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One of the most obvious outcomes of life over this past year has been the reduction in overall wellbeing, especially among children. Increasingly, parents value schools that provide wellbeing programmes for their students. A staggering 96% of admissions officers at international schools report that parents now believe student wellbeing provision to be an important or very important factor in school choice for their child, according to a white paper published in February by ISC Research, a leading provider of international school data, trends and intelligence.
In an effort to support the overall wellbeing of its students, parents and faculty, Fairgreen International School has developed a robust wellbeing programme, led by Head of Counselling, Jackie Greenwood, with support from the school’s Wellbeing Team. We asked Ms. Greenwood to share how Fairgreen is at the forefront of providing wellbeing support for students:
Why is student wellbeing important?
It is a commonly held belief that right now, globally, we are being challenged with an ability to live well and be well. Schools and educational governance around the world have focused often solely on academic attainment, analytical and critical thinking skills. This has often been at the expense of developing the interpersonal, affective and social skills, which provide a much needed balance of heart and mind. Evidence supports schools focusing on the health and wellbeing of children as a clear indicator that this improves academic accomplishment, whilst also helping them to live well. At the heart of creating a culture that nourishes both aspects, we value human relationships above all else. When we create relationships with our students that are warm, empathetic and encouraging, our students are more likely to thrive.
What should a school’s focus be in terms of providing wellbeing on campus?
Schools should work together with students, teachers, parents and other professionals in the Dubai community to provide a comprehensive service of care that is both preventative and responsive to students’ needs as they arise. The focus should be on getting to know students’ strengths and challenges while helping them to develop their values, character and social skills. When students are struggling, schools must provide a supportive space with trained professionals to help guide these children. The culture of care on campus for all members of that community is vital in ensuring that wellbeing is embodied and embedded.
Jackie Greenwood, Head of Counselling at Fairgreen
Can you share how Fairgreen is supporting wellbeing on campus?
Building positive, warm, and caring relationships with all of our students is critically important. Therefore, kind and thoughtful leaders, teachers and staff members are the heart of our wellbeing efforts. Fairgreen’s ‘DREAMS’ and Jigsaw Wellbeing Programmes and our focus on bringing mindful practices into the school have been the root of the school’s culture of care since its inception nearly three years ago. Many of our staff are trained mindfulness teachers through the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP), a UK-based non-profit established in 2009. Therefore, all of our teachers have had introductory training in Mindfulness and are encouraged to create moments in their students’ days that are silent and reflective.
Through our implementation of the Sheffield Hallam University’s Jigsaw programme, which is geared toward PYP-age students, we provide weekly workshops where our young students develop social emotional learning skills through the focus on a variety of topics, such as relationships, being healthy, celebrating diversity and more.
I worked with our Wellbeing Team to design our DREAMS programme for secondary students, where we focus on fostering the development of key life skills that promote overall wellbeing and academic success at their age level. Each letter of the DREAMS acronym stands for an area of focus students strive to build a healthy self-concept and outlook around, and these are: Drive (or Motivation), Relationships, Emotions, Accomplishment, Mindfulness, and Service. MYP students meet in workshops to focus on a specific area each week.
We have also created the Fairgreen Wellbeing Hub, a newly defined room within the school that is used as a calm space for mindfulness activities. We started a Student Wellbeing Champions programme, where older students engage younger students as role models, leaders in promoting health and wellbeing. They play a key ‘influencing’ role in helping our students to be emotionally literate and competent at dealing with the inevitable challenges that children face. We also have invited a friendly, furry visitor to be on campus each week on Thursdays that brings joy and calm to our students, our Furry Counsellor Rufus the Dog. A grade one student recently told me that “Rufus is the definition of happiness.” We love that he is having this effect.
Our students have been really lucky to be on campus learning full-time this year so it is easier for us to provide wellbeing programmes, but even last year during the all-school quarantine period, Fairgreen also supported students, parents and teachers by providing a Virtual Wellbeing Hub with resources for wellbeing support as well as private Zoom counselling sessions when needed. Our teachers also kept up their mindfulness activities, but translated for a virtual landscape.
To be honest, there is so much more that we are doing...the list goes on, including providing activities and programming around Anti-bullying Week, Mental Health Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day. We are truly striving to provide a culture of care here at Fairgreen, and we’re so happy to see our students being so resilient, especially during this time.
Learn more about Fairgreen International School's Wellbeing Programme and their innovative IB Continuum Curriculum at their upcoming Virtual Open Day on Wednesday, April 21, at 11 a.m. via Zoom. Register at www.fairgreen.ae/virtual
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