Parents’ Pastoral Conference hosts rich programme of talks

This year’s Parents' Pastoral Conference provided an excellent programme of live talks and workshops in an online format.

Held on the morning of Saturday 17 October at the start of half term, the annual event took place, for the first time, via Microsoft Teams, which meant that Tonbridge parents were able to attend, listen to talks and ask questions from anywhere across the globe.

Parents were able to select from a variety of talks that suited their interests and the age of their sons, with topics including helping boys to manage finances, mental health, the do’s and don’ts of hosting parties, the transition to teenage years, relationships and sex education.

Alastair McGilchrist, the School’s Head of PSHEE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education), said the event, which is always well attended, is aimed at sharing expertise in the School with the parent community. “We provide excellent pastoral care for our boys, and this event is an opportunity to give parents an insight into these conversations and encourage as much communication as possible with their sons,” he said.

“Some of the topics may prompt conversations at home and provide a way into having frank, friendly and open family discussions.”

He added: “It’s always valuable, of course, when we gain feedback from parents, and many have told us that they find the conference talks informative, reassuring and, at times, inspirational.”

Speakers included Dennis Harhalakisis, a Behavioural Money Coach and founder of Cambridge Money Coaching, who presented on the subject of raising financially capable children. This included practical tips and the background to our relationship with money. 

Dick Moore, a powerful speaker on the subject of mental health, has a wealth of educational experience as a Headmaster, Housemaster, rugby coach and Director of Sport. In his career he has visited schools, universities and businesses around the world, sharing his passion for the emotional wellbeing of young people, and has been a regular visitor to Tonbridge in recent years. 

Julie Johnson, also a regular contributor, gave another excellent talk offering advice to parents about managing well-run parties and many associated issues to do with adolescents and development. Following a career in nursing, Julie moved into education more than 30 years ago, training as a psychotherapist. She runs her own successful consultancy and training business, and is part of the national Mindfulness in Schools Project. 

Tonbridge was the first school in the UK to put mindfulness on the curriculum for all Year 10 boys: the School’s Richard Burnett is Co-founder and Director of the Mindfulness in Schools Project.  

Amy Forbes-Robertson gave her customary well-informed and thought-provoking talk on Relationships and Sex Education. Amy has worked in the education sector as a volunteer, project leader, community outreach worker and secondary school teacher for many years.

The conference included two speakers from the School: Alastair McGilchrist and Rupert Scarratt, who spoke on PSHEE at Tonbridge and the role of the Anti-Bullying Council. 

During the conference, Hector Day-Lunn (MH5), Head of School, announced his chosen charity for the coming year, Heads Up, an organisation which focuses on mental health awareness through the medium of sport.

The date for next year’s event is still to be announced. The School hopes to welcome parents once more to Tonbridge but is also planning for the conference to be available online, following the success of October’s event.   

Parents’ comments included the following:
Thank you for organising a really interesting and useful morning.

Thank you so much for organising the Pastoral Conference. I learnt so much. It was brilliant. 

A shame we couldn't be at the school, drinking the lovely coffee and eating the warm pastries ... but it is amazing you were able to put it together for us again.

I am so grateful for the way you educate our sons and also us, the parents. The introduction by the Head Boy was superb too.

A short note to thank you so much for hosting the Parents' Pastoral Conference. Every single talk and workshop was both relevant and very informative. Great speakers who clearly understand the challenges faced by both parents and students in this day and age.