On returning to school this term, after almost six months in lockdown, students at Saint Gregory’s, Bath, have been engaging in a series of day retreats at nearby Sulis Manor with the aim of providing an opportunity to reflect on life in lockdown and a much-needed spiritual and pastoral focus to support students’ mental health and well-being.

Lay Chaplain at Saint Gregory’s, Matt Robinson, wanted to create a holistic environment for students to feel free to share their views, experiences and worries whilst also considering what support students can all give to one another in the coming weeks and months.

“We were incredibly fortunate to be able to use the premises of Sulis Manor, a beautiful house with delightful views and extensive grounds, creating an uplifting and restorative environment away from school, yet still within the students’ tutor group and year group bubbles,” said Matt. “We tried to use a blend of self-reflection, prayer, games, workshops and tasks to make the days poignant, purposeful and rewarding.”

Content for the days was tailored to each year group, taking into account age, maturity and a development of themes.

“Our Year 7 students looked at coming together as a new group. This included discussions and activities that highlighted tolerance, kindness and forgiveness of one another, especially in times of stress or pressure.

“Year 8 students explored the idea that whoever we are, whatever our circumstances, every person in the world is equal. We explored how the media and society portray attitudes towards refugees and migrants, xenophobia and how each of us is entitled to hopes and dreams.”

“Finally, our Year 9 students moved on to the choices we make which come from knowing our true selves and being courageous to act upon them. They were able to discuss a wide range of big issues in the world whilst respecting the opinions of others, showing energy and passion for their arguments and allowing their personalities to shine.”

“The retreats have enabled students to take a step back from academic work together, whilst allowing them the freedom and space to recognise one another too. In addition to this, there was much fun and laughter allowing us to re-connect and care about one another.”