From pupil to staff member

By Joseph Lessner, current Gap Year Student

6th January 2022

Transitions of going from a student at Solefield to a Gap Year Student 

I left Solefield in 2016 and headed off to King’s School, Rochester. My time as a pupil at Solefield was extremely happy and fulfilling, with the unprecedented helpfulness of the teachers and staff being a huge factor throughout the years I had at the school. I could always go to a member of staff whenever I had a problem or felt like sharing something, though mental health was relatively unspoken about at the time.  

One of the biggest changes that I found from looking at the school from not only a pupil’s perspective, but a gap year student’s one, was the attitude towards mental health of the children attending Solefield. Dramatic changes have been made regarding the attitudes of the teachers and the overall outlook Solefield has as a school. 

Since I left, additional programmes have been put into place to help the pupils going through mental health issues, along with many wellbeing activities, including the introduction of wellbeing dogs, lessons, hubs, talk time and two school counsellors. Boys are encouraged to talk about how they are feeling and to express their emotions and the staff really care about and know each one of them. The improved attitude towards the problems certain pupils have been struggling with is definitely something to smile about. 

I have completed training for ‘Unlimited Courage’ and as such work with groups of young people helping them to develop resilience and a sense of well-being through physical training. Linking exercise and mental health is very important. The amount of sport that children do at Solefield obviously ties into this and is something I am keen to develop within the department.  

Another thing that I now see more clearly as a returning adult is the sheer and utter dedication that staff go through behind the scenes in order to make Solefield enjoyable for each pupil and to teach every individual effectively. Although being aware of this whilst attending the school as a pupil, actually viewing the effort that goes into clubs, games sessions, academic lessons, as well as mental health is very eye-opening.  

Although I left Solefield over 5 years ago, I have stayed in touch with several of the friends made here when we were all wearing shorts. Solefield has been a very big part of making me who I am today and I am pleased to be able to work here as a gap year student.