Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine - September 2021

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Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine





CONTENTS 13 School Spotlight: Rugby School Thailand

16 Introducing an inclusive global citizenship model

18 The Restorative Approach in Education

4 Editor's Note 5 Let’s keep #wellbeingfirst in every school 7 The importance of sleep 9 Wellbeing Through Promoting Multiple Languages in International Schools 11 Social Emotional Learning: why we need to adopt queer and cultural lenses 21 Male leadership and vulnerability: A reflection on fitting in 26 Building the leaders of tomorrow 28 Building teacher self-efficacy to support mental wellbeing 31 Making Well-Being a Priority 33 5 things schools can prioritise over the academic ‘catch-up’ narrative 36 Why are break times an essential part of the school day?

23 How to Develop a (Non-Toxic) Positive Mindset: An Introduction to Positive Psychological Capital


38 Things I've learnt about wellbeing in schools from working internationally 40 Personality insights and student wellbeing

WELCOME TO ISSUE 1 OF THE WELLBEING IN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS MAGAZINE A very warm welcome to issue one of the Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine. I am so pleased and proud that this magazine is the result of a burgeoning collaboration between WISEducation and School Management Plus. The aim of all of the stories, experiences and knowledge shared in these pages is to help advance discussions about wellbeing in the international school context (and beyond!) As schools catch glimpses of signs that we are collectively moving forward, it is great to see that wellbeing, relationships and care are being prioritised. The fact is that wellbeing has long been a part of the work that schools do, but the pandemic has shined a light on new ways of thinking about and examining our approach to wellbeing in education. I can't thank every single contributor enough, this magazine would not exist without you, and education is all the better for you being a part of it. This is a bumper issue jampacked with brilliant and insightful articles, and as a collection it seeks to broaden the ways we think about wellbeing, exploring how it is embedded in our interactions, our relationships, how we learn to deal with conflict, how we help build important social emotional skills, and how we learn to be in the world. I hope you enjoy the issue, take what is helpful to you and continue to come back and dip into ideas as you please, as well as grow these conversations in your own school. Thank you.

Sadie Hollins, Editor


BY MATTHEW SAVAGE “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” - Stephen R Covey Every morning, I walk across the moor to the tidal tumble of rocks and sand we are fortunate to call our local seashore and visit the colony of harbour seals for whom this is home. Sometimes they bask, grey bananas, all langour and majesty, on any rocks the tides have spared; sometimes they circle and splash, heads bobbing, buoylike, in the waters themselves. However, this morning, my attention was drawn instead to the body of a baby seal, haunting and haunted by a life not lived, and it made me sad. And then I sauntered back home to begin this article about wellbeing, a writer, as ever, in search of a metaphor. Not Waving But Drowning. I could have missed this pup, caught in the crack between two large rocks, whilst I looked up and out to the colony itself; I could have returned buoyed by nature at its most beautiful, oblivious to the suffering at my feet. But, instead, I was reminded that, for all the buoyant marketing and messaging in every school’s blinkered collateral and feed, we fail at our peril to look down and notice the children and young people who are not waving but drowning. And this is because, for all our talk of fostering a wellbeing culture, we fail to put, and keep, #wellbeingfirst.

As long as wellbeing is an adjunct, it can never be the Main Thing. So what does it mean to put #wellbeingfirst? To See and Be Seen. "In the right light, study becomes insight / But...ignorance has taken over. / We gotta take the power back!" (‘Take the Power Back’, by Rage Against the Machine) I am sure Freire would agree - that our curricula need to be disarmed; that the power inherent within them must be transferred from 'oppressor' to the 'oppressed'; and that curriculum as the "practice of freedom" is essential in ensuring DEIJ (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice) in our schools, in envisioning a better world, and in affording every student the right to locate their own identities visibly in the what, whether, how and why of their learning. Born of and birthing numerous normativities, the curriculum can so often be at the root of the problem. Children and young people need to see their authentic selves represented in their learning offer. Wellbeing grows from a place of safety, and a curriculum which is remote and divorced from their lived experience is antithetical to this, risking, at best, alienation, and, at worst, oppression. What does your curriculum say to your students?

Inclusivity as an Absolute. A school which does not include every single student includes none. Inclusivity cannot be conditional or expedient, and is no more a synonym for additional educational needs than it is the domain of those requiring extra support. As good a starting point as any, regardless of a school’s geographical, sociocultural or legal context, is the UK’s Equality Act (2010), the protection of whose ‘protected characteristics’ should be the manifesto of any inclusive school. If we are included, we can truly belong; if we belong, then we can feel safe and secure; and if we feel safe and secure, then our wellbeing can begin to blossom and bloom. However, if we know that some identities, and their expression, are pushed to the shadows, then the seeds of shame are sown instead. How inclusive is your school, really? Voice and Choice. When I was a Deputy Headteacher in London in the Noughties, our school was the first state school in the UK to become a member of EUDEC, the European Union Democratic Education Community. Faced with the challenge of enfranchising, inspiring and including a student cohort systemically disenfranchised, demoralised and excluded by the world outside their school gates, we embraced a democratisation that left the right wing media aghast. However, we knew that for our students to have agency and ownership, they needed to have both voice and choice. It is commonplace for schools to have a student council or government, but all too rare for that vehicle to be authentic, representative and impactful, or for it to focus on the things that really matter, on the Main Thing. Do your students have a genuine seat at the table, or merely a highchair? The Assessment Elephant. I believe we should assess what matters, in the certain knowledge that our students will judge what matters to be what we assess (and how we assess it). It is unfortunate that our schools remain an arena of performativity, but as long as grading work remains the norm, our students will continue to be defined by the grades they receive. There is, of course, another way: to ditch the grades and adopt an entirely formative focus, but resistance will be widespread - from parents, who expect to see what they experienced themselves; from universities, who still believe that terminal examinations are the best indicators of potential and success; and from the students themselves, so immured are they in the grading culture that blights our schools. However, to continue as we are, superficially tweaking a decades-old assessment regime in ways that fail to hoodwink a test-anxious generation, we ignore one of the biggest elephants in the wellbeing room. What effect does your assessment policy have on your students’ wellbeing?

One of the biggest flaws of the assessed and reported curriculum is the precious array of attributes, skills and behaviours it overlooks entirely. We know that it is transferable skills which will determine success in the workplace, and yet we are enslaved to the tyranny of a knowledge-rich curriculum. The IB Learner Profile has long challenged this hegemony, and yet how many IB schools actually make that their absolute priority? If we want to measure, report on and analyse what really matters, let’s adopt an entirely different set of metrics instead: attributes and attitudes; wellness and wellbeing; the Main Thing. This is how we know and understand our students; this is how we fashion an emotional and physical environment in which they feel safe and nourished; this is how we keep #wellbeingfirst. To what extent does your school use data directly to measure and enhance student wellbeing? The Other Pandemic. The International School Counseling Association (ISCA) argues that a school should have one, qualified, licensed and skilled counsellor for every 250 students, and this is because they recognise that kids, especially today, need help. There is an epidemic of mental ill health amongst children and young people, with the prevalence of diagnosable, if not diagnosed, mental illness a sobering impediment to learning and wellbeing outcomes. The best counsellors are adept at everything from triage to medium-term interventions, but they are also notoriously stretched. And it is not only our students who deserve ready access to expert counselling; if our teachers are to foster positive wellbeing and mental health, they need to be healthy themselves. However, they also need to be allowed to be vulnerable: as long as we feel the need to appear competent and confident, thriving and strong, we perpetuate the myth of another normativity, when our students need to know it is ok not to feel ok. How robust and comprehensive is your school’s counselling support, for children and adults? The Main Thing. I believe passionately that, amid and despite all the noise and interference, we do not have a choice; that it is our professional responsibility to keep #wellbeingfirst. And there is so much more I could write: about the need for advocacy and allyship; about the #wellbeingfirst campus and classroom; about sleep and the school day; about the hidden cost of praise and reward; about positive behaviour and restorative practice; about parent education. This is the stuff of whole libraries, not a single chapter. And of course it is; because, after all, it is, or should be, the Main Thing.

Matthew Savage is an international education consultant, trainer, speaker, coach, writer and content creator; founder of #themonalisaeffect and host of #thedataconversation podcast; and advocate and ally for student wellbeing and DEIJ worldwide



BY TOM HADCROFT As a wellbeing and mental health lead within a school, you sometimes find yourself offering advice that you would do well heeding yourself. I regularly highlight to staff and students the importance of following Martin Seligman’s lead, focusing on activities that make you feel positive, engaging with the things and the people that you love, building purpose into your life by contributing to the lives of others and celebrating achievement. It is important to model positively and I have worked hard over the years to align myself to this expectation. Most recently, I was particularly happy to contribute to our school-wide collaboration to collectively run/cycle or swim the distance from DLD College to Jakarta, where our furthest away online learner was dutifully logging into her lessons each day. Over the period of 8 weeks, as a school, we did what we could around the four corners of the globe to build up our total and celebrate each other’s achievements. Terrific, I was on my bike, I was contributing and supporting connections in the school and beyond. Martin would be proud I thought. This isn’t always the case though, and in particular there is one area that I find hard to model - sleep.

Over a number of years, I have made the terrible mistake of taking my phone to bed. Ostensibly, I like to listen to podcasts as I drift off, but have increasing checked social media and emails in the middle of the night – not good. In addition to this, work would be on my mind and I would roll out of bed to get ahead of the work and find myself at 4.00am writing up a presentation to be given later that week. I then decided to do some research. What I found was shocking, and on one of these sleepless nights found that there was a sleepless epidemic taking place with teenagers around the world. In a recent academic journal, Agarwal et al.'s (2020) article on ‘Adolescents Sleep Quality and Internet Addiction’, they highlight that according to the family technology education group, teens are spending more than one third of their days using media - nearly nine hours on average. This was impacting their sleep patterns and interfering with the learning process. Lack of sleep has been proved to affect memory and performance and can contribute to mental health difficulties (Wong et al., 2021). Teens need at least eight hours’ sleep on school nights. I was feeling that I did too.

