EiM’s Chief Education Officer, Lesley Meyer, discusses the importance of wellbeing in schools, EiM's commitment to wellbeing and the groupwide development of frameworks and resources to provide support to our schools driving the adoption of innovative wellbeing initiatives.
Wellbeing, in its many guises, appears to have shot to the top of the educational agenda. As an educator, mother and grandmother, I am relieved to see this renewed focus on the health of our children! However, our search for true understanding of wellbeing is neither a fad nor a new idea: I could quote ‘mens sana in corpore sano’, which is usually translated as ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body', to show just how long we have been preoccupied with this topic.
Perhaps what's new is the idea that wellbeing must be a priority for each of us. In schools this means ensuring that the wellbeing of our students, staff and communities is at the heart of what we do. This realisation has shaped EiM’s approach to wellbeing across our family of schools, where it is seen as an essential component in a child’s education, not something to be taught in a classroom at 2pm on Tuesdays but rather an integral part of our culture and who we are.
At EiM we are basing our approach to wellbeing on the overwhelming research that shows that students who are happy and healthy tend to develop greater resilience and coping skills, build better relationships, feel more social responsibility and experience higher concentration, motivation and energy levels. We see each student as a whole person, beyond their 'academic performance'. We ensure that student voice and agency feature strongly in our Learning Principles, empowering our young people to act productively and to gain both the knowledge and skills needed to cope with the many challenges facing our world.
While this recognition is a step in the right direction, what does it take to deliver learning environments where community wellbeing and best practices are truly integrated into daily life?
It starts with a clear commitment. At EiM, we are committed to ensuring that our students and the adults who work with them can protect themselves, make informed choices, take inspired action and have a positive impact on themselves and others. We are committed to delivering an education that prioritises wellbeing and addresses emotional intelligences such as compassion, empathy and kindness which offer lifelong benefits and opportunities.
EiM’sWellbeing Strategic Working Group, led by Sarah Tielman, Director, Dulwich International High School Suzhou, and guided by David Bott, author and former Associate Director of the Institute of Positive Education; is developing a framework which sets out a positive approach to Wellbeing. The working group is an amplifier – connecting and sharing a range of strategies and effective practices across our family of schools and amplifying our collective wisdom. This framework is a guide, ensuring education initiatives are driven from the 'bottom up', led by the classroom practitioners who know our students and communities best.
For EiM, a positive approach to both safeguarding and wellbeing is all encompassing, taking into account emotional health, physical health, mental health, sense of purpose, positive relationships, learning environments and structures and policies.
The approach ensures student agency by providing student leadership opportunities, High School Mini Programmes and student-facing advice policies. It ensures essential professional development for all teaching and non-teaching staff through peer-to-peer workshops and online learning, and compulsory modulesa on our dedicated professional learning hub, ConnectEd covering every aspect of Wellbeing and Safeguarding such as "Safe Touch" and "Trip & CCAs Wellbeing". Through our 'Parent Academy' work we aim to raise parental awareness of a range of issues from mental health considerations to peer-on-peer abuse.
With platforms like ConnectEd, staff across EiM collaborate with and learn from their peers, while completing personalised programmes aligned with their needs and the needs of their students. For parents, students and staff in China, we have developed various WeChat Mini Programs providing mobile-friendly, age-appropriate materials such as videos, articles, games and links to resources as well as access to help and support. External partnerships provide further opportunities to keep abreast of and apply latest developments in wellbeing-focused pedagogical practice.
At the school level, we are seeing fantastic things and so many initiatives. Dulwich College Singapore is implementing the compassionate systems framework – an approach developed by researchers from MIT, supporting the wellbeing and mental health of students while giving them deep thinking skills. Teachers in Dulwich College Pudong have developed a 'Science of Learning' programme to provide students with a deeper understanding of how their brain works and how to keep it healthy and in Dehong teachers are applying Sue Roffey's work on Circle Solutions, moving into various areas of positive education and wellbeing. Circle Solutions engenders healthy relationships through group interactions based on respect, safety, inclusion and agency, students learn to think reflectively and creatively, discuss important issues, grow and understand themselves and others while having fun.
At EiM, our mission is to have a positive impact on the planet and society through education. A big part of this is our commitment to wellbeing – something that we have already made great strides towards. However, integrating wellbeing into a school's daily life requires a deep cultural change and time. We are at the beginning of an exciting journey, with much more to be done and many more new developments to come.
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