Head Girl Ellie Parr talks about the recent SMSC Day in her first blog post:
Head Girl Blog
A lot of school life is centred around academic achievement, striving to complete homework, work hard and ultimately pass exams. It’s up there in big letters as you enter the academy each day. However, as important as grades are, there is so much more to school life, and life in general, as we develop as young adults. I guess that is the thinking behind the whole SMSC day.
Being part of the academy for the last six years I have experienced the growth and progression of the school and have been given the opportunity to take part in multiple events such as SMSC days. While I can recall lots of the individual activities I participated in, it is an overall sense of growth that remains, that feeling of trying something new, thinking about things from a different perspective and generally being a little out of your comfort zone. As such, to me, SMSC day is not just a one-day event – it is something that runs throughout the academy consistently. It allows us to think beyond our academic studies and expand our knowledge of society and the world we live in. More importantly, it also allows us to begin to explore who we want to be and what influence we would like to have in it.
Specifically, the event this year aimed to encourage students to learn something about themselves by participating in multiple activities that provide an insight into a certain topic. For example, the Year 7’s day centred on the theme of ‘identity’. I think this is vital. Coming to a new secondary school can be daunting for some students: new friends, new teachers, new building, new lessons; a new identity. Despite the latter one seeming drastic, the change each child experiences when transitioning to a new school will undoubtedly affect them greatly. With new experiences every day, each individual is constantly being shaped and challenged to reach their maximum potential. Therefore, in this time of development, having knowledge and understanding of your own identity can often be very useful and stimulates questions that the students may have never even thought of before. Hence, having a day dedicated to learning more about expressing yourself and knowing you have the freedom to do so, is something I love about the event.
In contrast, Year 8 have developed first aid skills, with an added focus on health and safety. Their sessions were really interactive, with students having the opportunity to practice CPR on dummies, as well as learning about how to help people in need. This not only provided the students with an introduction to an important life skill that will benefit them, but potentially the wellbeing of those around them. Giving back to the community is something we all pride ourselves on at West Lakes Academy.
The Year 9’s day centred around ‘the arts’, with each student given the opportunity to pick either art, drama, textiles or dance to explore further throughout the day. This allowed all of the students to be really creative and expressive themselves through an art form they enjoyed. Personally, I love the arts and specifically dancing as I find it a great way to release the stress that academic life can sometimes create. Promoting the positive outcomes of creativity and giving students the opportunity to have fun through self-expression is therefore really important in my eyes.
Year 10 sessions were perhaps more serious, but very important, with a focus specifically on mental health and looking after your wellbeing. The impact of stress and anxiety can clearly be detrimental, with over half of all mental health issues starting before the age of 14 in the UK. The techniques introduced to help students cope with their heightened emotions should be extremely useful. In my role as head girl, I would be keen to build on the current awareness of mental health and strive to continue to break down the stigma that has long been associated with it. It’s very important to me that the academy continues to promote ways to help those that are struggling by making the school a comfortable place to talk about your emotions. Events like SMSC day can only help.
Finally, in Year 12, the students were given a brief glimpse into life after Sixth Form with diverse topics ranging from student finance discussions to practical cookery classes! These sessions were thoroughly enjoyable and provided a useful insight into the independence required for university and their future life.
Overall, SMSC day this year has been a massive success. All year groups, despite learning about contrasting concepts, were able to look beyond traditional academic studies and explore issues and experiences that exist in society around them and that perhaps they will have to tackle. Indeed, due to events like this, I feel as if the world outside of school is made much less scary and is in fact just another adventure to be explored.