Posted: 5 November, 2019

Breathe – A Holistic Approach to Wellbeing

Blog, Community, General, Guests, Junior School, Past Events, Pastoral, PIE, Senior School, Sixth Form, Suzie Longstaff

Wellbeing and the environment go hand in hand at Putney in a holistic approach that is central to everything we do as a school. We know that wellbeing begins at home, and that is why we’ve developed our Breathe programme, to develop healthy relationships with ourselves, our school and local community, and to remind us of our responsibilities as global citizens of a magnificent planet.

Putney’s Breathe programme was launched in 2018 to develop a positive approach to emotional wellbeing, to raise awareness of our impact on each other and our environment and to encourage student voice and proactive behaviours. The first campaign was a great success, getting us walking to school, recycling more efficiently, and measurably reducing our use of energy and single use plastics. From then it has gone from strength to strength, with a series of regular termly and annual events to mobilise and motivate students and staff to actively make a difference.


Mental and physical wellbeing could not be more intertwined. Regular exercise, mindfulness and exposure to the outdoor environment are known as being crucial to developing creativity, aspirations, resilience and empathy and strong emotional wellbeing. Good physical health, promotes self-esteem and reduces the anxiety that can at times pervade teenage life. We know that we have to put on our own oxygen masks before we help others, so looking after our own wellbeing through improved self-awareness, and “self-likes” has been an important first step. Putney’s “culture of kindness” spreads throughout the school, from Opening Minds and Positive Playtimes in the Junior school to Diversity Week and the activities of Wellbeing Within for our Senior students.

Environmental factors can have a huge impact on our wellbeing. Fresh air, sunshine and greenery have a therapeutic effect, allowing us to calm our minds in ways that improve cognitive performance and stimulate us into better creative thinking. Our recent project in Biophilic design in the Sixth Form Centre has shown how good design and bringing the natural world into the classroom can not only enhance air quality and environment, but actively improve mood and focus in lessons.

Any central London school will always be conscious of the air it breathes and fortunately, at the top of Putney Hill, and benefitting from an established green infrastructure which includes 32 species of trees that support over 300 insect, seven mammal and 15 bird species, Putney High School’s enclave means our community is well placed to benefit from time spent outside the classroom.

The Junior school regularly get outside to play, socialise and challenge themselves in their environmentally friendly adventure playground, and work as “smallholders” growing crops in their Science Garden at every opportunity. Our Senior students bring their ipads outside whenever lesson planning allows and venture on field trips, near and far, to support their learning in almost every subject.

Understanding how to appreciate and maintain our local environment is a crucial first step in tackling the wider issues that face our world, so a key part of the Breathe programme has been teaming up with other nearby schools to galvanise the local community in everything from bulb planting to litter picking, to monitoring air pollution. Four local schools joined us in October for our Breathe Conference, coming together to clean up, plant trees and to brainstorm ideas for a sustainable future with leading environmental experts. The value of cross-curricular learning was clear as we watched keen scientists and engineers come together with budding artists and designers to envisage the electric vehicle charge points of the future.

We all came away, inspired, optimistic and secure in the knowledge that Putney’s holistic and community approach can equip the next generation with the keys to make a really positive difference. In the words of Heidi Armstrong, our Deputy Head, “Breathe has developed into far more than an environmental campaign. Today at Putney, it has become an integral part of our ethos with pupils having a voice and very much taking the lead.”


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