After researching (during working hours) I made contact with Vicki Dawson, the CEO of the Sleep Charity in the UK, to organise staff training with the hope of raising awareness of the importance of sleep. I hoped that this would help support the young people (and staff) in the College to foster better sleeping habits and improve on wellbeing. As part of the support, Vicki also undertook a sleep audit of the boarding house, producing recommendations to improve the sleep environment and enhance the boarding space. Over the next six months DLD College invested in bed linen and equipment to support the boarders. This included the production of a wellbeing pack for each boarder with ergonomic sleep masks and ear plugs. In each of the common rooms of the boarding house a sleep station was set up with varying activities to encourage greater melatonin levels, from teas to drawing pens and patterns. Lumie alarm clocks were sourced to support the waking times of students to replicate natural light and allow gradual waking. Over the course of the past 12 months, three members of staff have trained as professional sleep practitioners and have undertaken sleep clinics with students both online and face-toface. This in conjunction with educational coaching training has empowered staff to support students, through the COVID-19 response, to evaluate their own patterns of sleep, develop sleep diaries and understand how their feelings and thoughts affect their sleep performance. In conjunction with the Sleep Charity, DLD College London have promoted a professional qualification in sleep training for boarding staff which will be launched in the coming months. During a time of incredible stress and anxiety for many, we have tried to support the staff and students to develop a greater depth of understanding about the contribution that sleep plays toward their own mental health and wellbeing and how to improve on the quality of sleep.

I also hope that this has made me a little more reflective of my own behaviour. I still occasionally take my phone to bed but am now more mindful of leaving it outside the bedroom and celebrating the importance of sleep. The training has, more broadly, made me aware of the impact of good sleep hygiene. Encouraging the increase of melatonin with low lights and the right foods including kiwis, nuts and fish has helped in the preparation for sleep. Also the environment has been important to evaluate with the ideal temperature of 1618 degrees and breathable bedding and nightwear. And finally, the importance of a regular and consistent routine around bed has helped me celebrate sleep and understand the impact that it has on mind, body and spirit.

Tom Hadcroft is senior vice principal at DLD College London, a day and boarding school in the heart of London with students from over 58 nationalities. Over the past two years DLD have received six national awards for wellbeing and student voice and the school continues to strive towards empowering the students at the school to become independent and happy individuals. Tom is a Mental Health First Aid Youth instructor and is currently completing a MEd in Educational Leadership, with a focus on team coaching. To connect with Tom on LinkedIn click here.


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BY CHRIS BARNES The ubiquitous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ sign from the Second World War has been hijacked and repurposed for almost any occasion, being seen on everything from hoodies to placemats. It often gives us a smile when we see it, whether we are aware of the intentions of its original meaning. One place that it can still be seen is on the corridors and walls of international schools, as a way of promoting the language of instruction – ‘Keep Calm and Speak English’. For English, other languages could be substituted, according to the country or curricula being used in the school. Let’s reflect on the message this is sending out to our multi-cultural, multi-lingual students. Their parents may have sent them to an international school for them to gain proficiency in a given language and/or culture. But if that is being promoted at the expense of students’ own languages, how truly international in nature is this school?

English has become the lingua franca for education, trade, and employment, and is increasingly an essential skill for anyone wanting to succeed professionally or academically in the 21st century. But it is not enough. Bi- or multilingualism has always been the default context for human beings: children in most parts of the world grow up with two or more languages available to them, and increasingly students move to locations where languages other than their mother tongue are the norm. They must learn to be bilingual or polyglots through circumstance.

Over three-quarters of humans speak two or more languages. "This principle has been obscured in parts of Europe because of colonial history. We urgently need to reassert [this principle], and to implement it in practical ways for, in the modern world, monolingualism is not a strength but a handicap." (Crystal 2006, p. 409)

Research increasingly demonstrates that children who are cognisant in more than one language demonstrate increased neural connectivity. Why, then, would we deny this to students by focusing solely on one language, or keeping languages in neat compartments so that they are only used when it is ‘time for them to be spoken’? All students have different levels of proficiency in a language of instruction, ranging from first language to beginner. For example, allowing a peer to translate and re-explain a new concept in a mutual first language deepens understanding rather than weakens it. Multilingual speakers use a variety of strategies to communicate effectively in a multilinguistic context. Translanguaging and code-switching are two examples of this. Translanguaging is where the bilingualism of the students is used as a benefit, as a resource, in their learning of a new language, rather than being ignored (e.g. when only the target language is used in class). An example is where one student supports a peer in understanding new concepts or vocabulary. In doing this, they use both languages together or separately, or elements of one in the other, to achieve the most effective form of communication for their context. Code-switching, on the other hand, is alternating between the use of two languages, or two registers or dialects of the same language, usually in conversation rather than writing. This revolves around lexical gaps, where there may be no direct translation of a word into the second language. Technology is a common area (e.g., Internet, Google, smartboard). Similarly, some concepts or cultural differences do not translate – in Russian, the phrase ‘business lunch’ is simply transliterated into Cyrillic – бизнес-ланщ: the same phrase, only spoken with a Russian accent! Those from bicultural families frequently do this, both within the family setting and with friends who speak the same languages. Around our dining table, as well as when we get together with our British-Russian friends, a variety of what might be called ‘Runglish’ is spoken - Russian with English words interjected, or English interspersed with Russian words. It is fair to say we find it easier to express particular concepts, thoughts or feelings in one language rather than the other! An example is with the word нельзя! (nel’zya!) As a term of admonition, it means ‘do not, under any circumstances, do what you are about to do!’ This thought is neatly condensed into a single word, carrying more impact than ‘no!’ or ‘stop it!’. The more that a student is encouraged to use their own language in addition to the language of instruction, the greater the development of two key areas of the left hemisphere. Wernicke’s area, in the temporal lobe, is associated with spoken and written language processing. Broca’s area, a little further forward, is associated with speech production and articulation. Increased neural development in each area and interconnection between the two areas strengthens linguistic function now and develops protection for later on in life: there is a greater likelihood of recovery from cerebral insult amongst those who learn more than one language.

The days of using the language of instruction in the classroom and corridor with anything else in the playground have gone –they were seen off by the pandemic, where they may have been clinging on. Our students are too connected and tech-savvy for that. They can access translation apps on their mobile devices. In addition, international curricula including the IPC, IMYC and IB promote the use of multiple languages. Students may code switch or translanguage to support each other in their learning. Teachers who encourage this are actively promoting an atmosphere with wellbeing at the centre. The world as it stands - and moving forward - requires that we can switch between languages or codes at will. We navigate this in face-to-face interaction and then exchange it for a different language and syntactic code when communicating through social media. To actively promote our wellbeing, each of these forms of communication needs to have its place and be recognised as being of value by those around us.

Chris Barnes is an experienced school leader who has spent his career in international schools and the UK independent sector. He is currently Milepost 3 Leader at Crescendo-HELP International School, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Follow him at @MrBarnesTweets



BY JUSTIN GARCIA I have taught internationally for ten years and I’ve seen teaching/education trends come and go. After each major international conference teachers and administrators are inspired to implement “the next big thing” at their schools. One trend that is becoming increasingly common in international schools is SEL (Social Emotional Learning). As with many movements in education, I notice selective implementation guided by bias, rather than by the tenets of SEL. This inevitably excludes minoritized/marginalized students. Schools in international contexts who intend to successfully adapt SEL must adopt cultural and queer lenses. Without these lenses, SEL will not fit the needs of all students. SEL isn’t new. It was developed in 1994 by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) for high schools. SEL centers around five core competencies tied together with “...key settings to establish equitable learning environments that advance students’ learning and development” (Casel.org, 2021). The competencies include self-awareness, selfmanagement, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness.

The benefits of SEL have been documented across decades of research that indicate schools that implement SEL have students with improved academic outcomes, improved behaviors, and increased ability to manage stress and depression (Casel, 2019). For example, several of my elementary age students struggled with perfectionism that led to anxiety and emotional breakdowns. Using SEL self management methods like self talk, they became better able to manage stressors and they bounced back quickly from outbursts. International schools have latched onto SEL and started making it the focal point of school initiatives. However, many schools do not consider how intersectional identities play a necessary role in SEL, particularly with our queer identifying students. For example, two of SEL’s competencies are social awareness and self-awareness. Within those competencies SEL, “integrates social and personal identities” and “[identifies] diverse social norms, including unjust ones”. These competencies directly relate to many queer experiences. Identity plays a role in queer students’ lives, especially when they receive mixed messages from media and school about what their identities “should” be. Queer students are also discriminated against, whether it be through transphobic/homophobic policies, bullying, or physical violence.

Many schools exclude queer identities in SEL for several reasons. Administrators and teachers argue that queer discussions are “inappropriate”, or are fearful of backlash from the parent community. There is no attention to “student need.” On one occasion, an administrator told me that “we don’t cater to special interest groups.” I find this reasoning perplexing because so much of it is a projection of an individual’s discomfort. For example, why worry about parent pushback when parents at our school have never been involved in these conversations? We need to give our parents the benefit of the doubt, and if we’re open and honest with our communication, their level of support may surprise us. What makes queer identities “inappropriate?” If we dig deep, we can reflect on the stigma that queer students face and misconceptions about teaching gender (not anatomy) and sexuality (not sex ed) in classrooms. One issue I have encountered is that admin implement SEL on their own terms without understanding the different perspectives and experiences of their stakeholders. As far as I know, there is no data showcasing the diversity within international education institutions (if this exists, please share it with me!) In my experience, administration at schools are typically white, cisgender, and hetereosexual. When operating from a single lens, we neglect the perspectives and experiences of others that should also inform our decisions. They lack lenses of not only queer people, but people of color. Instead of making sweeping decisions that affect entire school communities, administration should be more intentional of their positionality within the school and seek perspectives of their stakeholders so they can make more informed decisions, otherwise they are simply copying and pasting epistemologies that aren’t culturally responsive. It’s also crucial to understand that models like SEL were created and adopted for US schools. Much of the data surrounding it is based solely on the US context. Simply arrogating SEL and dropping it in international contexts lacks sensitivity and understanding of how the culture in the host country operates. SEL inevitably looks different based on the cultural context of students. This is even more profound when considering queer identities. For instance, queering SEL does not mean dropping a GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance) into an international school. A well meaning and enthusiastic admin might see that as a solution, but it's important to first understand how the host country’s culture intersects with gender and sexuality. In the case of Thailand, being “out” is fundamentally different as it’s much more common for young adults to live with their families. Language surrounding queer culture is also very different. Implementing programs like SEL can create a problem of hypervisibility for queer students, which unintentionally harms them by making them overtly discernable and subjected to scrutiny.

