Our aim at Solefield is to nurture kind, honest, gentle young men with good manners and a strong sense of integrity. When prospective parents are shown around our school, they invariably comment on the excellent manners of Solefield boys, as well as with the relaxed atmosphere of the school. Manners, courtesy and discipline are key life skills that we aim to embed in the boys at an early stage. Good habits formed at a young age become second nature as boys progress through the school, becoming invaluable to them in later life.
From their very first day with us, we insist, gently, on the small things: pride in our school uniform, the use of “please” and “thank you” and proper table manners. Learning to share and take turns are also vital, as is the importance of listening to others and respecting their opinions.
As they get older, our boys are all encouraged to speak naturally to grown-ups, make eye contact, use a firm handshake and hold doors open.
We teach all boys, in the following ways, to engage fully in conversation, to think of others and to value every member of our community.
Dedicated, protected pastoral time
Pupils at Solefield have pastoral contact time at the start and end of each day with caring and dedicated form teachers in which they are encouraged to explore and discuss their emotions, as well as weekly ‘Relationship, Sex & Health' (RSHE), sessions in form classes and house groups. Circle time is regularly used giving each member of a class the chance to explain how they feel. Misunderstandings inevitably occur between children; teachers strive to help them to understand that good communication is crucial as we go through life and opening up and sharing how you are feeling should be normal and natural. We encourage positive talk about others and also, crucially, positive self-talk. We regularly impress on the children that your inner voice is like a computer programme that plays when your mind is both active and “idling” and we work to help them manage stress as well as to boost their self-esteem and resilience. In our staff, we have trained counsellors and therapists who offer regular talk time and Lego Therapy, in our Lego Room, as well as an independent counsellor who visits the school regularly.
Role-modelling and mentoring
We use older pupils as role models unashamedly. The older boys in the school are acutely aware of the influence they have on younger boys, and the responsibility that such influence brings. They lead and help in assemblies, with house meetings, running the School Council and our Eco Team, as well as other clubs. They also work with younger pupils every day as their “form monitors”, listening to them read or helping with their work. Year 8 boys undergo training and don armbands at breaktimes to show that younger children can go to them for help if necessary.
We have harnessed the Pupil Voice enormously in making Solefield a kind and gentle community. Our Kindness Awards are presented every week in assembly by the Chair of School Council with each nominee receiving a clap, certificate and small prize. Every week, these are given to boys ranging from Reception to Year 8, nominated by other pupils. Unkindness and “banter” are not tolerated at Solefield with teachers dealing swiftly yet firmly with these. Inevitably, children will push the boundaries, and on occasion get things wrong but what is important is that issues are clearly talked through and boys understand how they can learn from their experiences. Our “blue pages” enable pupils to discuss any such misdemeanours with their form teachers and parents and any sanctions are calm and restorative. Our strong house system gives an opportunity for vertical pastoral meetings and celebration of good behaviour. Our “Man of the Class” award every term, given for decency, honesty and reliability is much coveted.
Solefield old boys and aspirations
Old boys often come back to work as gap students, to visit and have also delivered our “Thinking Allowed” talks, inspiring older boys as well as the staff and parents. They still talk about the visit of a former pupil, now studying Engineering at Cambridge, who gave a wonderful talk about the 1000 mph Bloodhound SSC.
The basketball player Phil Jackson said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team." The increased emotional intelligence our pupils have pay dividends on the sports' pitch. In recent years, we have won a number of sporting titles, both nationally and locally including plates for rugby at Sutton Valence and for football at New Beacon, Hilden Grange and Lancing where a Solefield boy was voted player of the tournament. Our boys have represented rugby, athletics, football and cross country at South East and England level and at the Gothia World Youth Cup in Sweden. We have enjoyed national victories for our judo and basketball teams and, every year, boys win numerous sports’ scholarships to a variety of prestigious senior schools. Solefield boys are determined, expertly trained by dedicated sports’ staff and encouraged to be noble both in victory and defeat. They also have wonderful team spirit and are “good sports”. The investment that we make in out pastoral care of them enables them to show increased resilience both as individuals and as a team.
Caring and devoted staff
Teachers, too, know that they play a huge part in modelling good behaviour to the children. At Solefield, pupils know that the teachers care about and respect each of the pupils and their colleagues; it is therefore natural and easier for pupils to feel the same in turn about their teachers and their peers. This sense of each member of our community being equally valued and treated fairly is important and underpins all that we do. We cherish the individuality of each child, face to face or in the tailor-made academic planning that we submit for each lesson. We encourage our boys to value others’ differences in the same way We are small enough as a school to really know our pupils and our classes are rarely bigger than 16. The form tutor for each class is supported by a Year Group Team of other teachers who attend form times and work with small groups of children pastorally.
A golden rule runs through our school community; treat other people as you would like to be treated. Our pupils fully understand that this is what it is to be a “Solefield boy” and we are always very proud of the well-rounded, courteous, confident, thoroughly decent young men that move on from Solefield, ready for the next stage of their lives. Our pupils leave us with a “clear sense of right and wrong” and they “demonstrate an excellent understanding of the importance of being kind” (ISI December 2019).