As we approach the February half term holiday, the mornings are gradually becoming lighter and there is a hint that Spring is finally on its way! This half term at Saint Martin’s we have continued to focus on positive mental health and well-being for girls and members of staff by celebrating “Sparkle Week” during the third week in January, which is traditionally thought of as the most gloomy or depressing week of the year. During the week our talented members of staff organised a wide variety of activities to encourage us to ‘smile’:
Socialise and connect with others
Move more and get active
Take an Interest and notice things
Learn and keep learning
Engage in something new.
It was fantastic seeing girls and staff from all sections of the school getting involved and embracing the opportunities provided to them. If you follow the school on Facebook or Twitter, you will have seen the wide variety of activities on offer this year. My thanks go to all of our talented members of staff who were generous with their time to organise the events.
This week our talented actors have entertained us with their amazing interpretation of “Legally Blonde” under the direction of our inspirational Drama teachers Mrs Stafford and Mr Brown, as well as Mr Allen, our Director of Music. It was wonderful to see so many girls and staff involved in the production. I would like to say a special thank you to the Drama, Dance, Technology and Music and Maintenance departments for their commitment, energy and expertise.
I am staying with the theme of well-being for my half term blog. The theme of screen time and well-being has hit the news headlines virtually every week this year. Depending on which news report you read, you are given conflicting information regarding the possible dangers of allowing young people unlimited access to phones, tablets or laptops. Linked with this are studies about the importance of sleep for young people (and indeed adults!).
As the presence of technology in the lives of children and young people has increased, so too has interest in how these screen-based technologies impact on their health and wellbeing, and how best to manage and moderate their use.
Several professional bodies have released recommendations for the use of screens and digital media by children and young people. The British Psychological Society recommends that parents use technology alongside children and engage them in discussions about media use. They recommend less than one to two hours of entertainment screen time per day for young people and discourage the use of any screen media by children under two years of age.
Many of the concerns around screen use relate to sedentary behaviour. The idea being that time spent in front a screen is time that is not spent exercising or doing other forms of physical activity. Sedentary behaviour may be associated with poorer physical health, wellbeing, and mental health and some research has connected screen use to increased sedentary behaviour in children.
There are also concerns that the use of screens can impact children and young people’s sleep, something that is important to both physical and mental health and wellbeing. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that the use of screens at bedtime is linked to children having fewer hours of sleep, poorer sleep quality, and increased tiredness.
Sleep is food for the brain. During sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur. Skipping sleep can be harmful — a lack of sleep can affect your appearance, your moods and your performance. Sleepiness can make it hard to get along with your family and friends and have a detrimental effect on academic achievement or sporting or musical performance.
Below are some interesting facts about the importance of sleep for children and young people:
Sleep is vital to your well-being, as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. It can even help you to eat more healthily and manage the stress of being a teen.
Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence.
Teenagers need between 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Most teenagers do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% of teenagers reported sleeping the recommended 8 hours on school nights.
Teenagers tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week and throughout the year — they typically stay up late and sleep in late at weekends and during the holidays. Whilst it is essential to catch up on sleep whenever possible, medical professionals believe that erratic sleep patterns are not advisable in the long term.
The topic of sleep and academic performance has even made it on to the agenda in Westminster. This week the news has broken that Members of Parliament are preparing to debate a petition for schools to start later in the morning so that the timetable fits in better with teenagers’ sleep patterns. It takes 100,000 signatures on a petition to trigger a Parliamentary debate and this one, saying early school starts make pupils “so tired”, has gained 180,000. Let’s watch this space for further developments!
As the term draws to a close, I wish “Bon Voyage” to our skiers who are travelling to Alpe D’Huez in France. I hope that you have good snow and return safe and sound. A huge thank you goes to Mrs Waters, Mrs Gallagher and the rest of team for organizing this trip and giving up precious holiday time to accompany the girls. I look forward to hearing your stories and sharing your pictures after the holiday.
For those of you who are staying at home this next week – I wish you a restful half term holiday. I will certainly be catching up on some much needed sleep!