Two weeks into the spring term and it’s full steam ahead here at school. I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas break and is as eager to plough on with the spring term as we all are here at NGHS.

There have been a few changes as a couple of key members of staff left us at Christmas – Mrs Broomfield our librarian, and Mrs Crisp our Director of Marketing who both retired. They’ve both been amazing and valued members of staff and have had a big impact on school life over the years, working hard in their respective fields of expertise. I hope they both enjoy their retirement years and come back and see us from time to time. I know that Mrs Broomfield has already been back to invigilate during the mock examinations, and has another few things lined up too; it’s hard to stay away! We have welcomed Rachel Whitty, our new librarian, and will be running a feature on her soon. Our new Director of Marketing, Claire Bale, will be starting in February and I can’t wait to begin working with her, promoting this exceptional school and all it has to offer.

There are lots of amazing things in the pipeline for 2018. There is the usual array of exciting school trips and some fantastic music and drama productions to look forward to, but I’d like firstly to stress something really important here, something that fundamentally underpins everything else that happens at school – the pastoral welfare of our girls. We take this incredibly seriously because we know that without a doubt, a happy girl is a successful girl. We also know that when parents leave their girls in our care at the start of the school day, they expect us to do more than just provide them with a sound academic education, they expect us to really look after them, mind and body. It’s also important for us to cement home/school partnerships and include parents as much as possible in our efforts, and this is what we are doing with our series of parental seminars on ‘Raising Girls in the 21st Century’.

There are a lot of pressures on girls in today’s society and external factors can influence so many aspects of their lives, as well as everything else that happens right here at school. We at NGHS are of course experts in educating girls, and we’ve done our research on all of the things that can and do affect their physical and emotional wellbeing which can have a direct effect on their learning. Our Pastoral Team comprises a hugely qualified School Nurse, School Counsellor and Head of Educational Support, as well as Pastoral Heads throughout the whole school, providing support every step of the way.

Our programme of parental seminars actually started last term with an initial introduction giving parents an insight into my own perspective on our girls and school life, and this was followed later by a session on emotional health, covering such topics as anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders. These are all problems that are very real and we’re all very aware of and concerned about, and if they can be nipped in the bud at an early age then so much the better. We’re lucky here to have external contacts and experts to call upon too, such as Dr Caz Nahman from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) who spoke at the session on emotional health.

We’re not trying to be over-dramatic or scaremongering, we just believe that the more we all know about these things as teachers and parents, the warning signs to look out for, then we can be our most helpful and supportive should the need arise. Our most recent session about social media was well attended and thought provoking, as this has become one of, if not THE, most significant contributor to the state of our children’s wellbeing today. I’m very grateful to Melina Throuvala who is currently a Doctoral Researcher in CyberPsychology at Nottingham Trent University for coming along and sharing her expertise on this subject.

Forthcoming seminars will cover Mindfulness and the ‘Positive Project’ for schools in which we are involved, also friendships and bullying, and finally drugs and alcohol. I’m sure you’ll agree that nobody is immune to the pressures of modern day life, and we hope that by being open and honest and tackling these issues as part of our education provision, with the support and involvement of our parents, we are doing the best we can to ensure that our girls are safe, happy and healthy.