The importance of the Other Half to wellbeing | Abingdon Senior School

The importance of the Other Half to wellbeing
By Mark Hindley, Deputy Head (Pastoral)

While it is always dangerous to rely on Google for too much, a quick internet search for key factors in determining happiness will throw up a pretty homogenous list. To be happy, Google would seem to suggest certain core requirements: you need to sleep well, eat healthy meals, exercise – preferably outdoors, be in positive relationships, find your workplace fulfilling, and help others. Of course the peripheries change, depending on the web address, but these are elements that keep cropping up.

How does this influence our pastoral care at Abingdon?

Clearly some of these elements we can’t control – we can tell the pupils to avoid blue light and screens before bed, but we can’t actually micro manage their sleep; we can provide healthy balanced meals, but the lure of salt-based snacks full of nutritional detritus will always appeal to hungry teenagers…..

However, it is the sense of purpose, relationships, and helping others that we are particularly keen to engrain in our pupils. It is in these areas that the Other Half really comes into its own. At Abingdon we have over 120 different extra-curricular clubs – what we refer to as the Other Half because they are as important to a pupil’s wellbeing as feeling challenged and fulfilled in their academic endeavours.

The Other Half revolves around finding an area and activity in which to immerse yourself. This might be producing an Economics magazine, lego architecture, rowing, chess, badminton or bell ringing – it doesn’t matter so long as you are with like-minded individuals who share your passion, building relationships with others, often from different year groups, in an environment where you feel valued and included.

This value isn’t dependent on extrinsic success. For example, the value in sport is not that you play fly half for England, or stroke the GB Eight, and although we usually have around 15 international sportsmen a year, they are not the driving force behind the Other Half. It is as important – perhaps more important – that the U14Ds love their exercise, or that there are Pilates sessions, or that those who don’t see themselves as physically adept find exercise that suits them.

The Other Half also allows Abingdon boys to place themselves within their community and to give something to others. This might be through the work of the Charity Committee (the whole school completed a ten mile walk this term for example), or via the huge range of community service projects we have running, typified by the fact that almost all our Fourth Year voluntarily do the DofE bronze award. We have boys playing jazz to the elderly, working in charity shops, or giving their time to local groups. A lot of helping of others is in school through mentoring younger years or organising clubs or activities, but we are also very proud of our partnership work with other local maintained schools. In the course of a year almost 1000 local primary pupils are taught by our Science Ambassadors, and we have pupils mentoring and teaching Maths – for example – to younger pupils from Fitzharrys School.

We know that life throws all of us problematic curveballs, and we are all too aware of the rising incidents of teenage mental health problems. Given that, at Abingdon what we aim to do is provide a climate – academically and pastorally – in which boys have the opportunity to thrive and establish habits for life. We want them to be physically active, to build lasting relationships, to be purposeful, and to understand the value of putting yourself out for others. If they can manage the sleeping and their 5-a-day then hopefully together we have provided the bedrock for them to have a happy and fulfilling life.

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