually spend the majority of their time within their family units so we are committed to supporting the wellbeing of our families too.
And there’s more.
Nearly three years ago, as the pandemic struck, it exposed how community wellbeing is so critical to those who live within it. It was this realisation that led us to utilise our unique position within the community to start the Old Kent Road Family Zone. An organisation committed to building a genuine model of co-production – learning how to work with our community to build and deepen relationships, to listen, identify root causes of issues, think about and bring to life creative solutions. Despite being in an embryonic stage, we are already seeing the impact of this work and cannot wait to see what the next ten years brings.
So thank you Mr Pascoe – for your care and for inspiring me to ‘do things differently’.