The Life Skills programme at Vinehall plays a vital role in the holistic teaching and learning we provide for our children. I often explain to pupils that we have PE, games and matches to develop our physical bodies and Life Skills, which is equally important, aims to develop our minds and wellbeing. Growing up in a fast-paced 21st century world, our children are met with varying experiences. Our lessons equip them with the skills that will serve them well into adulthood, while presenting them at an age appropriate level.

At Vinehall, we encouraged open, honest and respectful discussion in a safe environment. Our lessons take place in the Life Skills room, our chairs are placed in a circle, our minds are encouraged to reflect, and, for some classes, we enjoy these opportunities barefoot. Life Skills is a time for us to turn inward, analyse our personal values, develop a growth-mindset, while understanding our role in wider communities.

Our lessons also include the opportunity to practise mindfulness. Harnessing the power of their breath, our pupils learn skills in self-regulation and develop an understanding that a few quiet moments can positively impact their emotional state. Mindfulness can improve attention and focus, can develop empathy, reduce anxiety and enhance positive self-esteem.

With a whole-school approach, we began the school year with the unit Being Me.  Since the half term break, Years 3-6 have focused on the unit Celebrating Differences. Our Year 7 and 8 pupils also study Citizenship in these lessons. After covering Being Me, The Year 7s moved on to their Citizenship unit What is faith? In Year 8, the pupils began Michaelmas term with a focus on parliament and this half term has focused on the unit Crossing the Line.

In 3E, the children began their year by goal setting, a common theme in the unit Being Me. Setting targets allows pupils to become more independent in their decision making and it has a positive impact on self-confidence. More recently, 3E have focused on Celebrating Differences and one of their tasks included thinking about their families, as well as what makes a family and all the different combinations this could have. Building upon our Anti-Bullying theme One Kind Word, Mrs E also spirited their very own kindness board, where the children have recognised one another’s good deeds and have added their comments to a Post-it for everyone to read and feel inspired.

In 4B, the children have addressed stereotypes in their Life Skills lessons as a part of Celebrating Differences. In a recent activity, they were asked to complete the statements ‘Boys are … Girls are … Police officers are …’ and Mrs Barrett found the comments very interesting indeed. Encouraging the children to address misconceptions of groups within a society fosters an open mind and develops empathy. As a part of our Anti-Bullying Week celebrations, the Year 4s worked together to compose thoughtful poetry. ‘One kind word is all you need. No one deserved to be bullied. Everyone should spread kindness.’ What lovely words from one of the Year 4’s acrostic poem.

Year 5 also began their year with goal setting and learnt about SMART goals. Being Me saw the study of the rights of a child and the children had meaningful discussions about individual responsibility in upholding those rights. They have also looked at the importance of rules in our society and how they keep us safe and that we have them in place to ensure fairness for all. In Celebrating Differences, the Year 5s have considered ‘what is culture?’ and they wrote about their own culture, reflecting on family traditions, values and beliefs. Recent lessons have included unjust treatment of others as we explored racism. The children were insightful and expressed that no one should be judged by the colour of their skin or if they practise a different religious faith. This week, the Year 5s were very proud of their One Kind Word Anti-Bullying Week video (shared last week on Vinelines) and in Monday’s prep school assembly.

In Year 6, the children spent the first half term considering respect, thoughtfulness and kindness. They have discussed how an individual behaviour can impact a group, reflecting on their own behaviour along with rewards and consequences they may face. Recently, the Year 6s have looked at different scenarios and shared their feedback as to whether the act of unkindness could be considered bullying. They used role play to foster empathy and shared openly with their peers, thinking of how both perspectives may be considered when faced with a challenging situation.

This term, the Year 7s are considering What is faith? In recent lessons, they have looked at trusted individuals. They thought about who it is they trust and built upon this by listing the characteristics their trusted person embodies in order for them to be valued so highly. Covering a range of talking points, the Year 7 pupils also discussed in small groups what the following statement means, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Life Skills lessons at the top end of the school are broad and varied. This term the Year 8s have learnt about Parliament and how laws are made, and recent lessons have looked at the impact of cyberbullying on young people’s mental health. Financial literacy is also an essential element of the Year 8 Life Skills programme and, at the beginning of the term, each of the Year 8s was given £10,000 to invest in five or six companies from the London Stock Exchange (some of the children were disappointed to learn the £10,000 wasn’t real!)  This week, the children looked up the current price of the shares they bought and have updated their spreadsheets. It might come as a surprise to learn that nearly all of the children have made money! We will be revisiting this project over the course of the year to find out if there are any future fund managers in Year 8.

The Year 8s have also thought more about the theme One Kind Word. In a recent discussion, they shared the qualities they look for in a good friend. Afterwards, the class voted on the ideas put forth, ranking them and considering those most valued. Kind, supportive, and loyal came through as the shining characteristics and, after some contemplation, the Year 8s realised these are the same qualities  they should possess as a friend.

Ally Linney