A message from the Headmaster - September 2021
Friday, 3 September 2021

Dear members of the King’s College community,

I take this opportunity to update you of the circumstances relating to King’s College and the COVID-19 outbreak. I bring this to you in the context of wishing you well, and keeping our community informed, as we share these very unusual and interrupted times.

King’s College has proven in previous lockdowns that it's actually an expert at delivering teaching and learning online or ‘distance learning’ as we call it. In this lockdown, students and staff are heavily engaged in a full delivery of all classes online using our software platform called Webex. It's really going very well, and I couldn't be more delighted and impressed with the way that our students and our staff are utilising the platform which enables us to deliver a quality teaching and learning programme.  This is critical to our offer as an independent school especially at this key time of year. Students are literally weeks away from their practice exams and with lockdowns looming ahead of them making for very uncertain times as they venture into the very final exams for the Cambridge International and the NCEA suite of qualifications. What is certain for the students and their parents is that King’s can offer and continue to offer a quality teaching and learning programme despite lockdowns. What is even more assuring is that parents can literally see for themselves the teaching and learning process, and many have a new respect for the quality for the programmes which permeate their homes. This is a positive and unintended consequence.

That being said, we are not unaware of the pressures that are on our students, particularly those that are currently working towards important end of year exams, and we have a heightened awareness as to the state of their well-being, be it mental, physical and spiritual. We have various mechanisms, despite the distance and separation these lockdowns create, to check in with our students and families and to encourage them to keep an eye on stress levels and to take care of each other.

Students learn best when they're feeling comfortable, and this is important especially as we approach the assessment season. One of the pieces of advice we have given through one of my circulations to our students is repeated here as it offers good advice to all at this challenging time. It originates from advice given to the Taranaki rural community.

Giving: Giving is more than just the sharing of material things with others. It is about cultivating a spirit of generosity and promoting active participation in social and community life. Volunteering and community involvement has been strongly linked with positive feelings and functioning. Helping others, sharing one’s skills and resources, and behaviours that promote a sense of purpose and team orientation have been found to help increase self-worth and produce a positive emotional effect. Giving is important for all age groups. It helps develop strong social cognition in children, a sense of purpose and self-worth in adults and particularly older people who have left the workforce and have time to offer.

Be active: Research shows a strong correlation between physical activity and increased wellbeing, as well as lower rates of depression and anxiety. It is now viewed as essential for people of all ages and has been shown to slow age-related cognitive decline. Evidence suggests that physical activity can increase self-belief, the ability to cope with difficult situations and provide a sense of mastery. It can also have the benefit of encouraging social interactions. Physical activity does not need to be particularly energetic to be of benefit. Moderate exertion three to five times a week can significantly reduce symptoms of depression, but improvements can also be seen from single bouts of exercise of less than 10 minutes.

Take Notice: Developing skills that increase awareness of what is immediately happening – both physically and mentally, within and around us – can improve wellbeing. Even short courses teaching simple techniques can enhance wellbeing for several years. Much research has been done on mindfulness, which has been shown to have positive effects that include heightened self-knowledge. It suggests that an open awareness is particularly valuable for choosing behaviours that are consistent with one’s needs, values, and interests. Alignment to one’s values is also an effective way to ensure that behaviour change becomes embedded over time. Specific approaches that have been shown to enhance wellbeing include gratitude, forgiveness, reflection, and the development of meaning

Keep learning: Learning, remaining curious and setting goals is important for all ages. For children, it leads to positive cognitive and social development, while for adults it can lead to improvements in self-esteem, social interaction and a more active and involved life. It has also been shown to be effective in preventing depression in later years. Adult learning, in particular, includes elements of goal-setting, which is strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing. This is particularly true when goals are self- generated, positively focused and align with personal values. Learning is more than just an activity for formal education. It can include any approaches to maintaining curiosity and an enquiring mind.

Connect: Feeling close to other people and valued by them is a fundamental human need. Across all ages, relationships and participation in a social life are critical for mental wellbeing and effective buffers against mental disorder. Strong social relationships are supportive, encouraging, and meaningful, and a wider social network is also important for feelings of connectedness and self-worth. The key message of Connect is that giving time and space to both strengthen and broaden social networks is important for wellbeing. The wellbeing of individuals is bound up in the wellbeing of their communities, so actions that focus solely on individual, inward looking benefits will not be as effective as those that stress the importance of fostering relationships with others.

If you would like to stay in touch and remain up to date with College news, then we encourage you to subscribe to the various social media channels from King’s College and the KCOCA as well as the King’s Courier magazine which is distributed online and in print three times a year.

All the very best.  We look forward to keeping you up to date as the College ventures into another interrupted end of the year.

Virtus Pollet,

Simon Lamb