Feel Fab Feb 2023

Withington Girls’ School’s two weeks of wellbeing returned for 2023 with a full roster of activities designed to enable all in the school community to focus on personal development; reflect on what makes us fulfilled and well; try out new ideas and activities; make connections across the Withington community and, most importantly, have fun together.

In addition to the more traditional elements of health and self-care such as focusing on physical activity and healthy eating, pupils could explore aspects such as self-understanding, decision making, spiritual and cultural awareness, and social development and collaboration, through whole school activities or dedicated time to focus on their own journey.

Activities for discussion and reflection included informative assemblies on mental health and digital wellbeing which addressed the importance of switching off from devices and saw the launch of a new online pastoral hub. We were also delighted to host our second Faith Panel as part of Feel Fab Feb with the focus this year being on faith, empathy and understanding others. We were joined by four experienced speakers and faith practitioners: Rabbi Zvi Gefen, Imam Umair Tayyab, Sharon Cavad and Dr Anna Maynard.

Miss Diana Bruce, Head of Religious Studies, said: “Our students asked challenging questions to the panellists about how their faith influenced their ability to be empathetic and if empathy was innate or learnt. It was a real joy to be able to spend a lunchtime reflecting on these key messages from major world religions about the treatment of others and the students who attended showed great respect and interest. Thank you again to our four guests for giving their time and wisdom.”

Artistic pursuit was encouraged with opportunities to take part in a mindfulness art walk around the field to uncover the simplicity and beauty of nature. There was also a whole school art project that invited pupils to illustrate a thumb print marking with what makes them unique. The WGS Garage Bands put on a gig to raise money for the nominated Feel Fab Feb charities: Young Minds and The Girls’ Network. Four acts performed a repertoire of songs on a variety of electronic and acoustic instruments to a full drama studio of friends and staff.

The ‘Spoken Word Festival’ offered a warm and welcoming space for participants to share literary and musical influences of significance to them. Each year group had been set a poem to learn such as The Eagle by Lord Tennyson and Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas with many participants electing to perform poems of their choice or specially written pieces. We heard from pupils across the school in Year 7 to Year 13, and staff members who performed poems and songs in many different languages including: Afrikaans, ancient and modern Greek, Arabic, Cantonese, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin.

Dalia in Year 7 said: “The poem that I chose to recite was called ‘Baghdad’, a song by famous Arab poet and singer, Fayrouz. It talks about Baghdad and how majestic it is. For the Festival, I did plenty of preparation and revision so I could give a great performance. This festival was really special as we got to hear wonderful, cultural poems from around the world. I hope we get to hear more wonderful poems in the coming years.”

As a community, Withington was pleased to take part in the Manchester Youth Democracy Day. With the theme of ‘starting powerful conversations’, the event was held at the People’s History Museum. Seven Year 9 pupils attended, meeting several other schools from across Greater Manchester to discuss issues facing young people in the city with local counsellors and charity representatives.

The three topics that were discussed at length were: improving mental health, improving access to sports and/or clubs for young people, and support for LGBTQ+ students. Pupils spoke to various counsellors who work across Manchester, finding out how they got into politics and what their job entails. They also worked in mixed groups to come up with ideas on how to improve the three main topics. The proposals were presented at the end of the event to the counsellors who will review the ideas for implementation or further investigation.

Prior to the event, four Withington pupils, who last summer were involved in the #BeeWell campaign, worked on the steering group for the event led by Politics Project. The pupils put forward their thoughts on what is important to them and their peers, and what they thought should be discussed on the day.

Food was a prevalent theme throughout the fortnight signifying both the importance of nutrition on wellbeing and the role food plays in bringing people and communities together. Year 9 Design Technology and Food and Nutrition pupils delivered a hugely successful pop-up café providing hot drinks and freshly baked tasty snacks at break and before school for Junior pupils and parents. The ‘C³’ concept had been created by the pupils, in addition to specially designed artwork for cups, branded t-shirts and drink stirrers which all culminated in an authentic ‘café culture’ experience, complemented by the seating arrangements and atmospheric music.

Over two lunchtimes, Sixth Form leaders of the South Asian Club offered pupils the chance to learn how to make panipuri, a popular Indian delicacy. Those who attended the session commented how much they enjoyed the experience of learning about cuisines from other cultures and sampling their creations. Caterers, Holroyd Howe, put on a spellbinding lunch on the final day of the fortnight. With the theme of Harry Potter, the dining room was transformed in the Great Hall of Hogwarts, entered by the gate at platform 9¾. A highlight for pupils was the specially decorated ‘Sorting Hat’ cupcakes with hidden icing in the four House colours of Hogwarts which directly match the colours of Withington’s Houses.

The value and enjoyment that can be found in physical exercise was evident throughout the two weeks. The daily mile offered pupils a chance to walk, run or jog around the Astro and importantly, get some fresh air, unwind, and boost their mood before afternoon lessons. There were two special netball fixtures that saw the Withington senior team face a strong WGS staff side and Manchester Grammar School Year 13 pupils.

Georgia, Head Girl, said: “It was fantastic to host the charity netball match against MGS and we saw an impressive turnout in support of both sides. The boys’ rugby and basketball skills were on full display, and with an MGS goal in the first minute of the match, we started to worry that we were heading for defeat. Luckily for us, we managed to turn things around with some superb shooting and team spirit, eventually leading to a victory of 17-7.

Our opponents had never played netball – let alone a full match – before the day’s game, but what they lacked in experience they certainly made up for in enthusiasm and we were definitely all impressed by their performance. Thanks so much to everyone who came to watch and took part – it was such an exciting event for all involved!”

Withington’s pupils were very much at the centre of the planning of Feel Fab Feb with the Student Council and Pupil EDI team at the helm of the project, working with Ms Jen Baylis, Deputy Head Pastoral, and the Pastoral Team. The Student Council and EDI Team is comprised of representatives from each form in each year group, as well as the Head Girl Team, and they set out ideas for the events and activities including building on the success of last year’s inaugural Culture Day.

By extension, the pupil team have undertaken a review of the fortnight and shared what they enjoyed most:

The Year 7 group said: “Feel Fab Feb is really important as it helps us focus on our mental health and wellbeing. We liked that the activities were about making new friends and trying new things, and its helped us all make new friends, not just in Year 7.”

The Year 10 group said: “Feel Fab Feb brought our community together for a common cause. We really liked the sing-along in assembly as it was a great way to start the week.”

Dina in Year 13 said: “The Daily Mile is something that I’m going to incorporate into my everyday routine. Doing it during Feel Fab Feb highlighted the importance of going outside and exercising, even for a short while, and the benefit it will have mentally and physically is rewarding.”

Nanaki in Year 13 said: “Feel Fab Feb and Culture Day were both so pupil-led, it was inspiring to see our community come together as it did.”

Ms Jen Baylis, Deputy Head Pastoral, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the success of this year’s Feel Fab Feb and the way that our pupils have engaged with such a wide variety of opportunities for personal development. We can’t wait for the next one!”