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Open Letter to JKHS

The JKHS Parent Network is in no way officially affiliated with or run by JKHS.
It is and always will be completely independent

An Open Letter to JKHS regarding effects on Mental Health and Anxiety

A parent of an ex-pupil who has just finished JKHS after getting their A Levels has written an Open Letter to JKHS which raises some concerns over the ways senior staff try to motivate students, concerns that he says he has raised on multiple occasions with the school, each time having been ignored.

The Open Letter, which you can read further down this page, was taken to the Ross Gazette to be published. The Ross Gazette initially just said that they "spoken to our legal team and their advice is that i cannot publish without first approaching the school and headteacher for comment" and that "any response received should then be published along with the letter". So, the Ross Gazette approached JKHS for comment and left them with a copy of the letter. What happened next...

Nigel Griffiths, the Head of JKHS, came back with a strong response. He told the Gazette that they had had a "big meeting about it" and that they had taken legal advice, and "whilst we can't tell you not to publish that letter; if you do, there could be cause for action!".

The Ross Gazette's approach then completely changed, saying to the author that they couldn't publish the letter, and so they never published it. (*Note, the comments made by Mr Griffiths to the Gazette Editor were repeated to the parent by the gazette in a meeting at the Gazette office, the wording of his comments was carefully confirmed multiple times there and then between the parent and the Gazette in the presence of a witness).

The Open Letter to John Kyrle High School ended asking for JKHS to formally engage with all concerned on how to address the problem, suggesting a Public Meeting where all concerned can attend.

Interestingly and extremely relevant, in The Ross Gazette on February 14th this year, Nigel Griffiths said that gaining the opinions of the local community on "what they teach and how they teach it" was an essential part of his Curriculum Review. He asked people to give their feedback, ideas and opinions through the paper ...when he received the very feedback and ideas he asked for, he set about shutting down those opinions. Not only that, when 100s want a meeting to provide feedback and ideas in the form of a public meeting, he has not engaged. Why?

There has now been a petition where over 300 people have requested this same public meeting, but the school have done nothing. You can read about this on the home page

The Open Letter follows...

The author acknowledges that the opinions in the letter are his own...
NOTE there has now been a 2nd Open Letter which there is a link to at the bottom of this page

An Open Letter to John Kyrle High School about pupils' well-being

My daughter's A-Level results were great today, congratulations to all the students, and I’d like to say thank you to her individual teachers ...but, I am totally disappointed at the JKHS senior staff's needless, cruel and damaging contributions to their students’ massive stress levels.

On multiple occasions I have met in person with you to express my clear dismay at the side effects of the repeated and negatively loaded manipulative “pep talks to students” by senior staff when talking in group meetings. (At events like the beginning of sixth form, choosing options, pre-exam prep, post mocks feedback, assemblies etc). I can hardly think of a single mass meeting at JKHS where I have NOT heard at least some damaging language like this.

When I have met with you to specifically highlight this problem, and despite a senior member of staff agreeing with me in person, you have never subsequently followed up with me and you have just continued as is.

I have been extremely clear that the context of my concerns relate to the very real negative effects you have on a vast amount of students. You still repeatedly embed the kinds of messages that say “if you don’t try really hard you will be a failure”. You actively choose and use words to instil in the minds of students that they should feel guilty that they are never doing enough. Using fear and guilt as one of your primary go-to motivators on young minds is unacceptable. They are under enough stress as it is.

Mental health issues in adolescents are on the rise. Anyone would have to have their head in the sand to have not heard this. Of course, senior school staff at JKHS should not only know ‘what we all know’, but be completely engaged in doing everything they can to make sure they are not contributing to the negative mental health of their pupils. At the moment, they are.

It is NOT good enough for JKHS to just say mental health is a national issue and to offer any empty psuedo-politcal answer under the umbrella that none of these issues are specific to JKHS.

When senior staff talk to gathered groups of students they have to remember that there are not ‘just one or two’ in the audience that are - or will suffer from – anxiety, stress, panic attacks, depression and poor mental health (let alone those who have other issues, pressures and stresses at home). 20% of youngsters in any given year will suffer from mental health problems, and you can add onto that those that go unrecorded. It was recently reported that a staggering 46% of girls will suffer from these conditions.

So, when senior staff talk to the pupils to try to motivate them to work harder, it is simply common sense that a hugely significant portion of the kids that they are addressing could be negatively affected if you choose ‘motivational tactics’ that intentionally burden the kids with worry.

Stop and think how many kids suffer from extreme stress and panic, and go through extreme emotional distress, some will even self-harm and go on to attempt suicide. These kids aren’t anonymous statstics, they will be the very pupils you know by first name.

JKHS need to completely ensure that JKHS is not wilfully or inadvertently contributing to the poor mental health of students.

I know that JKHS want the very best results for the students’ own benefit as well as the school needing to hit its own targets, but let’s see if JKHS can review and correct these issues. Targets being met such as in this week’s news are, and never will be, any measure of the students’ wellbeing.

Can you please now formally engage with all concerned parents, students, and past students to discuss how to address this problem? I suggest a public meeting where all concerned can attend.