The Pastoral Education programme is an integral part of the overlapping and reinforcing systems designed to look after the personal and social well-being of each boy, and seeks to educate boys in a much broader sense than the academic curriculum in their subjects.
We aim to prepare boys for the challenges of their teenage years and beyond into adulthood, so that they are equipped to lead confident, healthy and responsible lives as individuals and members of society.
The Pastoral Education curriculum is delivered through a varied range of activities and experiences at the school, each appropriately tailored to the age of the boys and building on previous messages in a coherent way. This might be via an academic curriculum, such as ethical and moral issues in Divinity, or drug awareness in Science, or during their Wednesday afternoon activities. Here, the Novi boys are introduced to topics such as emotional intelligence, online safety and behaviour or relationships and sex during a varied programme. They also meet the school counsellor in small groups.
Depending on which activities boys opt for after the First Year, they benefit from experiences in groups and societies that encourage and develop teamwork, service, leadership, discipline and initiative. Mindfulness is part of the taught curriculum in the Second Year.
Varied and stimulating assemblies for the lower school cover a range of Pastoral Education topics delivered by internal and external speakers. For older boys, Seminar is a programme of presentations from a broad range of speakers and is designed to expose the boys to new ideas and to challenge their perceptions and preconceptions. Tutors meet with boys regularly to discuss and share ideas on a variety of non-curricular subjects and follow up discussions on Pastoral Education and Citizenship content delivered in other forums.
Saturday morning chapel talks to the whole school are delivered by boys, staff and visiting speakers and cover a wide range of issues including subjects such as anti-bullying, the importance of sleep, charity events, and musical and dramatic pieces.
As well as being given extensive support in their application to universities, completion of UCAS personal statements, and research of career routes, the Upper Sixth spend a day to consider ‘life beyond Tonbridge’, hearing internal and external speakers talk about what to expect on your gap year and at university. OTs come back to talk about the challenges and opportunities of living an independent life.
We strive to ensure that parents feel informed and aware of the issues faced by their sons and the processes in place to support and educate the boys. There is a parents’ pastoral evening for parents of the Novi boys: an introduction to Pastoral Education, the work of the Anti-Bullying Council and Online Safety. We run an annual parents’ pastoral conference in the Michaelmas Term, which tackles a range of topics relevant to boys at different stages of their adolescence.
The Medical Centre is staffed by fully qualified nursing staff 24 hours a day during term time and boys have access to the Nursing Sisters at any time. The Medical Centre staff work closely with Housemasters and Matrons to ensure seamless medical and pastoral care for the boys. The school’s doctors are members of a local general practice and attend the Medical Centre for morning surgery each weekday morning. Boarders are registered with the school doctors while members of the school, being treated as temporary residents at home during holidays if necessary.
The School Counsellor (Dr Shirley Lauryn, DClinSci, MBACP accredited) is also based in the Medical Centre and is available for consultation, in confidence, for boys who are experiencing any form of problem or difficulty. The Counsellor is always willing to meet parents, where that might be helpful. The Counsellor also plays a proactive role in educating the boys and raising awareness of issues that they might face.
Two private physiotherapists visit the Medical Centre two afternoons a week, and by arrangement to treat boys as required. Treatment is charged to parents, but may be claimed for on medical insurance.
All boys are automatically enrolled in a Personal Accident Insurance Scheme by the school as part of the tuition fee provision; an explanatory leaflet is available on the parents’ portal. As will be seen, the insurance is specifically designed to cover students on occasions when injury or disability is incurred through genuine accident - for example, during sport.
In addition, the school offers an optional medical insurance scheme (operated by AXA PPP), details of which are sent in advance to the parents of all new boys (and are also available from the Bursary).
Tonbridge is unusual in that we have catering in each of the boarding houses, and not a 'central dining' system. Although the menus are created centrally, each house supports a qualified team of caterers and meals are cooked in situ. Boarding and Day Housemasters and tutors eat main meals with the boys each day.
Top quality food from local suppliers: We are committed to delivering a high standard of food, from sourcing to cooking and presentation. Sausages from Speldhurst, beef from Tottingworth Farm, yogurts from Northiam Dairies ... we use local produce whenever possible. As part of our commitment to fresh produce we insist on daily deliveries and we also operate our own butchery and bakery.
Nutritious, healthy food: We have gained the TMBC healthy eating award for our food. We care that our food is healthy and nutritionally balanced and our menus are checked by a dietician to ensure that the dishes we are providing are giving the boys the healthy food they need. Each of our kitchens is staffed by fully-trained chefs and is backed up by an experienced hands-on management team.
Food at the heart of the school: We believe food should play a vital part in the life of the school and we listen to the views of the boys, with regular food committees and surveys influencing the meals we cook. Our flexibility allows us to adapt our menus so that they can reflect any trends and dietary requirements. We run regular theme days ranging from Italian Day to a Wimbledon special.
Tonbridge was one of the first schools to introduce Mindfulness to boys, and their wellbeing sessions encompass themes such as emotional intelligence and safety and behaviour in relationships."
Talk Education, 2022
In adults, mindfulness training has been proven time and again to improve health and wellbeing. It helps us to learn more effectively, think more clearly, perform better and to feel calmer, less anxious and less depressed. Tonbridge is at the forefront of teaching this skill to young people, with mindfulness on the curriculum for the Second Year (Year 10) boys with follow up sessions for older boys.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness involves training our attention to be ‘in the present’ with whatever is happening, rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen. Brain imaging studies show that mindfulness practice reliably alters the structure and function of the brain to improve the quality of thought, feeling and concern for others. Recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, mindfulness is increasingly being used in business to improve staff wellbeing and satisfaction, and in sports training to improve performance.
What are the benefits of mindfulness training?
Whilst for some lessons in mindfulness are appreciated simply as an exercise to help relax and calm, for many the benefits extend well beyond this, helping boys cope with exam stress, get to sleep, manage anger, deal with difficult relationships, improve their performance in sports and simply handle the increasingly stressful pace and pressure of adolescence.
One Tonbridge boy commented: "It is a skill which I can use throughout my life. I enjoyed feeling good after doing it. I enjoyed feeling calmer once I had finished, and more content as well. It enabled me to be able to focus on the present moment, without worrying about exams, results and homework."
How is it taught at Tonbridge?
Mindfulness is part of the broader PSHEE (Personal, Social and Health Education) Programme at Tonbridge. All Second Year boys do the ten week .b course (pronounced dot-b), a curriculum co-written by Richard Burnett, a Tonbridge teacher and Housemaster.
.b focusses on key skills such as focusing attention, recognising worry and working with difficult emotions. Boys in the Third Year and above may then choose to develop their mindfulness practice as a Wednesday afternoon activity. There are also voluntary drop-in sessions for boys during Friday break time. Staff and parents are also given opportunities to learn mindfulness.