In order for schools to consider solutions like GSAs or other ways to support queer students through SEL, administration should reach out to local community organizers for advice and consultancy. For example, M Plus is an LGBTQ+ organization in Chiang Mai that provides outreach to the community, including students and schools, to educate about queer issues in Thailand. Organizations like these are crucial to developing a relevant way for SEL to support queer students. SEL also indicates that we need to go beyond the classroom and school level when focusing on student wellbeing. In addition to the five competencies, SEL suggests four environments for impacting students; classroom, school, families and caregivers, and communities. This means that supporting all students, especially queer students, should also extend to the greater community. Schools can do this by extending education about gender and sexuality to parents, providing resources for them to learn more about queer experiences. Many schools celebrate pride month, but without consistent, year long efforts that work towards creating safe and equitable spaces for queer students, a month long “celebration” is all for show. In order for schools to implement Social Emotional Learning strategies and programs, it is essential to include queer and cultural lenses. Neglecting intersectional identities means that components of SEL are missing. In order for schools to genuinely impact student well being, all students must be represented and celebrated.

Justin Garcia (they / them) is originally from Gila River tribal land currently known as Phoenix, Arizona. They have been teaching internationally for ten years. They live in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand with their husband Barrak and their dog Boomer.


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Could you tell us about the wellbeing work that you do at RST? As RST the wellbeing work that we do is all encompassing and is targeted at our entire community, our students, our staff, our parents and carers and our local community. Some of the work we do includes initiatives such as ‘Well at Work’ for staff, ‘Wellbeing Family Check-ins’ by our Senior Nurse, and the end of the last academic year saw the creation of a brand new PSHE programme that is Wellbeing focused. The Safeguarding and Wellbeing team and Pastoral Management also work closely with the Marketing team to create regular video content to share with staff/students across platforms and we are now in the throes of launching our new Wellbeing and Safeguarding webpage. We have also been focusing on the development of multi-agency working internally across the school formulating wellbeing actions plans across the house systems and tracking all students in the school weekly and monitoring these actions and progress. As well as being fortunate to have a child protection advisor and social worker on site.

What have been some of the challenges that you have faced, and how have you tried to overcome them? The biggest challenge, the world over, is the impact of Covid 19. Not being face to face, uncertainty and disconnection and the mental health challenges these factors bring for all. The strength of a community in maintaining everyone's wellbeing should not be underestimated. Covid has closed our school for three terms, and we are about to enter our fourth term of online learning. Reaching out and maintaining a crucial line of support with the more vulnerable members of our community has proved problematic at times. The wellbeing teams throughout RST have worked tirelessly to keep communication consistent, making ourselves available to all areas of our communities at all times, and, where necessary, inviting students and parents onsite using safety protocols for face to face support, and in difficult circumstances providing onsite support to key students on the higher end of our level of need within Covid protocols.

At what point did you feel that you need a wellbeing policy/programme? Rugby School Thailand has had a wellbeing policy from the very beginning. A wellbeing programme has also been in place since the school opened in September 2017, and this has been consistently reviewed and evolved over the last four years. Our wellbeing team has expanded and grown to a team of nine members of staff from across the 3 areas of the school. Our wellbeing policy is available to the whole RST community. Parents are invited to attend ‘workshops’, there are regular staff wellbeing PD sessions throughout the academic year and students have a clear wellbeing programme which is delivered, age appropriately, across the 3 areas of school. The themes of the wellbeing programme tie in with the school’s PSHE programme which runs universally across all stages of the school.

What have been some of your proudest achievements in relation to wellbeing, and what has the impact been? The development of multi-agency working internally across the school formulating wellbeing actions plans across the house systems and tracking all students in the school weekly and monitoring these actions and progress. As well as being fortunate to have a child protection advisor and social worker on site. Having these professionals in the team really lend themselves to having a diverse multi agency strategy in which wellbeing task groups are formed based on our levels of need. This is a big part of what we do at RST in the planning, reviewing and implementation of action in areas of wellbeing and safeguarding.

Can you tell us about how your wellbeing focus supports all of your school community, and how the different elements join up? Form Tutors, Housemasters/mistresses, Wellbeing Leads and Nurses meet bi-weekly to discuss each and every pupil in the school. Even those students whose wellbeing appears strong are discussed so that none of our students slip through the net. Regular communication between the school and parents goes a long way to facilitating this, and as a result, strengthens the support we offer the young people in our care. Our students attend specific wellbeing groups with their Tutors and Housemasters/mistresses, focusing on a specific wellbeing topic and over the course of each academic year, building their knowledge about the importance of wellbeing as individuals and as part of a community. These sessions also teach our students how to identify early warning signs, who to ask for support and help and the possible longer term effects of ignoring wellbeing. Needless to say, whilst these sessions are built primarily for our students, they are delivered by our staff. As a result, our staff also benefit and expand their knowledge on wellbeing through collation of material required for these student sessions. However, our staff are also our focus for wellbeing. It goes without saying that if our staff's wellbeing is compromised, then that could potentially filter down and affect the delivery of the wellbeing programme for our students. Since 100% of our academic staff live on site, and the majority of our Administration staff live locally, our staff community is naturally strong, inclusive and caring. We run a huge array of staff clubs from Monday to Friday covering sport, music, culture and creative. There is something for everyone, and all staff are welcome to join. These clubs have been critical in boosting staff wellbeing. Wellbeing information, strategies and articles are also freely shared among the staff community.


Do you use any products to support wellbeing in your school?

If you were to give 3 top tips to schools when devising a wellbeing policy, what would they be?

We are lucky at RST to have a wide and diverse range of specialists, support staff and innovators who collaborate universally to ensure that we at RST provide a well resourced, exciting and balanced learning programme for all to ensure that we maintain our ultimate target and fulfil our obligation to students and families of ‘The Whole Person, The Whole Point’. With this we do tend to produce a lot of inhouse resources with the most recent being ‘The Whole Me Programme’. This is a revised PSHE platform in the Senior School which enabled us to look at statutory requirements of the subject and review our approach to be one of a more modern perspective, contextual and a platform that adds more agency to how our students learn at RST, thus enabling us to put more emphasis on what is important right now in the times that we are living with adolescent mental health and wellbeing.

In the process of devising a whole school policy for your community it is important we think to look at specific areas in the planning stages at the following points, however we also understand that context is very important in the stage also, so that factors such as culture, customs and diversity are considered along the way .

Action for happiness has been a fantastic platform to use. They publish a monthly calendar and ideas for your community on themes such as kindness, mindfulness and wellbeing. MyConcern is a fantastic monitoring and recording tool in the safeguarding field as it allows the Safeguarding Leads to monitor the full picture of the whole school. This is also used heavily in our multi agency approach, such as the transfer of safeguarding files safely and also the development of the school team using the CPD they offer. Educare has a plethora of resources and courses that have official CPD hours attached to them for those wishing to develop in key areas including safeguarding, wellbeing and mental health. Educare for British schools is a great platform as it enables us to develop our team to ensure full understanding and obligations to the KCSIE (Keeping Children Safe in Education) Guidelines.

Inclusivity and Participation - making sure you think about the whole community but also ensure that they play a role in the process. That may be by survey, cross school workshops and even twilight sessions. We have to remember policy affects everyone so we must ensure that we are cohesive in the process. Accessibility - making sure everyone has access to resources, in a variety of languages if necessary. Making sure that as part of your induction process each year or when new staff start at your school. Ensure that they are made aware of these documents, check for understanding and inform them how this document supports them. Review - make sure your policy is as up to date as possible at all times, with the latest information. In an ever changing world full of resources and ideas. A policy of this nature lends itself to annual review, increased input and community surveys. Pete Lynch is from Manchester UK and has specialised in physical education and pastoral care. He is currently in the mental health & wellbeing and counseling team at Rugby School Thailand. Jacqueline Rowe spent 12 years working for BBC Productions across a variety of genres, but most notably for Children's BBC. She is a founding member of RST and is PA to the head of senior school as well as deputy designated safeguarding lead for the senior school. Visit here to find out more: https://www.rugbyschool.ac.th



BY LEO THOMPSON If Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine readers attempted to build a model to reflect contemporary global citizenship (GC) work, what would it look like? What would you include? How would you arrange it? And what would you emphasise? Global citizenship, internationalmindedness, global learning, internationalism, interculturalism, amongst others, are related terms but they mean different things to different people and groups. If it isn’t possible to nail down the meaning of these fuzzy conceptions due to a lack of common agreement, mapping the work in the area may provide some helpful direction. This is exactly what I did during a lengthy lockdown, greatly aided by research and a lot of amazing people. To build the model, a map of work in the GC terrain, I took an intensive deep dive into an abundance of journals, articles, definitions, narratives and curriculums from many schools, universities and global organisations. I then turned to people - as I am privileged and honoured to have access to many schools, colleagues and experts, too innumerable to acknowledge here, for feedback and ideas. The much redrafted model below is the result of this enterprise. It is designed to reflect the practice more than the theory.

You may ask what is the intended purpose and value of the model? This is wide open and to an extent you can decide. It could be used to stimulate further discussion, strengthen understanding, develop a definition of GC, or even plan and evolve curriculum. You may use it to place your own work and beliefs in a context or shape them further. The model is an open buffet of ideas so take what you want! If you like the model, feel welcome to invite others to the buffet and share it. You are also invited to bring a plate to the buffet and add your own ideas and preferences. Despite its intimidating complexity, global citizenship education and related action is a wonderful opportunity to bring people, societies and cultures together to resolve, and in some cases prevent, challenging global and glocal issues. These issues include three of the pandemics currently consuming educators and impacting our societies; viruses, environmental unsustainability, and discrimination, amongst others. Centred on specific values and attitudes, GC is at the heart and soul of international education - or at least it should be as we are transnational by nature and have a broader lens than most educational systems. However, GC can also speak to the mind, as it is crammed with concepts and big ideas, and the hands, as our students acquire competencies that equip them for life beyond school.

