Mrs Jones told me the other day that I am no good at showing empathy. I have no idea why she feels that way! Ok, ok, no more terrible jokes. Indeed, this is no laughing matter; the ability to empathise is becoming a lost art and it needs a focus in schools.

Empathy is the ability to connect to other people’s feelings and perspectives. With all the technology we have in the world, people may claim we have never been better connected. And in one sense that’s true. It has certainly never been quicker to speak to someone on the other side of the world. Yet, many would argue the world has never been so dis-connected and lonely. The very fact that we have all these amazing devices means that people are connecting through screens and not properly in person. Technology is being used to filter relationships which in turn is leading to the destruction of community. Over 11 million people are registered in the UK as being lonely and many would struggle to give the names of their neighbours. The UK even have a Minister for Loneliness! Something is not right.

A former pupil of mine, Alby, has an interesting story to tell. Now in New York, formerly in London, each day he introduces himself to someone he has never met before, strikes up a conversation and tries to spark a connection. He explains what he is doing and gets them to promise to meet someone else each day too – a domino effect of connections. Alby posts his daily experiences using the tag #lifeismeeting and has ambitiously set himself the target of doing this for 15,000 days. Why? Because when he was 15 he was asked what his perfect job would be and he responded, ‘to meet a new person every day.’   

Humans are social animals and we need to feel we ‘belong’ to others. The ability to empathise with people strengthens that sense of belonging and also the desire to seek improvement where unfairness may exist. Wanting to create a better environment for those around us is a very common human characteristic and that can only come from empathy. Fortunately, humans are not born with a fixed amount of empathy; we can all get better at understanding others by reading, discussing and listening. It forms a big part of our education here at St Andrew’s, where belonging and being part of the community are essential.

One group which really works hard to bring our community together is the Friends of St Andrew’s Prep and I hope you have taken note of the events that are scheduled for the second half of term. In particular, may I draw your attention to the Family Bingo Night on Saturday 14 November and also remind you about the Calendar Photography Competition. Entries for the latter are due by 4 November. Please click here for more details: Friends of St Andrew’s Events

I am launching another competition today as well – to name the Wellbeing Hub which we hope to open in January. Among other things, this will be a time-out haven, the new home of the listening service and a venue for social and emotional development work. We would like ideas to be submitted after half-term and all names will be discussed by the School Council, Mrs Piper, Mr Tomsett and myself before choosing a winner, who will receive a £20 book token.

Other big events taking place over the next two weekends are the Beachy Head endurance races – 10km, half-marathon and marathon. Competitors will be registering and warming up at St Andrew’s before taking their marks for the gruelling course. Good luck to all taking part.

Wednesday’s House football and hockey matches were a big success and it was lovely to welcome spectators onto the school site. Thank you for respecting the distancing rules; hopefully we can have a few more events after half-term. Well done to Arcos (football) and Sea Kings (hockey) who were the overall winners.

As we hit a well-deserved mid-term break, we can reflect upon an unusual, challenging, restricted yet ultimately enjoyable half of term. Predicting the next few weeks is a futile exercise but one thing is certain – the ability to empathise with each other will help us all through the winter months.

Have a really good holiday everyone. Stay safe and see you in November.