Reflections on Mental Health Week: five ways we are building an #SGAconnected community at St George's

Whole School

During Mental Health Awareness Week last week, we took time to celebrate a number of different elements of SGA life which have contributed so positively to building a healthy sense of connection within our SGA community. 

Strong Links Between the Year Groups

When new staff and pupils are asked their first impression of SGA they will nearly always cite the warmth of the School community and the friendliness of those around them. Close friendships between girls in different year groups is normal business at St George’s. Nurtured by a full calendar of House events across every area of School life and a remarkably broad programme of co-curricular clubs that span the year groups, the St George’s community is rightly known for being like that of a family.

There are many ‘public’ strands of SGA life that help our girls to get to know one another and yet it is often behind the scenes that many pivotal connections are made. Many of our Lower Sixth take the opportunity to train as Peer Point Counsellors and the positive impact they have on the wellbeing of the younger girls is significant. Upper Sixth pupil, Isabel, was paired with First Year, Anna early on in her time at St George’s and the relationship has been invaluable.

It’s been really helpful to regularly chat through my experiences with someone who has been through something similar. She has not only listened but also given me great tips which have helped me to settle into my year group and the school more generally.

First Year Pupil, Anna

Isabel reflects on her experience of St George’s, ‘Whenever I do tours for prospective families, I always emphasise the strong relationships between girls across the School. It’s not weird for Sixth Formers to sit with someone from a different year group at lunch or say hello in the corridor.’ Anna agrees, ‘Many of my First Year friends were intimidated by the older girls when we arrived, but they came up to us and were so friendly wanting to get to know us. A few House events in and no one even thinks twice about it now.’

Peer Point Counselling


Developing Pupil Confidence 

Here at SGA we work hard to develop the confidence of our pupils such that they are ambitious about having a positive impact on School life. Whether as a pupil representative on one of our many School committees, on stage in a role within a cast, taking the lead in a pupil-led co-curricular club or committing to train with their peers on a sports team, when our girls engage in leadership and responsibility, they play a vital part in building the community for which we are renowned.

Our current Head Girls and Prefects are preparing to hand the baton on to a new, enthusiastic group of Lower Sixth who we hope will take great inspiration from their impressive predecessors. Our current Head Girls and Prefects have been superb role models in their can-do mentality, in their willingness to help and in the loyalty they have shown towards the school they love. The progression so many of our pupils make from the First Year through to the Sixth Form is remarkable. As one of our Lower Sixth prospective Head Girls put it in her hustings speech,  

11 year old me would never have thought that I would have the confidence to be standing in front of you all today.

Lower Sixth pupil, Lucy

Listening to their hustings speeches, these confident future leaders are passionate about building the exact culture of friendship, acceptance and understanding that is needed to combat the loneliness that the Mental Health Foundation pinpointed as a their poignant theme for the year. 

Lower Sixth Head Girls Hustings


A Strong Pastoral Network 

'Whenever I am asked why our tutor system is so pastorally strong, I find myself returning to the same thought, namely that the teachers chosen are just really gentle with the girls. That may sound like a weak description, but I actually cannot think of a better word to sum up their empathy and compassion. They are understanding of the girls' changes in mood, they are unbelievably generous with their time and such patient listeners.' 

At our weekly pastoral meetings, I am continually amazed at the breadth of issues they take in their stride and have a profound confidence in the care they offer the girls. 

Mrs Simpson, Deputy Head Pastoral Care

Our Senior Leadership Team and Heads of Year take great care in choosing tutors that are right for their year group. The tutors, however, are just one part of a multifaceted team of pastoral care providers who take time to understand and support the girls through their years at our School. Along with class teachers, Heads of Year, boarding house staff, our independent listener, a School Counsellor and peer mentors, they work together as a team to ensure each pupil is fully known and her individual needs are recognised and met. 

Tutotr Groups at SGA


Encouraging Healthy Decision Making 

We protect our pupils’ mental wellbeing by encouraging them to make healthy decisions during their time at St George’s thus helping them to establish habits and patterns for their future lives. The School is set in 32 acres of green land so there is plentiful opportunity for our pupils to get outside with all the benefits that brings. Our award winning catering team provides a daily smorgasbord of nutritious food to help the girls make healthy eating choices. A variety of physical activities, available within the curriculum and in the co-curricular programme, help the girls to exercise regularly. A strong performance culture allows the girls to enjoy the gifts of music, art and drama. Tatler for Schools recently described St George’s as a ‘small school with big school facilities’ and the girls undoubtedly profit from the opportunities our facilities provide.

More than that, however, is the strong emphasis that is placed on balance at St George’s. One of our Sixth Formers explained, 

There’s something our Head, Mrs Hewer really focuses upon and that’s the idea of balance. When you go out into the real world, life isn’t just about your work, your job. You do need to have that balance, you need to connect with people, see your family, see your friends, do sport and do the things you love as well. That balance is something you learn from a young age at St George’s.

Former Sixth Form pupil, Grace

Young people today need to develop both ambition and intellectual capability but also adaptability and resilience. St George’s prepares pupils for the future by helping them to find that sense of balance, both inside and outside of the classroom, that is so vital for a positive mindset whatever their futures may hold.

SGA pupils suppporting their friends

Allow for the Spiritual

‘There is a spiritual dimension to loneliness which drains us and can leave us feeling broken. Christianity and other faiths hold that we are made for relationships - with each other, with the creation, with God. Chapel at St George's is a safe space for girls of any faith or none. In that space we find peace. We pray, we reflect, we listen. We slow down and engage our senses.  We sing together and are reminded of the healing power of a community fully alive. 

In the midst of busy school life, those few minutes at the start of the day can enable us to recalibrate and reconnect. Instead of being isolated individuals, cut off from one another, we see that we are part of something bigger, where each person is unique and valuable. We are loved.

Revd Sami Watts, St George's Chaplain

As #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek drew to a close our chaplain, Revd Sami Watts cut to the heart of why a community that is welcoming to pupils and staff from all faiths and none is so vital to our life at SGA and why we are committed to growing ours to the very best of our ability.