When we zoom out and look at all of the GC related programmes, definitions and various models worldwide, it is clear that GC involves a dizzying swirl of connected values, attitudes, concepts and competencies that must be lived to ultimately achieve peace, justice and ultimately our sustainability and well-being. Yes, we educators are literally trying to change the world for the better! In the context of children, we are also empowering them through learning to be successful and navigate the world with skill and responsible purpose. For these reasons, there is a strong linkage between GC and the futures initiatives sponsored by the OECD, World Economic Forum, UN and Oxfam- not to exclude many other NGOs and institutions, public and private. "Global citizenship and intercultural understanding are an intersecting set of core values, attitudes, concepts and competencies that empower usto contribute to our personal, societal and global well-being and sustainability." As it is both structured and loose, the model can be further unpacked and added to. It is an attempt at creating a functional map of the ongoing learning and work in the GC terrain to help and support busy people reflect on their curriculum, approach and actions. Twelve learning claims resulting from GC research and discussion include: 1) GC does and can help resolve many of the world’s biggest issues - humanitarian, societal, environmental. 2) Nobody owns GC but we are all responsible for it and have a choice to identify as global citizens. 3) GC concepts, values, attitudes and competencies interconnect in multiple ways like dots in a complex network. 4) Intercultural understanding and competence fundamentally underpins GC education and action. 5) Educators are rarely trained to plan and teach global citizenship so need support. 6) GC work and education is in constant flux and will never be concluded.

7) Time constraints prevent us from covering everything in our curriculums so we must pick what learning is most important in our diverse contexts and according to our values and beliefs. 8) We can hold multiple identities and belong as local, national and global citizens - and they are not in conflict. 9) Powerful economic, political, social and cultural forces impact and influence how these ideas are unpacked and redefined contextually. 10) We can all contribute in different ways and role model GC. 11) No matter what we are doing for GC, we can always do more. 12) +/-? Your voice is important. Add your own claim or challenge the ones above. Though I hope the GC model largely speaks for itself, here are a few pointers on the model. All models are flawed and imperfect and so is this. Sorry to let you down! There are simply too many cultures, languages, actions and voices feeding into this work and the moment a model is published it is out of date. The model is invitational +/- and readers are invited to add and choose their own language, values, attitudes, concepts, and competencies. Your inclusion is important to improve the model and you are welcome to share it if it may help others and feels meaningful. So, let us keep educating, appreciating and learning from each other. I wonder where we will be with GC work a year from today? To access the GC Model with hyperlinks to more information please click HERE.

Leo Thompson is an international education consultant and school support and evaluation officer, contracted by the Council of International Schools. Based in Vienna, Austria. Shared with respectful humility, please contact Leo at thompson.leo@gmail.com for suggestions and thoughts.



BY ALISTAIR GOOLD ‘Learning for life' is a phrase familiar to every educator. Although potentially very meaningful, it is more often than not an ambiguous and ill-defined phrase in many of our schools. It is a phrase, like many others, that risks being discarded as educational lingo - overused in school mission statements but often lacking in any real world impact. However, the more I reflect on this phrase, the more I believe it can have tremendous meaning when considered through the lens of restorative practices (RP). RP models what healthy and positive relationships should look like. The restorative model teaches students to deal with conflict, accept responsibility, focuses on the needs of the ‘victim’ and creates room for reintegration after harm has occurred. As the old adage goes, our students may not remember all that they learned when with us, but they will remember how we made them feel. Furthermore, having an RP culture in a school gives students the toolkit they need to deal with conflict throughout life.

Restorative practices is a subset of the restorative justice (RJ) movement that has a heavy focus on proactive approaches (whereas RJ tends to focus on the reactive, after harm has occurred). It is an emerging social science that focuses on strengthening relationships. In a world that is becoming increasingly digital with increasingly fewer in person social interactions, we cannot evade that as humans we are hardwired to connect with other individuals and in meaningful communities. In schools, rather than have a discipline programme that focuses on punishment, RP aims to restore and to proactively prevent negative behaviours from occurring. Restorative practices include formal conferences, but they also emphasise the importance of informal, proactive approaches to prevent harm from occurring. On the RP continuum, these informal practices include affective statements (that communicate how a person has been made to feel), as well as affective questions that are designed to encourage students to reflect deeply and consider how their behaviour has affected others. Impromptu restorative conferences are a key feature of daily life for a restorative practitioner, as are circles.

Source: McCold & Wachtel (2001)

Cast your mind back to your own school experience. Who was your favourite teacher (and why)? What qualities did they have that you warmed to? For many of us, teachers who were relational, fair, held high standards whilst offering high levels of support, were often the people who made that positive difference in our lives. Now think about your current workplace. How do you want to be treated by your employer? How do you want them to make you feel? How important is that to your performance and productivity? Most of us want to be involved when decisions are taken, we want our views to be heard and taken into account. When pivotal decisions are taken by our employers, we want to have the reasons behind such decisions explained to us to help us to understand the ‘why’ to the rationale. We want clarity over expectations that our employers have for us and what is expected from us in the future. If most professionals feel this way, then it is reasonable to assume that our students also feel this way. When it comes to feelings, as international educators we know that we deal daily with students who have unique social and emotional needs. Many of our students lose friends on an annual basis as a result of family transitions and relocations. Many of our schools do not run transition programmes for families arriving or departing. We know our students are ‘third culture kids’ but how far can we say that we are truly meeting their needs in our schools? The literature is clear that as international schools, we need to ‘do more’ to help third culture kids communicate and validate their emotions. Yet so often this does not happen. Circles are key in the RP continuum as they build community and promote wellbeing. They are versatile and provide every person in the room an opportunity to speak and listen in an atmosphere of safety and equity. When delivering Advisory lessons or Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) circles can be used effectively, beginning the lesson with a talking piece and simple questions that each student must answer as we go around the circle sequentially, then eventually ‘opening’ the circle with open questions for discussion. Circles can be used in a variety of settings, including academic contexts such as study support groups or during international school trips to ‘check in’ and deliver information on a daily basis. Circles build social bonds, create connection and enhance feelings of community.

Most significantly, the evidence supports the claim that RP works. Studies have shown that RP improves school climate, reduces exclusions, raises attainment and promotes equity. Parents support RP as they recognise that it is fair. In my own experiences as a Head of Year, I never had an issue with a parent when I engaged in a restorative conference to handle a dispute involving their child, as they recognise that their child was handled in a fair and supportive manner. Students learn about themselves and one another when we engage in restorative processes. They grow emotionally and learn to accept responsibility when they have caused harm, they learn to listen and understand that their actions have had effects beyond what they initially realised. In an increasingly digital world, relationships and social bonds are changing. Our students need the skills for life to relate, deal with conflict positively, take responsibility when harm has occurred and deal with their feelings either as the victim or the one who has been responsible for causing harm. Restorative practices allow us to model this as teachers in our everyday approach. Creating a restorative culture in our international schools provides the context needed to ensure students are truly ‘learning for life’.

Alistair Goold is a graduate from Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities. He has been an IBDP teacher for the last 10 years and currently teaches at the International School of Kenya where he is working on his MSc in Restorative Practices. He is the founder of Restorative360.



BY JIM WILD A problem I’ve always struggled with - first as a teacher of English, then as an educator in an independent, international school, and now as a Headteacher - is imposter syndrome: the sense that I simply didn’t belong, that I was not, really, who people thought I was, and that sooner or later I’d be uncovered as a fraud and sent packing. It’s likely that there are people in all positions in schools who feel this way. But if they’ve got to where they are, which they clearly have, then they probably shouldn’t. I felt, for years, like an imposter in education. I didn’t finish school the first time around. I gave up and dropped out. When I did eventually get a pair of A-levels from the local FE college and graduated from a third-rate university, it was with a 2:1 in Media and Cultural Studies, and more by luck than judgement. I assumed that teachers needed to have been excellent students themselves in order to serve as good role models. In time, though, I came to realise that these experiences put me in a strong position to reflect on the problems that exist for some students in education and to serve as an example for others like me.

I also assumed that a degree in a traditional subject was likely to be a prerequisite for a successful teacher. Yet on reflection, Media and Culture set me up perfectly for being an IB English teacher in an international context. I had learned how culture and identity are constructed, allowing me to navigate my own biases and teach students to do the same. I had learned how meaning is constructed in a wide variety of media, allowing me to work with students on critically reading the media of today and yesterday. And I had learned how to communicate complex ideas in effective ways, so that I might teach others to do the same. Having spent my own formative years in UK state schools, I was, to begin with, an imposter in the private sector. I found myself teaching at an elite international school, in a world of debate teams, diplomats, and jet-setting, globetrotting students with maids and drivers. My own upbringing and experiences had been much more humble, and so I felt like an outsider. But that’s OK. In fact, it’s ideal, because I could look at these children, families, and institutions with a fresh set of eyes. I now understand the benefits privilege can bring, but also see what it can lack, and what it can cost, and that gives me a perspective of my own, to use and to share.

For a long time, I didn’t think I looked like a Headteacher. Aside from the ones I’d worked with, I’d met plenty of them at conferences and in interviews. Yes, like me, the ones I’d met were almost uniformly male, straight, white, and Englishspeaking. But they also had a physical presence. They looked distinguished.

"I long believed that a person couldn’t possibly succeed in leading a school if they had a mental illness. Leaders, after all, circulate at school events, meet and greet visitors and guests, seek out connections inside and out of school, and build and nurture relationships, collaboration and community. I didn’t think I could do those things."

They had deep voices too, and spoke the Queen’s English, having gone to private school themselves. They gave great speeches. I didn’t see myself fitting that mould at all. I didn’t consider myself commanding or charismatic. I’m an introvert. So I would wonder how someone like me could be in charge of a school. I could imagine myself as a Head of Year perhaps, but not as a Head of School. Then I stepped outside the world of British private education. In 2017 and 2018 I attended Principals’ Training Center events in London and Miami, and met aspiring educational leaders from all over the world who also happened to be young, or gay, or female, or black. They were all unashamedly themselves, and I was hugely reassured by the diversity. I found too that I had a voice, and that my voice counted. I was welcomed, appreciated, and respected, and I realised that I wasn’t a fraud at all, that the future was a different place, and that we all absolutely belonged there. Perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve had to overcome, in terms of self-doubt, is the fact that I suffer from anxiety and clinical depression. I long believed that a person couldn’t possibly succeed in leading a school if they had a mental illness. Leaders, after all, circulate at school events, meet and greet visitors and guests, seek out connections inside and out of school, and build and nurture relationships, collaboration and community. I didn’t think I could do those things. I assumed that all leaders were inherently positive, reliable, and strong, because they must carry the weight of their school on their shoulders, and they must do so without ever allowing their own emotions to show through. I didn’t think I could maintain that kind of behaviour in the face of my own challenges.

