In turbulent times, it is easy to lose focus. I think we have all, at some point over the last six weeks, experienced feelings of disorientation and dislocation. But then, the opposite has also occurred: things have been brought into sharp relief; we have re-evaluated what is important to us; we have re-counted our reasons to be thankful, and life has started to regain perspective. As Ms Scotcher said to the Year 8s and 9s in assembly on Thursday, recent events have forced us all to question what we value. It turns out, for example, that we can do without celebrities, but not without shelf-stackers. We’ve been told this many times, but it’s true that expressing gratitude, either privately (with a text message or email) or publicly (banging saucepans to support the NHS) not only makes others feel good, but it makes us feel good too. We’ve had it confirmed that being around people, and feeling part of a community, is fundamental to our wellbeing. There is science behind this. Hugging releases oxytocin, the feeling we get when we’re in the company of our trusted friends or colleagues. Showing someone they are valued by celebrating their achievements or giving them a pat-on-the-back releases serotonin, the feeling of pride, generated when we perceive others like or respect us.  Both chemicals give us a boost and keep our happiness levels topped up.

The good news is that virtual hugs and pats-on-the-back are available.

At Brighton Girls, this sense of community, this sense of belonging, is at the heart of everything we do. When we returned from the Easter break, we realised it was important reiterate and reaffirm our values to keep us focused the things that matter. So we started the term by establishing some guiding principles for the term ahead. We set out three (the first of which has been adapted specifically for the online world) to provide direction and to inform our decision-making:

  • Go the Extra Click (reach out to someone, send that extra email, make a phone call);
  • Be Kind (always);
  • Keep the Community Going (both the immediate community of Brighton Girls and the wider community of Brighton, and beyond).

I enjoyed hearing from parents at the first ‘Coffee and Chat’ session this week. I am delighted that the work of our teaching staff is being valued, and that parents are impressed by the lengths to which teachers are going, both in their preparation for online lessons, and in their roles as pastoral tutors. Well done to Bella in Year 7 who has not only gone the extra click, but is about to go the extra kilometre, by running 26k to raise money for Rockinghorse Children’s Charity. Good luck to Bella for her run tomorrow; she has already raised £1500.

Last week, I had the pleasure of appointing our new Student Leadership Team and have been excited to hear their plans for the school. Well done to Marieta, who has been appointed to the role of Head Girl, and to Theo and Annie, who will be Deputy Heads. They will be joined by Tia and Amy (Guild Reps) and Amber, Isobel, Leily (House Captains). They are going to make a formidable team, and it was no surprise to learn that community and kindness are central to their plans too. As evidenced by the #viralkindness postcards you will have seen in shop windows, which allow people who are shielding or self-isolating to reach out for help, kindness is contagious: one act of kindness invariably leads to another. If we are looking for something to guide us during uncertain times, something to keep us strong, there is nothing more important than kindness.