Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Getting Together

Getting Together

Sorry I didn't manage to post a blog last Friday, it was a hectic week.

A highlight of that week was, of course, our mental health conference, ReTHINK16. Delegates from across the region and further afield came and shared best practice and excellent research on issues of self-esteem - amongst other things. We were joined by Natasha Devon, found of The Self Esteem Team and formerly the government's mental health champion, before her outspoken approach led to a parting of the ways. 

Whatever government's view on Natasha speaking her mind, this most important of causesneeds someone prepared to fight for the cause, and it's not by accident that I'm meeting her again today at the first day of HMC's annual conference, this year in Stratford upon Avon.

It will be my last conference as a serving head, which adds a certain poignancy, but for this year I'm chairing HMC's Wellbeing Group, and it will be good to have Natasha with us to advise and galvanise. To have so prominent a figure alongside this leading group of independent schools demonstrates, I think, a fearless approach to acknowledging the very real problems and sharing all our expertise in order to tackle them.

It would be easy for independent schools to be sensitive and remain understated on this issue. The first time HMC raised the issue publicly, there were inevitable headlines: 'Top schools face mental health crisis' etc. etc. It wasn't helpful, but we toughed it out, because we knew we couldn't ignore the problem merely because it was tricky. So, just as RGS did in a small way in the North East last Wednesday, HMC can help to take a lead nationally.

HMC's annual meeting involves a full three days away, and encompasses discussion and talks on every conceivable aspect of education. Now long in the tooth, I always say to young heads that we tend to get our best ideas when out of school, with time to think and share them. The sheer day-to-day business of running schools seldom allows us that space when we are in the office.

So I'll be back in on Thursday, in plenty of time for our new parents' buffet which is always a great opportunity for staff and parents of those who have joined the school this term to get to know each other. After all, when parents and school staff work closely together, it all goes so much better. That's why we do it, of course!

Bernard Trafford
Headmaster