But shaking hands, remaining calm in a crisis, communicating one’s values, listening to others, reaching out with gratitude and support, and bringing people together are behaviours, and behaviours can be learnt. Educational leadership literature abounds with descriptions of the behaviours of great leaders, and we can all learn them. Our personality traits, however, come from our own experiences. I believe that my imperative to serve and support others comes from my own experiences as a struggling student. I think my background and my journey have helped me establish and maintain humility and an open mind. I consider the acts of identifying, facing, and managing my conditions to be among my greatest strengths as a leader, having helped make me more empathetic, more reflective, and more resilient. And I have come to realise that, for me, these personality traits are more important than upbringing, or education, or any of the other assumed prerequisites, when it comes to fitting in as an educator or leader.

Jim Wild is a headteacher at Brookhouse School in Nairobi. Born, raised, and educated in England, he has spent the last fifteen years working, learning and leading in international schools in Ecuador, Malawi, North Cyprus, and now Kenya.



BY KRISTIN LOWE Some people associate positive psychology with naïve, unrealistic “positive thinking,” or they believe that positivity is reserved only for those who are naturally upbeat and energetic. In fact, the opposite is true: positive psychology is based on science, and it offers evidence-based techniques anyone can apply to live happy, meaningful, and productive lives. Through COVID we’ve probably all seen or heard wellintentioned “pep talks” that smack of toxic positivity, an unrealistic expectation that we ignore difficult emotions or situations and force ourselves to feel and act happy all the time. Toxic positivity is optimism taken to an unreasonable and unhealthy extreme. This approach doesn’t serve us or our students well at all. Fortunately, the science of positive psychology offers a more balanced and reliable way to develop healthy and positive ways of thinking that will support us through challenging times and strengthen us in the good times.

What is Positive Psychological Capital? In this article, I’ll provide an introduction to Positive Psychological Capital, a research-backed framework comprised of four powerful internal resources which can be developed through simple and practical exercises. Research has shown that intentionally building these four psychological resources can help us develop a positive mindset and improve our health, relationships, and work. The Origins of Psychological Capital Psychological Capital, or "PsyCap" for short, comes from over twenty years of extensive research into Positive Organizational Behaviour (POB) conducted by Dr. Fred Luthans and his collaborators at the University of Nebraska’s Department of Management. Luthans and his team set out to identify a set of core psychological constructs which are positive, theory- and research-based, validly measurable, state-like (changeable), and which have a demonstrated impact on attitudes, behaviors, performance, and wellbeing.

The “HERO” Within

A common misconception is that hope is wishful thinking. For example, we may say we “hope” that the weather is nice tomorrow, but we have no control over that…so it’s really a wish. In contrast, PsyCap Hope relates to things we want and have control over, such as when we set goals to improve our health, relationships, or work. When we believe we can attain our goals (agency or willpower) and adjust our course as needed to keep moving toward them (pathways or waypower), we are exhibiting hope.

That research has resulted in the definition of PsyCap as an individual’s positive psychological state of development that is characterized by four positive psychological resources: Hope Efficacy Resilience Optimism …which conveniently spell the easy-to-remember acronym of "HERO."

What is Efficacy?

The four HERO resources are distinct from each other but have much in common and build upon one another, creating an integrated set of psychological resources. So developing each one results in improvement across the other areas, and in a cumulative overall benefit. In other words, the whole of PsyCap is greater than the sum of its parts.

A person with high efficacy has confidence to take on challenging tasks and put in the necessary effort to succeed at them.

One thing I’ve found when working with clients to develop their PsyCap is that the way many people use and understand the words "hope," "confidence," "resilience," and "optimism" is often quite different from how they’re defined in the research.

We tend to feel confident about things that are within our comfort zones and that we’ve already mastered. To grow in new areas, we need to overcome our fears and resistance to change, raise our confidence levels past our usual threshold, and take new actions. When we increase our PsyCap Efficacy, we develop more selfbelief and begin seeing a higher probability of success in our stretch zones. We become more motivated and more open to experimentation, even welcoming new challenges as opportunities for learning and growth.

So here’s a brief definition and explanation of each…

What is Resilience?

What is Hope?

A resilient person bounces back (and even beyond) to attain success when faced with challenges and adversity.

Defining the HERO Elements

A hopeful person perseveres toward goals and when necessary, redirects their paths in order to succeed.


Many people think of resilience as a resource used to get through hard times, failure, or traumatic experiences…and this is an accurate description. PsyCap Resilience extends the definition even further to additionally look at how people‘s resilience enables them to intentionally lean into positive (stretch) challenges in order to grow. It looks at how we adapt and can even thrive when we are pushed beyond a threshold capacity level. PsyCap Resilience helps us bounce back to our normal selves, and potentially even grow into becoming our stronger “possible selves.”

This means that when we develop and model good PsyCap ourselves, our colleagues and students “catch” it and learn to build it themselves. A focus on PsyCap development can have a significant positive impact on whole-school wellbeing and support all community members with attainment of their goals. Start Building PsyCap in Your School Community Today

What is Optimism? Optimistic people make positive attributions and expectations about succeeding, both now and in the future. Many people view optimism as an overly simplistic, blind faith that good things will happen, and optimism has gotten a bit of a bad name as a result. PsyCap Optimism is quite different from this common conception, focusing instead on what people believe about why certain events occur (past, present, or future) – regardless of whether the events themselves are positive or negative. “Realistic Optimists” see positive circumstances as something within their power to create, likely to occur, and replicable in many areas of life. They view negative circumstances as temporary, situation-specific, and often caused by factors outside of their control. This perspective helps them remain positive and confident about the future. The Benefits of Developing PsyCap For individuals, higher PsyCap has been shown to increase positivity, wellbeing, satisfaction with health and relationships, and investment in time spent with family and friends. High PsyCap is also linked with less negativity and reduced BMI and cholesterol levels. In an organizational context, higher PsyCap is a predictor of improved performance, job satisfaction, organizational commitment and citizenship behaviours, and psychological wellbeing. PsyCap reduces cynicism, turnover intentions, work stress and anxiety. The four PsyCap constructs have also been shown to improve wellbeing and academic performance for students. PsyCap is Contagious Neuroscientific evidence shows that we can become more positive and sustain positivity over time by proactively developing our Psychological Capital.

PsyCap already exists in your school community because we all possess the resources of Hope, Efficacy, Resilience, and Optimism to varying degrees. One of the quickest and easiest ways to build PsyCap is by using the “Notice and Name” technique to celebrate and amplify existing psychological assets when you observe them in action. In this downloadable handout, I’ve provided a summary of how each PsyCap resource looks in everyday life. When you notice these behaviors and mindsets showing up in your colleagues and students, take a moment to name the resource you’re seeing. This builds wellbeing literacy and serves to spotlight and positively reinforce actions and ways of thinking that are known to strengthen us from the inside out. In the following three-parts of this series, I’ll take a deeper dive into each element of Positive Psychological Capital, sharing practical strategies for building these resources with all members of your school communities. For more on the research mentioned in this article, refer to the book Psychological Capital and Beyond.

Kristin Lowe is a former international school teacher now working as a consulting organizational psychologist and certified positive psychology coach. She helps school leaders build a positive school culture through strengths-based personal and team development, positive psychology coaching and peer coach training, and schoolwide Positive Education programs. Kristin is the visible wellbeing program leader at American School of The Hague. She is also the founder of The Positivity Playground, a global peer coaching network focused on building staff wellbeing at international and independent schools.

When PsyCap is developed, positivity spreads within teams, from leaders to teams, from teams to leaders, and from one team to another. Research has shown that PsyCap can spread through upward spirals, downward spirals, ripple effects and contagion effects. These positive effects are seen regardless of whether people interact in person or at a distance.



BY PHIL MATHE "As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." - Bill Gates When I was 11 I set out on an adventure. I packed a bag with my Teddy. He was called “Monkey” and was a bear. I packed some clothes and I liberated an apple and a juice box from the fridge and off I set. I was on a mission driven by one simple thing. My friend told me to. We had talked the day before at school about how exciting it would be to go away on an adventure together. The places we would go and the things we would see! He persuaded me it was a great idea and that we should meet at the corner of the street between our two houses and we’d go from there. We only lived about a street apart so the middle of the two was basically the end of my street. I’m pretty sure my mum watched me from the window the whole way. There I waited, for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably 10 minutes. He never showed. I turned tail and went home, probably played with some typically age appropriate toys and had dinner instead. Turns out his mum told him he couldn’t go on an adventure that day as he had to go to the dentist. The end of my dream of an adventure, for then at least.

The point of this story? Because 30 years later it dawned on me, when I sat down to write this article, that possibly that's the earliest memory I have of the power of leadership. I had no particular desire or drive to go on an adventure until my friend filled my head with ideas and possibilities. I wasn’t really even looking for an adventure but I remember clearly the conversation was so engaging and inspiring that it almost seemed like it was my idea all along. My friend used his powers of persuasion to influence me to join him on the adventure of a lifetime. He inspired me to believe in something and motivated me to take action to achieve this vision together. He led me. (I asked him about it. He said it was all me. He said I would not stop trying to persuade him to go, I planned it all out and wouldn’t stop talking about it. Eventually he agreed although he couldn’t be sure whether this was out of inspiration or just to get me to stop talking!) We live in complicated times. The world is broken in many ways and our legacy is likely to be one of difficult decisions and significant implications. The terrible responsibility of resolving the errors of our recent past will fall onto future generations and for that we have a duty and obligation to prepare them for that burden. Our pupils and students will save us all, as long as we give them the tools to do so.

