MSJ Highly Commended for the BSA Wellbeing & Mental Health Initiative Award


The Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) held its annual Supporting Excellence Awards, designed to support and celebrate the achievements of independent schools across the UK.

It has been reported that this year has been the biggest year yet for the BSA Support Excellence Awards with two new categories being introduced, the ‘Best New Inclusion and Diversity Excellence Initiative Award’ and the ‘Best New Artwork Project.’

We are elated to announce that Malvern St James Girls’ School has been Highly Commended for the Wellbeing & Mental Health Initiative Award (sponsored by Zeelo).

Over 160 submissions amongst 15 categories were submitted, making this a proud and fantastic achievement for MSJ.

Director of Pastoral Care at Malvern St James, Mrs Wilkinson, commented further on this wonderful initiative,

” As schools in England started a phased reopening in March 2021, MSJ was awarded the Gold award for Schools Mental Health from the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools in recognition of its wide range of activities to boost the wellbeing of pupils and staff.

After our first Festival of Wellbeing (online, sadly) we were approached by pastoral leads from nearby schools who had ‘attended’ and were now asking for advice and an opportunity to share experiences. In response, we set up a Wellbeing Collective, whose membership has grown from 8 to 24, and which meets termly. This is a genuinely reciprocal initiative which we all value.

Like many schools, we noticed a rise in mental health concerns as pupils returned to school after lockdown, so last year we established a dedicated wellbeing hub, The Hive, a comfortable welcoming space where pupils can have some personal quiet downtime or see a school counsellor for half an hour; sometimes just a couple of sessions are all that is needed.

The school believes it’s increasingly important to move the perception of pastoral care away from ‘hugs and hankies’ (although they have their place and should always be available) to support students to develop personal accountability and confidence. This should enable our students to leave school with skills and attitudes that will help them in adult life, e.g. in sex and relationships, mindfulness, financial acumen, and academic enquiry.

Helpful support on the way to that social confidence and emotional maturity is a school dog. They provide an easy opportunity for students to ‘walk and talk’ with a member of the pastoral staff, which is a good way to encourage pupils to open up, especially those who struggle to voice their anxieties. Looking up at the clouds or down at the grass, with a dog on the end of its lead, is often much more productive than making a teenager meet your eye in a school office.

Enzo is a rescue dog, adopted by Zinnia Wilkinson, MSJ’s Director of Pastoral Care when he was 18 months old. He had been abandoned by his owners after an operation on his left-hind leg had sadly gone wrong, leaving him with a permanent limp. Mrs Wilkinson and Enzo both undertook training so that he would be ready for being in school and to take up his duties as a pastoral support dog. He is loved by the girls, from 4 to 18, who regard him as a comforting member of the school community who listens patiently, doesn’t interrupt and knows how to keep a secret.

MSJ has also extended its outdoor learning programme throughout the school from the Prep years to Sixth Form, with – when the weather allows – lessons in, for example,  maths, science and geography taking place outside, well as much of the wider enrichment programme. This has proved popular with both pupils and parents and proves the benefit of fresh air in tackling so many aspects of life.”