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Ensuring the mental well-being of our students

11 Nov, 2020
Ensuring the mental well-being of our students

At Kings we are reviewing our processes all the time to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our students throughout these unsettling times.

We have always had extensive support systems in place for our students, but since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic, a range of additional measures have been implemented in our schools to ensure our students’ positive mental health.

Enhanced online communications

Our schools have been working hard to ensure our students feel just as connected and supported as ever, despite the logistical challenges of many not being able to attend college in-person. We spoke to the welfare officers at each of our locations, who shared some of the new initiatives that they have introduced during the last few months:

  • Weekly Wellbeing newsletters for students and staff.
  • Additional welfare pages and resources on ClassMate.
  • Additional channels to contact the welfare team, including Microsoft Teams and a dedicated welfare phone and email address.
  • Dedicated groups on Teams for sharing information related to lockdown rules, exercises at home, food & nutrition, as well as mental health.

New online activities

Our students have also benefited from a range of new activities that have been developed to give them a sense of community and belonging, and in turn to support their mental health. These have included quizzes, games and assemblies.

These are in addition to activities run at the residence, such as yoga, crafting, film and game nights and cooking.

As one student commented:

“I live in a Kings Residence. From the day in which I arrived, I felt comfortable and got used to living without my family, mostly because of the houseparents. They always tried to keep us all entertained, especially during the 14-day quarantine.”

Increased access to welfare staff

During the first UK lockdown, our locations with off-site residences relocated welfare officers there from the school, to ensure they were as accessible to students as possible.

Those students in homestay were also supported additionally, often with weekly check-ins. The accommodation teams also regularly liaised with the hosts to ensure students had everything they needed. They were also available to meet students in person if necessary following social distancing rules with anyone that required extra support.

Students who returned to their home countries also had weekly check-ins.

A peer mentoring scheme had actually already been implemented before the pandemic at one of our schools, and those trained continue to be available for all students who want to access support outside that provided by staff.

Well-being as part of everyday learning

As well as our dedicated welfare teams, Kings teachers have continued to have regular contact with students, whether online or face-to-face, and continue to be an additional source of support for any student who needs it.

Speaking about the important role our staff play in helping ensure our students’ mental well-being, especially in these unusual and unsettling times, Kings London’s Liz Gilbert commented:

"In online and in school classes, I like to use tutorials (one to one conversations) to check in with students academically and also to see how they are doing mentally and emotionally. I discuss strategies to help them with their English and also to improve their wellbeing. At the start of each class, I ask students how they are, we talk briefly about the weekend (if it's a Monday), or what they did the previous evening. We share ideas for different things to do to stay safe and happy in our free time. If there are any important stories in the news, we discuss them and what they mean.

We talk about COVID rules quite a bit, to check everyone understands them and that everyone knows them, as they are updated frequently. By talking together, we can better understand what the rules are and also discuss how we feel about the rules and think of strategies to make sure we are happy and healthy."