Globally the concept of leadership has become an integral part of the development of holistic education. I’m not going to explore types of leadership or the delivery mechanisms for leadership education in this article. I am specifically interested in the impact of leadership education on our pupils. Different schools in different contexts will approach this in uniquely different ways and there is no “one size fits all” model to be applied. What is not up for debate is the importance of this as an aspect of an educational programme, and there are wide reaching and significant implications of delivering leadership in whatever form works for your school. I should also take a moment at this point to recognise a significant lack of research into the impact and influence of “Leadership Education” within schools. This could be due to the difficulty in identifying quantitative impacts of such a wide variety of approaches or it could be due to the fact that leadership is usually embedded in a wider context of holistic education and therefore challenging to separate out. Either way, there is a lack of research based evidence to support the conjecture that teaching pupils to gain leadership skills has a fundamentally positive impact on their development, and is therefore a critically important element of the pupil centric approaches being adopted globally. Organisations such as Round Square, UWC, GPE and UNICEF all allude to the importance of teaching pupils the importance of leadership and the skills required to lead. Many major school groups and individual schools, across the entire spectrum of curricular, cultural and geographical variation, identify leadership as having explicit curricular importance for the development of their pupils. Its importance cannot just be theoretical postulations or speculation. There must be a reason that so many educational institutions and individual school leadership teams are identifying the value of delivering leadership education. So what impact does teaching leadership have on our pupils? If we are developing leaders of the future, what are the identifiers that give us evidence of the impact on the pupils? In his 2007 book Leadership: Research Findings, Practice, and Skills, Andrew J. DuBrin identified a number of key characteristics that students should be displaying as they develop their aptitude towards leadership. These include; Self confidence, Humility, Core self-evaluations, Trustworthiness, Authenticity, Extroversion, Assertiveness, Enthusiasm, optimism, and warmth and a Sense of humor. He also identifies a series of more task-related personality traits that are common in leaders: Passion, Emotional intelligence, Flexibility and adaptability, Internal locus of control and Courage.

These are pretty good indicators to look for in our pupils, but how can we be sure that these are developing? How can we track, assess, monitor and report on things that are often referred to as “soft skills” and cannot be “tested”. I would argue that the premise that these characteristics are of equal importance to any subject specific knowledge and therefore the monitoring of their development must take place and be central to the holistic assessment of individuals. We do, however, have a trick up our sleeve in schools. We don’t just offer academic opportunities. We offer Sport, we offer Arts, Dance, Music and Creativity. We offer community outreach and service, we offer trips, excursions, challenges and adventure. We encourage our pupils to engage with extra curricular activities such as debating, Model UN and global conferences. We have student councils, prefects, head pupils and leadership groups. Through each and every one of these enrichment opportunities we can identify and see evidence of our pupils' ability to lead others. We can observe their characteristics and traits more easily than in traditional teaching and learning contexts. Tracking this evidence and progress can be difficult, but with careful planning and well developed processes, a picture of a pupil can be built that tells a much more encompassing story than just their academic performance. As with all things, these processes and systems will be unique to individual school contexts, but the principle of tracking the holistic development of a pupil is of increasingly accepted importance. When you can recognise and report on the wider development of a pupil you can influence their experiences and opportunities to ensure that the skills required to lead are offered, given significance and an equal footing within a school. There are many examples of this in action, if you want to explore the opportunities for your school. The starting point is the identification of what being a leader means within your school's context. Know what you want to develop within your pupils and how best to action this, and then establish a way of tracking the outcomes. It's no different to any other aspect of progress monitoring, and the impact of a focus on it could make a significant difference to the overall outcomes for your pupils. In a world where leadership occurs at every level of society, can we afford to limit the impact and influence of developing it to just a few forward thinking schools? Leadership is inherent in everyone, it's just waiting to be discovered. Just think about the impact it could have on your outcomes, your pupils, and the world….

Phil Mathe is director of sport at Brighton College Al Ain in the UAE, having previously led PE departments in Egypt and Kenya.



BY KERRY HILL It is widely recognised that teaching is known to be one of the most stressful occupations, with teachers being more likely to suffer from increased stress and lower wellbeing compared to other sectors (Kidger et al, 2016). Year on year in England, the Teacher Wellbeing Index shows increasing perceptions of stress and physical and emotional symptoms of work based stress in teachers, depicting: “an increasingly frustrated workforce, struggling to cope” (Education Support Partnership 2019, p. 3). Not only does this picture present an issue in terms of teachers exhibiting symptoms of poor mental health, but at an organisational level mental health related issues such as workload, challenging behaviour and working conditions are often cited for key reasons for poor recruitment and retention in the education sector (Barnaby, 2006, Green, 2021 & Deloitte, 2017). As a head teacher, this resonated with my own school. Consequently, in 2018, I started in the first cohort of a Masters in Leadership of School Mental Health and Wellbeing through Leeds Beckett University and the mental health charity Minds Ahead.

As part of the course research, I noted in the report by the Education Support Partnership (2019) that it highlighted the importance of teachers’ developing efficacy (2019:77) in order to improve teacher wellbeing. Self-efficacy is considered to be an individual’s ability to exert control over their behaviours and regulate emotions so they can perform more effectively within a given context. Consequently, selfefficacy is about being able to regulate choice, and exhibit self-control, effort and resilience to overcome an obstacle whilst remaining in control of emotions. This led to me introducing the ‘Spotlight’ programme within my school, as an action research project to consider if the programme could influence teachers’ perceptions of the challenges associated with teaching, as well as their perceptions of their own mental health. The Spotlight programme (underpinned by Grays’ Reinforcement Theory and the Big 5 Personality Model) is based around a psychological profiling tool (Mindflick, 2017) to allow participants to reflect on and evaluate their mindsets, behaviours and how they manage their emotions. Through considering where a person sits within their mindset and behavioural style preferences, participants could then consider how they could ‘flex’ and ‘cope’ across a broader range of styles (See Mindflick Spotlight)

Spotlight is unique compared to other psychological profiles. At its core is the premise that we all have a blend of performance preferences and although a particular preference may fall within an individuals’ ‘spotlight’, we all have the ability to flex our personality across different preferences, even in stressful or pressurized contexts to bring about more successful performance. Importantly, there is no ‘best type’ of personality or Spotlight profile! What does a Spotlight profile look like? The profiles themselves are generated by individuals through taking part in a short online survey, where they respond to a range of questions. Each individual then gets a personalized profile. The profiles include an overview of where your ‘spotlight’ preferences sit across both the ‘flex’ and ‘cope’ models. Crucially, each profile then contains expanded information on areas such as ‘How you react under pressure?’, ‘What things press your button?’, ‘How do you make decisions?’, ‘How do you respond to setbacks and success (resilience)?’ ‘What falls outside of your Spotlights?’, ‘When are you at your best?’, ‘When do your strengths become weaknesses?’ and ‘How do you stay energized?’ These elements of the profile allow individuals to understand how they can get the most out of their natural preferences to perform to their best in the most effective way, but also how they can consider using different personality preferences to be more successful. The profile also provides ways to support an individuals’ wellbeing to maintain high levels of performance including ideas of how to reduce stress and stay energized. Developing a better understanding of yourself, being able to have greater self-control of emotions in certain situations and knowing what your own trigger points are for stress or pressure, has allowed teachers to respond more positively and proactively to their workplace demands. The profile is something that they can go back to time and time again, as much or as little as needed. How was Spotlight introduced to the school? The programme was designed and delivered through a graduated approach, in consultation with an external psychologist. There were some non-negotiable elements such as training sessions and creating the profiles. Other elements such as the one to one coaching and ‘pit stop’ sessions were optional, so teachers could choose the best spotlight package for themselves, whether it was self-directed reflection or support from colleagues. The launch of the Spotlight coaching, team sessions and pit stops, coincided with the onset of the COVID pandemic in March 2020, which meant an adjustment to virtual meetings from the originally planned face to face sessions.

The graduated training approach for the project took the following form: (1) Senior leaders completed their profile, initial training and had coaching on their profile, and (2) Middle leaders completed their profiles, initial training and had coaching on their profiles. The introduction of Spotlight included the following: Whole staff ‘Spotlight’ training day and creation of the Spotlight profiles. The aims of the Spotlight project were shared so all staff knew the purpose of Spotlight, how it could help us as a team and also the importance of everyone’s role in creating the positive workplace culture that they wanted to see and be a part of. This meant understanding their behaviours and mindsets, and how these could impact both themselves and others within the school environment. As part of this day, staff completed a short online survey which produced individual Spotlight profiles for each member of staff. One to one Spotlight coaching sessions. Coaching sessions were led by either the external psychologist or by three school leaders who had been trained as Spotlight coaches. One to one coaching sessions lasted for about an hour. The sessions were often built around a particular issue the person was having and, using their individual profile, the coaches supported them to develop an understanding of how they could be more successful with the problem, by considering how they could flex and cope using their Spotlight preferences. Teacher examples of school based issues included challenging conversations with parents, conflict with another member of staff, workload balancing and prioritizing, or improving a particular aspect of their teaching. Team Spotlight sessions. Often part of staff twilight training sessions, these were led by the schools’ Mental Health Lead to support team dynamics and performance effectiveness. Middle leaders were also encouraged to have Spotlight conversations with their teams, to help each other deepen their knowledge of their own profile and have conversations with others, using the nuanced language around Spotlight. ‘Pit stop’ check in sessions. Led by an external psychologist, these took place twice a week at 8am for 20 minutes, during the March – July 2020 national school closure period. These short check ins were designed to stabilize emotions and support the maintenance of positive mindsets. This was critical during this period of heightened emotions, stress and anxiety. They allowed a safe space for teachers to share something that they were struggling with in the moment and provide a quick change to enable them to go through that day more confident, reassured and often optimistically, in what was a very unfamiliar time. The Headteacher did not attend these sessions, so teachers could be honest and open, allowing for the pit stops to be effective and of most help.


Impact of Spotlight on Teacher Self-Efficacy To monitor the effectiveness of the Spotlight programme and its delivery, data was collected to measure teacher self-efficacy through surveys conducted in early March 2020 and July 2020. Teachers were asked to rate themselves on a scale of 1 – 9 on 20 questions that related to tenets of self-efficacy, such as whether they could: (1) cope with last minute changes; (2) perform well despite external influences; (3) find creative ways to cope with system constraints; (4) overcome perceived challenges; (5) manage difficult relationships effectively; and (6) perceive their role as a teacher positively. The case study participants were unanimous in stating that they felt their mental wellbeing was influenced positively as a result of the Spotlight programme. This was attributed to greater selfawareness of their own behaviours and mindsets, and being able to pre-empt situations which might cause poor mental health symptoms, thus showing improved self- efficacy levels. The teacher survey data also corroborated the positive influence and perceptions as a result of participation in the Spotlight programme, showing improvements in all areas measured. Examples of the impact data are shown in the table below. The positive data results were particularly interesting given the timing of the programme between March and July 2020, during national school closures linked to the COVID pandemic. Teachers participating in the Spotlight programme reported themselves as having higher self-efficacy and improved mental wellbeing despite the severe disruption to education. The positive increases also went against the national data (Education Support Partnership, September 2020) which showed symptoms of poor mental health had increased during the same period as the Spotlight programme. The national data showed that 64% of teachers nationally described themselves as having high efficacy during this time, compared to 88% of teachers at the school.

