Nigel Griffiths statement to the BBC

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It is and always will be completely independent

On Tues 6th November 2018, BBC Hereford & Worcester's breakfast time leading headline news article was on concerns about Mental Health at John Kyrle High School Ross-on-Wye.

You can listen to the article using the link below

Nigel Griffiths, the JKHS Headteacher issued a statement to the BBC which is here in full along with an overview of comments gathered from listeners

Remember whilst reading this statement, that the school was asked to comment about MENTAL HEALTH issues.

Also note, that a general trend in the statement is to claim that overall attendance figures and overall examination league tables are offered as false evidence of no real issues with mental health at the school. This has been received by the large and growing number of concerned parents as a smokescreen or diversion from Nigel Griffiths who is also a Lead Ofsted Inspector and Ofsted Ambassador.

Readers should also note that by Nigel Griffiths' own admission, he has not engaged with any of the 100s of concerned parents, as outlined in the 2nd Open Letter asking him for a simple meeting.

Our school is built on one simple aspiration, that we want all our students to be ‘happy, healthy and successful’. Student mental health and well-being are fundamental to this. If students are not enjoying school life then their attendance will drop, they will not engage with the lessons and opportunities on offer and, ultimately, they will not achieve all that they are capable of.

Yes, students who suffer from poor mental health can have their attendance drop, and students who suffer can fail to achieve what they are capable of. But, any overall figures for the school don't demonstrate anything at all about mental health at the school. To attempt to make this a statistical issue when these statistics do not have proven correlation or any context other than poorly deduced subjective opinion is not evidence of anything. (Please note, that Mr Griffiths goes on to talk more about attendance, read on)

In fact, it is well known for example that many high achievers suffer from mental health issues, and these people achieve great results despite all the extra weight upon them their state of mental health and anxiety brings. ...definitive links of the relationship between academic performance and mental health are complex and inconclusive, the implied opposite that there is a correlation by Nigel Griffiths, and in the way he says it is simply not proven. He is guessing, using a sweeping generalisation with no confirmed research behind it, and then offering this up as evidence.

We are proud of all that we do to support our students in this area. There is a strong pastoral team, a trustee whose specialist remit is well-being, we provide mentoring, hold specific assemblies on mental health, work closely with external agencies…the list is extensive.

Mental Health Assemblies content lasts 5-10 minutes, one assembly was offered per year according to parents. Students who have attended these assemblies, when the talk is from Nigel Griffiths have described them as ill-informed and useless. A typical comment was "he basically said be happy all the time and that was it" and "basically he came in and said mental health is important, no detail, no recognition that people there would be suffering" and the best his logic extended to was "I have personality traits, but if you take them too far you can suffer a bit".

To offer these assemblies as evidence of support for students is a drop in the ocean, and one that students have said was useless.

Equally important, Nigel Griffiths says regarding mental health there that they "work closely with external agencies ...the list is extensive". One parent had been told by JKHS that they work closely with CAMHS (The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and went to CAMHS with their child days later and asked CAMHS if this was true. CAMHS said it was not true and that the only time they might "work closely" with the school would be on a particular case, where the parent had been consulted as to the purpose of it, and that any form of "working with the school" was quite rare.

As for "the list is extensive". Really? Then what is this list? JKHS were being asked for a statement about mental health. With no detail, this looks like the equivalent of a well known american politician's commonly used end of phrase "and doing many things", this "extensive list" would be welcomed.

As a result, our attendance rates are consistently above national average; Ofsted has praised us for being “effective in our aims to develop young people who are happy, healthy and successful”; our parent surveys are very positive, and admissions data shows that more and more children want to come to our school. All this is testament to the ethos and culture that we have built. I am sure that I speak for all our staff when I say that this feedback is more important to us than the fact that we are in the top 25% of schools in the country for academic outcomes.

Attendance rates over the whole school have nothing to do with Mental Health. With approximately 1500 students at JKHS, a bare minimum of 150 of them WILL suffer from poor mental health and all the harrowing and upsetting experiences it can bring.

Perhaps Nigel Griffiths would like to offer attendance records from another equivalent school that has poorer attendance and proof that this is down to mental health issues at that school, and to how bad that school is regarding mental health. He won't be able to do this.

