at Colchester Royal Grammar School
Update for Coronavirus lockdown January and February 2021
Message from Mrs Skeet: Here we are again, all trying our best to cope with the disruption and uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the closure of schools. Please don't imagine that the closure of the school buildings means that school staff are unavailable to help you. Help and support continue to be available remotely to students and also to staff. Mr. Adams sent an email to all students on 26th March 2020, detailing ways of getting in touch with school safeguarding staff, the school nurse and some other organisations which might be of help. You can also contact me, Mel Skeet, on school email, see above. My phone number is also in your planner if you need to get in touch in a hurry.
I am available for a one-off conversation or regular counselling by email, Microsoft Teams, or phone, but please send Mr. Adams or me an email in the first instance to set this up.
Very often my counselling work at CRGS involves helping students to manage anxiety. For some of you, anxiety may be lessened by not having to come to school! For others, it may be increased due to spending more time with your family, fears about the virus itself or all the uncertainty of the current strange situation. There are lots of online resources popping up daily on how to cope with the lockdown and I would encourage any anxious person to go and look at the websites of the major mental health charities as a starting point.
The two things which spring to my mind which lockdown takes away from us are opportunities for social interaction and the structure of the school day. One thing which lockdown gives us, perhaps, is a little more time, so keeping those in mind, here are some suggestions for where to focus your efforts to cope:
Don't cut yourself off from your friends or family (within the restrictions, obviously). Make the effort to maintain your close relationships, as going through something difficult is better done with someone than alone. Phone, video call and email are all better than nothing, so it's worth making the effort.
Keep working at your school subjects. This can give you some structure to your day, provide you with social contact with your classes and teachers, keep your mind busy so it doesn't have the time to wander off onto fears and uncertainties and help you feel prepared for the future when life returns to normal. Maybe take a few minutes to plan what you will do in your leisure time. Try to find a way to make weekends differ from weekdays.
When you do have time off from school work, use your imagination and creativity to find ways of still having some sort of fun. Sometimes when our choices are restricted, it leads to greater inventiveness.
Mel Skeet (revised 6th January 2021)
Help in School
The staff at CRGS are very experienced in helping students with all kinds of problems and it is highly unlikely that you will be the first one to have experienced whatever your difficulty is. Most problems can be dealt with within school.
If you are having difficulties with academic work, please speak to your subject teacher or your form teacher. Mentors are available for most subjects - ask your subject teacher.
If you are feeling unhappy for any other reason, then you may benefit from pastoral support. Common problems which students bring to our attention include anxiety, low mood or feeling a lack of emotion, eating or sleeping issues, loss of motivation and not feeling "good enough". Many problems don't fit into a category however, so if you are unsure about whether or not someone at school can help, then please do discuss this with us. If necessary we can signpost you to help from outside school.
In the first instance, choose any member of staff you feel comfortable with to talk to. The school's safeguarding team includes Mr Adams, Mr Ratcliffe, Miss Byrne and Mrs Chandler. There is also Mrs Skeet, the school counsellor, who is in school on Wednesdays and Thursdays and the school nurse team, which visits school once a month. You can contact any of these people by school email, except for the school nurses who can be contacted on the main telephone number for School Nursing on 01255 206257. The website for School Nursing is http://www.essexlocaloffer.org.uk/content/school-aged-5-19-health-improvement-service
The school receptionists are also very helpful if you need information and don't know who else to ask.
Mr R Adams
Mr N Harvey
Mrs M Skeet
Ways to de-stress
CRGS can be a stressful environment. The school has high expectations for your behaviour, organisation and achievement. Your own expectations and those of your parents may be even higher. You may compare yourself to others in your class or year-group and feel that you cannot match them in ability, which can then lead to feeling dispirited. Remember that not everyone can be above average! What is really important is that you recognise your own efforts and aim for a "personal best". Not everyone can be the best but everyone can try to do their best and measure their self-worth by looking at the kind of person they are, not just their test scores.
Tips for coping with stressful times, e.g. exam season:
Look after your physical health. Eat good food, get enough sleep and do some exercise. Boring advice, but all will help your brain to cope with stress.
Break down your revision into small chunks with gaps in between where you give yourself permission to not study without guilt.
Spend time doing something sociable and non-competitive to give your brain a rest and for you to benefit from social support. Have a look at the list of clubs and societies at CRGS for something to do during the school day. If you're very stressed, then competing in a chess tournament or an important sports match probably won't de-stress you!
Talk to someone about your worries. It could be your parents or a sibling or a friend or even your dog! Also look at the section above for help in school. If you regularly drive yourself crazy with worrying, then this is counter-productive and needs to be addressed either with self-help from a book/website or with counselling.
Keep a flexible attitude about success. Learn to enjoy the process of living and working as the rewards may be a long time off. There is no GCSE or A Level in perseverance, kindness or courage but developing these kinds of attributes will make your life happier whilst you are still working towards your goals. Exams are not a matter of life or death nor is it worth making yourself ill over them.
Have a go at meditating. There are lots of apps and websites with free tools to make it easy to fit in a few minutes per day. Breathing exercises are remarkably effective at slowing the heart rate and giving you a break from the effects of stress on the body and mind. Some CRGS students have found the Headspace app very helpful.
Mental Health Emergencies
If someone's life is in immediate danger, call the Emergency Services on 999.
For someone 18 or over in mental health crisis, call the NHS on 111 and choose the mental health crisis option:
For someone under 18 in mental health crisis, call EWMHS (Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services) on 0300 300 1600. Out of hours number 0300 555 1201
Your doctor may also be able to offer emergency help with mental health emergencies and crises.
The Samaritans can be called 24/7 free of charge on 116 123, or you can phone the local branch on 01206 561234. Their website is www.samaritans.org. Volunteers answer calls and offer telephone support to anyone who feels that they are at risk of suicide. It is no longer possible to contact Samaritans by text message.
SHOUT offers a 24/7 text service for people in crisis on 85258
EWMHS (Emotional, Well-being and Mental Health Service - formerly CAMHS) http://www.essexlocaloffer.org.uk/listing/emotional-wellbeing-and-mental-health-service/ NHS mental health services for those aged 18 or under. Patients can self-refer.
NHS website: www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx. Lots of information pages on mental illnesses and disorders, plus audio files and videos on coping with common (and not so common) mental health problems.
Mind: www.mind.org.uk. National mental health charity. Mind's website has lots of information on mental health conditions and also contact details for local Mind counselling services.
Young Minds: youngminds.org.uk. National mental health charity campaigning for improvements in services for children and young people. Has a helpline for parents.
Childline: www.childline.org.uk. Information and advice for any young person under the age of 19. Staffed by qualified counsellors.
Youth Enquiry Service (YES): www.yesyouthenquiryservice.org. Local organisation providing free counselling and information to 11-25 year-olds in Colchester and Tendring.
Big White Wall: www.bigwhitewall.com/landing-pages/landingV3.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2f Online support and therapy for those aged 16 and over. Free to join via NHS in our area.
CALM: www.thecalmzone.net/about-calm/what-is-calm. National charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. Offers web chat and helpline support.
Beat: www.b-eat.co.uk. National charity for supporting those with eating disorders. Website offers message boards and helpline.
FRANK: www.talktofrank.com. National drug education service. Website offers live chat, helpline and email answering services as well as information.
Childline: www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/your-feelings/sexual-identity. Information pages about sexual identity and gender.