The Spotlight programme has clearly been a successful project within the school. It has now been rolled out to all staff including teaching assistants and non-teaching based staff, and is part of the day to day fabric of colleague conversations. It is also encouraged by leaders as part of on-going personal reflection to help every individual to be more self-aware, have self-control and contribute to a positive workplace culture. The language of ‘flex’, ‘cope’ and ‘performance preferences’ are a natural part of the school language and discussions between colleagues across the academic year. Some teachers have also reported using their profile to support them with out of school issues, as well as in school practice, such as stresses with moving house or a personal conflict. The coaching in particular was greatly valued by teachers and continues on as a key part of the schools’ ethos, now led by the in school trained Spotlight coaches and available to all staff. The school is now looking forward to how the positives from Spotlight can be used to support developing personal, social and emotional skills in children, with a new, bespoke character building programme launching in September 2021.

Kerry Hill is currently a headteacher in Leicester City and education advisor at TAP ‘Thanks and Praise’. Kerry is a passionate advocate of mental health and character development in education. In 2020 she became a Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching and was a finalist in the 2019 TES Headteacher of the Year awards. In August 2021 the Spotlight programme was winner of the prestigious Princess Royal Training Award.

Table showing difference in percentage cumulative scores 7 – 9 in pre and post teacher surveys (7 – 9 being indicators of higher self-efficacy levels)



BY YVETTE LARSSON In August 2019, my then 12-year-old daughter came home from her first day of school with the class schedule in her hand. What drew my attention was that she was only going to have PE once per week! On the very same day I had a conversation with our PE educator for the Primary Years Program (PYP), Dejan Jovanovic, on how to enhance physical activity amongst our students for the benefits of focus, academic achievement and well-being. He had recently been to the International Physical Literacy Conference in Umeå, and I had been reading up on the body-brain connections for some time, going to courses and webinars on applied neuroscience. We decided to make a joint PLC project of our idea and started a mission that all learners should be granted physical activity every day at school. Dejan would be focusing on the concept of focus in connection to academic achievement, and I would expand that to involve well-being, connecting it to the IB PYP PSPE curriculum.

We invited all classes in the PYP to join the pilot case. Two educators joined, so in total we had three classes, my own class included. Many educators argued that the time for physical activities would steal time from other activities. Back then, we didn’t succeed in getting most of the educators onboard and to join the pilot, because we didn’t manage to communicate well all the benefits there are from learners being physically active. Here is what happened in my classroom during the school year 2019-2020. We called the program Just Move and we implemented three 30 minute sessions, in addition to the two 60 minutes PE lessons that the PYP learners had each week. The PE educator designed the Just Move sessions to specifically target the area of focus, which would lead to better academic achievements. He did the testing before, during and after our PLC project, and the results were clear. All students had enhanced their focus skills.

After the Just Move physical activity sessions I used to ask my students how they felt, referring back to general well-being. One of my students coded a well-being barometer, so that we could have some data for it. This is how the program started to grow as the learners learnt more about the body-brain connection. Humans thrive when we can be physically active, because it stimulates our brain capacity. Our bodies were made for moving. For example, did you know that after only 20 minutes of sitting down (at a desk) our brain capacity slows down? This is because it’s a signal to our system that we are resting. My son asked me when he heard this fact, “But mama, why are we sitting down so much at school?” Wow, what a valuable provocation question coming from a 14 year old!

The stories are many and it is difficult to choose from them, but I would like to mention the sessions about the growth mindset too. I implemented a growth mindset practice with journaling and visual teaching. I connected it to the IB PYP ATL skill self management. It started with creating awareness, and incorporating it into their own learning on learning how to learn. On the last day of school, cards from parents and learners emphasised how they had loved the growth mindset focus. The learners had brought home that kind of being and communicating.

The learners in my class started to become increasingly fascinated by applied neuroscience as I introduced them to the intriguing world of neurotransmitters such as oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and cortisol. They started to learn about how they could use that knowledge and apply it to create safe and friendly spaces, stay motivated and learn better.

We got the principal onboard and in August 2020 all the PYP 2-6 classes embarked on the Just Move journey, putting the three sessions on the schedule. Wow, that was a big break-through! From January 2021, my colleague Nanna Spetz and I were involved again and continued to develop the program, working with the class educators on Hackathon Sprints to improve the program’s fit for the different age groups. We ran feedback and support sessions with the educators. This school year, 2021-22, Nanna will work half time as a Well-being Instructor at our school. That is pretty amazing! Nanna has a background as a Sports Psychologist and has a very positive outlook on life.

Fast forward to the school year 2020-2021.

Another example of learner agency and co-agency was the group who made an art and yoga project, combining their skills in the arts, painting canvases featuring encouraging words, and guiding the class through yoga exercises. We have a big Indian community in our school, so many learners are practitioners of yoga. We came to have a mindfulness moment every day after lunch. If I could show you photos, you would see learners sitting crossed-legged with eyes closed, just making a mindful transition from lunch to the next activity. In the initiating phases there was a lot of giggling, but as we proceeded into the school year, they fully owned this moment. What was the biggest learning experience? The students became organised and wanted to lead the Just Move sessions themselves. The beauty of authentic learner agency! One learner stepped up and became the coordinator and the learners just had to confirm with me about what type of training they wanted to lead; anaerobic, aerobic, agility, coordination, games, and so forth. In March 2020 the pandemic came into our lives, but in Sweden we continued to learn and teach onsite. Luckily we had a beautiful and sunny spring, so I decided to embark on more outdoor education. This also led to reflecting more of the concept of a classroom without walls. I started to use the local environment much more. We went to the park next to school more often, did Just Move followed by art, math or unit work. We walked to the outdoor folk museum, using the walk there to instill a habit of walking, and to talk about how clear the mind feels after a walk. At the park by the museum, we would unpack our backpacks and unfold our blankets and stationery and start the daily work. The learners absolutely loved how we had squirrels in our classroom, and how nice and calm it was to sit under a gigantic tree and feel a slight breeze while working on a language task. In the midst of the pandemic it was harmony under that gigantic tree.

Back to 2020, as we moved deeper into Swedish autumn and winter, the pandemic took its toll on us educators. Stress and fatigue kicked in, and, to a degree, fear of being at work in a building with 400+ people every day, whilst the third wave of the pandemic was at its peak, and our town was in the top three of affected cities in Sweden. It was a bizarre feeling going to work, when so many others worked from home. We were risking our own health every day. Many of our colleagues got Corona and we felt it was about time to create a wellbeing program for the educators too. The educator in the room is the number one factor of learner success according to Hattie. That is, how the educator facilitates the learning space. Educators deserve much more attention with regards to work well-being. Hopefully the pandemic has opened up a door emphasising educators’ health. Nanna and I created a program, An Athlete’s Mindset, that focuses on resilience skills to navigate the unpredictability of everyday life in 2021, which brought light to a growth mindset approach and boosted team culture. The feedback from the educators were warm words of appreciation. We so much needed the dedicated time to talk about these things!

Yvette Larsson is a Swedish IB PYP educator and co-founder of the education innovation concept AHA! Accelerating Education.



BY AVA SHABNUM HASAN In our previous blog for WISEducation, we explained five reasons why the ‘catch-up’ narrative in education threatens to harm the mental health of children and young people. This article goes on to provide five alternatives to focusing on academic ‘catch-up’ that will improve students’ mental wellbeing as they emerge from the pandemic, and their medium to long-term life outcomes. As we wrote in the previous blog: “Pressure to ‘catch-up’ negates the needs of many children and young people who have been impacted psychologically by events of the last year.” The UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists published its analysis in April 2021: “Our children and young people are bearing the brunt of the mental health crisis caused by the pandemic and are at risk of lifelong mental illness.”

Findings by the UN echo those in the UK, with SecretaryGeneral António Guterres stating: “As we consider investing in a strong recovery, support for children’s mental wellbeing must be a priority.” Recommended Approaches The five approaches are: Based on Trauma-Informed Practice Link with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - one of the best known theories of motivation. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs These approaches are not exclusive and can be woven into ‘catch-up’ scenarios. In fact, putting them in place will build students’ motivation to make ‘catch-up’ learning more effective.

In contrast, zero-tolerance behaviour policies and other shame-based behaviour management techniques worsen underlying painful emotional states which can lead to mental ill health. In responding to behaviours which may seem undesirable, Trauma-Informed Practice shifts the perspective from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”. Feeling safe in the knowledge that staff are making reasonable concessions in academic and other tasks, helps alleviate psychological stress. This works in tandem with assuring physical safety needs, such as measures to limit the spread of the virus in school, to help students feel emotionally safer. This recommended approach meets both the basic safety needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy and the need for belonging.

Source: SimplyPsychology The five approaches are: 1. Regular breaks, protected recreation, bite-sized learning These help to calm the amygdala, promoting more emotion regulation and engagement with the prefrontal cortex of the brain, enabling more effective learning. The amygdala is the brain’s emotional ‘smoke detector’, and it will have been working overtime for many children and adolescents during the pandemic. Activation of the amygdala creates potential emotional dysregulation including anxiety and anger, while chronic arousal can lead to mental health conditions. When the amygdala is activated, it overrides the activity of the brain’s pre-frontal cortex responsible for cognition, executive function and learning. This approach correlates with basic psychological needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy, specifically the need for rest as a foundation for motivation. Bite-sized learning also links with esteem needs higher up in the hierarchy, enabling students to feel a regular sense of accomplishment. 2. Building connection and a sense of safety

3. Opportunities to express feelings and thoughts

This involves proactively working to ensure that children and young people view adults in school as emotionally ‘safe’ people to talk to, and to help them resolve issues. This ‘emotional coregulation’ is a precursor to self-regulation by students who are struggling emotionally. It is…

These include regular Circle Times and guided discourse about questions and concerns students have, and what may be troubling them. It also encompasses less structured, more personal and creative expressions of thoughts and emotions, such as art, creative writing, and drama, which help process and give voice to challenging experiences, and the emotions and thoughts provoked.

