Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Feeling Good

Feeling Good


It’s hard not to feel good about life when the weather is so glorious: one sunny day has been followed by another this week, and the mood of the school – as of any school - is undoubtedly lifted by such a spell. We shouldn’t underestimate its effect: I wonder if, during today’s Year 7 Wellbeing Day, climate came into the discussions.

A whole day off lessons on Wellbeing? Occasionally, when I’m at heads’ meetings, my colleagues sometimes wonder about the wellbeing agenda and the way it (as they put it) “threatens to take over our lives”. I always think there’s an irony in such comments: the whole point is that our lives should be focussing above all on wellbeing, but our hectic approach (not least at the RGS) can prevent us from thinking about it at all!  

Occasionally, then, we do need to step off the treadmill for a moment and reflect: that is what Year 7 have been doing today. Because we are working so proactively on Wellbeing here at the RGS, I find myself frequently on the end of enquiries from the press – not least because HMC (the association of leading UK independent schools to which we belong and which I chaired in 2007-9) is pushing wellbeing and mental health as a major theme for its annual conference next week.

This isn’t about grabbing column inches: it is a fact that, if we keep talking about something important both within school and outside it, we see its profile raised. We’re doing so with the question of Wellbeing because is vital - above all, in giving young people the necessary knowledge and tools so that they can learn to manage and sustain their own wellbeing, and to deal with the many pressures and outside influences that can adversely affect it.

That is also one of the many reasons why we promote sport so strongly at the RGS. Sports for all is an imperative: but we all need leaders and role models too, so how fantastic that, at the ESSA Swimming Championships in Sheffield on Wednesday, we had three teams winning gold, silver and bronze medals respectively: a huge achievement. 

We’ve hardly started using the new pool yet, either! What a promise for the future that is. Of course, this week it’s frequently been full of, or shared with, very large muscular men from the Scottish rugby squad using it for what they call rehab. Their bodies are put under such strain during top-level matches that the use of warm water, with a break to immerse themselves in a dustbin full of iced water (an unbearable thought to this softie!), aids and speeds recuperation to a remarkable degree.

Tomorrow is Scotland’s really big fixture. The RGS has collectively taken the squad to its heart: we really want to see them excel tomorrow. Moreover, as I’d hoped, although we haven’t seen that much of the team this week (hoping to manage a bit more contact when the pressure on them is slightly less next week, whatever tomorrow’s result), we’ve all learned about the work that goes into preparation and training in the pursuit of physical and sporting excellence.

As always, all that pursuit of excellence goes hand in hand with a lot of fun. It remains the RGS recipe: and I know it works. That’s the point. Wellbeing doesn’t happen by accident: we have to plan and prepare for that, too, so that we can plan and control our quality of life and thus be equipped to cope when things go against us, when resilience is called for. 

As that wonderful speaker Dick Moore so often says, resilience is about surviving the hurricane: not snapping in it, but learning to bend.

Bernard Trafford
Headmaster