The Ofsted quote comes from the short report and report's covering letter. It is a soundbite. If Nigel Griffiths is offering this up as evidence that the school is great with issues around mental health, this empty soundbite means nothing... "Happy, healthy", the scores of parents and ex-students coming forward saying how they were negatively affected by their time at JKHS have not in any way described themselves as "Happy" or "Healthy". Has Ofsted spoken to these people?

Students who suffer have life far from easy, many will even contemplate suicide or attempt it. Many of these students are at JKHS right now, probably as you are reading this. They suffer from extreme anxiety and worse, and can't see any light at the end of the tunnel. They live like this day to day. They go home and can't face life, see no hope, often locking themselves away in their rooms at the mercy of their own thoughts. Where are Nigel's comments about these people? The BBC were asking for a statement about mental health.

Nigel Griffiths is a Lead Ofsted Inspector himself. The covering letter from Ofsted seems to read like a JKHS PR statement.

Nigel says "our parent surveys are very positive". Are they? Over 500 people are so concerned about Mental Health at JKHS, they have signed a petition to ask the school for a meeting about it or shown their support online for this meeting. 500 people is over 5% of the adult population of Ross-on-Wye. The issues around Mental Health and concerns about the school are widespread across the community, this is undeniable fact.

Why not talk to these people? Find out what their concerns are? It is they who's children attend the school.

That being said, the exam period is an important milestone for students. There are stresses associated with such a critical point of school life. We do all that we can to help students alleviate and manage this pressure as much as possible, but we also must balance this with the need to ensure our young people are fully prepared. That is why we provide individual mentoring and care in key exam years, because different students need different support.

Most parents and students in contact are appalled by the school's utter focus and pressure around exam results, saying it affects them or their children. Feedback is that the pressure applied is global across all students in large meetings, with no regard for any of them that are struggling with poor mental health. These motivational "pep talks" have left parents needing to drum out of their children the messages that senior staff at JKHS drum in.

Whilst regular teaching staff are often incredibly supportive, individual mentoring has not been observed by any parents or students we have been contacted by.

At time of writing, this school year is 6 weeks in, and no exams have taken place. Also, when the issues were raised by this group, in August 2018, no parent had observed any mentoring. Parents have however raised grave concerns.

We are, of course, saddened to hear of anyone who has any worries about their time with us. We would urge any parents, past or present, who have concerns to come and see us. This is an offer we have made to at least one of the parents you have spoken to for this programme, and it is not something they have chosen to engage with.

JKHS say they urge you to come to see them with any worries.

Nigel says here that they have made this offer to at least one of the parents the BBC has spoken to for this programme. After cross-checking with the BBC, this can only mean one person as only one name was mentioned to JKHS by the BBC...

Nigel says "it is not something they have chosen to engage with". This is a lie... Denise Strutt (Chair of Trustees) wrote to this parent urging him to come and meet with her, he replied saying he was happy to meet with her and to contact him to arrange the meeting, directly "choosing to engage". Denise Strutt then did not follow up at all, effectively withdrawing from the meeting she had urged for, no further contact was had from her at all and all correspondence was signed for by Royal Mail Special Delivery. You can read about this here.

We do, however, recognise that there is always more that can be done. Mental health and well-being is a complex topic. As last week’s Budget shows, where funds were made available for all schools to have a mental health team, there is more that schools can do – and we will continually review all that we do to see how we can better support our students.

Nigel Griffiths says that they will continually review all that they can to see how they can better support their students. BUT, 100s and 100s of people want a meeting about this very thing. Nigel Griffiths is choosing not to engage with all these concerned parents.

JKHS is also obliged and expected to engage with parents and the community, Ofsted also state this. So, when 100s of people want to talk and give feedback, JKHS have that opportunity to fulfil what is required of them on a plate.

The issues at JKHS are quite wide ranging regards mental health, from the school's approach having a detrimental affect on so many, through to people feeling the school has been inadequate in helping around mental health, and the school offering misguided advice. There are deep concerns from people that the senior staff who guide the school have no real knowledge around mental health even though approximately 1500 children attend the school and that the school has a duty of care to them.

Final comments about this statement

Nowhere in this statement by Nigel Griffiths does it acknowledge:

1/ That there are students who suffer
2/ That mental health is a serious issue and a diagnosable condition
3/ That poor mental health is not the same as just being unhappy
4/ That 100s of people have asked for a meeting about Mental Health
5/ That the school empathises with all those who have suffered
6/ That the school wants to listen in order to improve

...if you want to get in touch about issues you or your child has had at JKHS please contact us.