“…built on creating a safe and secure adult–child relationship such that children learn to trust that their caregivers will help them through stressful situations and emotions.” (Fox, 1998)

Daily journaling is another proven tool for working through challenging emotions and experiences.

It very often pays dividends through mitigating problematic behaviour stemming from emotional dysregulation. For example, with students who are ‘acting out’, anger is often a secondary emotion, masking vulnerable underlying emotions such as anxiety and shame.

As well as the pandemic, many young people are deeply troubled by the ecological crisis and issues such as social inequality and injustice, which add to the potential for emotional turmoil and despair.


Regular opportunities to discuss these global issues in an informed and sensitive way can form an important part of validating young people’s concerns and helping them feel supported in navigating their futures.

It can also include training about Trauma-Informed Practice for staff to learn about the potential lifelong impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), risk and protective factors, and strategies to help mitigate the effects of traumatic experiences. This free one-hour online training provides an introduction.

This approach corresponds with fulfilling safety needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy, as well as meeting psychological needs for a sense of belonging.

This approach helps fulfil the basic need for safety in Maslow’s Hierarchy. In addition, equipping students with knowledge about mental wellbeing and healthy coping skills promotes the sense of accomplishment and selfesteem which Maslow outlines.

4. Actively promoting compassion and self-compassion This links with fostering connection and emotional safety, and is also important in its own right.

Gaining mastery in skills to regulate emotions and build psychological resilience can in turn lead students to the pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy, self-actualisation and achieving their full potential.

Distressing and traumatic experiences often lead to feelings of shame and attempts to repress true thoughts and feelings – the role of shame in trauma is well documented. If test scores and grades become paramount, students who are unable to perform in line with expectations are likely to internalise a sense of failure together with the shame that it engenders, adding to the shame they may already be feeling about their inner emotional state, and leading to greater potential for mental ill health. Modelling compassion and promoting self-compassion are key facets of improving students’ mental health and wellbeing. The “Self-Compassion Poster” here offers a helpful starting point. This approach links to psychological needs for belonging in Maslow’s Hierarchy. Compassionate approaches around workload and academic expectations also link with esteem needs, enabling students to feel a sense of accomplishment and prestige. 5. Learning about mental health and skills to help regulate emotions With mental health issues on the rise among young people even before the pandemic, and with the ecological, socio-economic and political challenges which the world currently faces, learning strategies to build psychological resilience constitute vital skills for life.

Conclusion Recent research from the UK and the UN warns that children and adolescents have borne the brunt of the global crisis, posing lifelong risks to their mental health. School leaders need to put appropriate measures in place to support young people’s emotional and mental recovery. The five approaches outlined in this article provide a starting point, in line with Trauma-Informed Practice and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, to improving mental wellbeing and life chances through childhood and into adulthood.

Ava Shabnum Hasan has 20 years’ experience in education and is the founder of Mentally Well Schools, which offers free resources, evidenceinformed programmes written using CBT, DBT and Mindfulness, and CPD training to improve the mental health and wellbeing of school children, adolescents and staff. Find out more at www.mentallywellschools.co.uk

Strategies from evidence-based approaches which have been efficacious in school settings include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). In addition to a robust PSHE curriculum and programmes to equip students with skills to manage their mental wellbeing, CPD training for all staff is a key aspect of promoting mental wellness of students, including training on how emotional issues and stress can manifest in children and young people, and early intervention and support strategies.



BY JULIA KNIGHT One of the most missed aspects of life throughout the pandemic has been social interactions with our friends and family. Schools have adjusted to rules and regulations with ease, but for staff and children the “new normal” in so many schools has meant a loss of social interaction. The pandemic has brought to the fore one aspect of education that has perhaps been overlooked in prepandemic times; the school day, and the way in which it is organised. Now, I’m not talking about flexi-hours for students, or realizing the dreams of teens and adjusting to later start times, but how much time do we dedicate to free time during the school day? Since the mid 90s, UK schools have reduced their break times to accommodate more learning and to provide more time in classrooms. But what about the value of play and down time?

On average the reduction has seen primary school children lose 45 minutes of playtime, whilst secondary school children have lost 65 minutes per week. The research by University College London's Institute of Education looked at the impact of this on children’s wellbeing, and found that the benefits of play or break time can be overwhelmingly positive for staff and students. There are aspects of life that cannot be taught in a classroom - social skills such as friendship and conflict management; leadership and team building skills through activities organised and led by students themselves. Then there is, of course, the physical exercise gains that are enormously beneficial to children. However the impact isn’t just on physical health, but also mental. In a study by Princeton University, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers found that more exercise increased calmness and reduced anxiety. This is good news for learners - if anxiety is reduced then learning is likely to be more effective, and this has school wide benefits and impact.

Of course, extending recreation time needs to coincide with a positive school ethos and one that teaches children how to overcome difficulties in the playground such as conflict management. Whilst play time should be fairly unstructured and student-led, staff must be vigilant in their playground duties. Students well-being is vastly improved by socially interacting with their peers, and particularly after the pandemic, children need more interaction, not less. Schools require outdoor and indoor spaces for children’s recreation. These spaces should provide opportunities for exercise, such as grassy area for ball games, climbing frames, and other outdoor equipment to challenge children’s natural curiosity, as well as spaces for quiet reflection. Schools that value wellbeing also value and understand the impact and importance of recreation time too. Teachers also need the space to recollect and regroup. Are schools missing a trick when it comes to organising breaktimes? Independent schools in the UK have on average around 20% of the school day given to break times, compared with 16% in the state sector. This is significant because independent schools outperform UK state schools academically - perhaps one way to reduce this gap could be as simple as extending and improving the breaktime provision.

There is definitely an argument for increasing breaktimes in schools, even if that means a slightly longer day. If, by providing longer periods of exercise and time away from studying, children reap the benefits - will this translate to staff wellbeing too? Schools that have longer breaktimes are actually improving the wellbeing of the children in their care. This will also have a knock on effect for staff, as a longer break means they will have more time to complete work, eat and socialise with their peers too. Teachers are adept at time management and will often spend their breaks marking, performing administrative tasks and / or helping students. This leaves little time for downtime with their colleagues, which is essential in a school. Staff wellness is paramount to ensure students' well-being. By increasing the breaktimes, staff can interact with each other, and be provided light relief from the sometimes heavy workload of school life. If we look at what we have missed most during the last two years, lengthening breaktimes is surely key.

Julia is currently Principal at EtonHouse International School, Bahrain, and has been teaching for 18 years in London, Bangkok and Bahrain.



BY NEIL BUNTING Wellbeing is not a new idea, but one of the many positives coming out of the tough times of the pandemic has been the increased awareness and realization that we all need to actively manage, not just be aware of, our mental and physical health. I have presented at several conferences on this theme whilst in China. I see signs of improvement here in China, escalated by the pandemic, but there is still a long way to go. Overall, I have been very pleased to see the increasing importance placed on wellbeing in the school contexts in which I have worked around the world. This was particularly noticeable in Dubai, which introduced a Minister of Happiness and placed wellbeing at the top of the school agenda, coinciding with the time I was there at Greenfield Community School (GCS). In fact, the Minister came to our school to officially open our new wellbeing room! How do we make a school healthy? How would you rate the health condition of your school? How can you measure it?

Part of it – with staff – is created by making all of the staff feel valued and empowered, and that the school is run transparently. Ultimately if these things are in place and the school feels happy, staff will stay, not just because of compensation. There are much more basic features that a school can establish to create a healthy atmosphere, and I just wanted to share five small changes that have made a considerable difference in my experience: 1.School Bells. A simple one, for me, is not to have any deafening bells clanging. I have worked in schools with and without bells, and I don’t think they compare. I don’t buy the argument that the children, and the teachers, need a bell going off, when they can easily train themselves to get to class on time. Bells make a school feel institutional and have connotations of a factory, whereas the sound of children chattering and laughing and birds tweeting around the school, and other natural elements, is wonderfully soothing for both staff and children. In fact, for the whole school community. Since experiencing and observing these benefits, I have insisted that all of my schools operate without bells.

4.Have fun together. Work should be fun. As the saying goes: those who play together, stay together. Find ways to have fun and relax together, encourage positivity and a glass half full attitude. In times of stress, promote the use of breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and time in the natural environment. In China we have teachers leading meditation with staff, and we organize several trips and events to bring teachers together. In the last four years these have included hiking, boat trips, cycling, barbecues, drop everything and read (both face to face and virtual) and staff dinners. These don’t have to be massively expensive occasions. Small gestures go a long way.

In Dubai we put in bird boxes and took out the alarms, none of this is expensive, but the effect is transformational. We introduced a mindfulness room, and a focus on wellbeing not as a luxury, but as a necessity. This initiative was led by one of our primary teachers and provided a meditative space that could be utilized by the whole school community. At GCS the parent teacher association (PTA) was very active in organizing events to show appreciation for our teachers. The winter picnic was a great hit, and the end of year appreciation day gave our teachers not just free coffee, but also opportunities for some pampering: facials, massages and messages of appreciation from the community. Having observed this, I encouraged our parent association in Shenzhen to organize appreciation events for teachers in Chinese tea drinking.

As a CIS evaluation school visitor, I have been delighted to see the increased importance placed on wellbeing for school communities. Many schools are now placing coffee shops and shared relaxation spaces at the heart of their school. Schools are rethinking classrooms and removing the institutional environment feeling. Schools such as ISHMC , for example, in Vietnam promoting a ‘no cells and bells’ ethos, and a very open feel to the environment. The classrooms, such as the 'AC/DC' Music room were named by the students, and the corridors were set up for table tennis time between classes.

2.Use of space. Another key feature a school needs is the sense of space and how you use the space. In Dubai we had a teacher that was a keen gardener introduce class allotments. Alan Titchmarsh, the British gardener, happened to be in town and happily agreed to visit and open our allotments and more importantly share his passion for gardening. Since then, I have worked with staff to have gardening as part of the CCA program in China, to teach children how to grow vegetables and the importance of connecting with nature. It's amazing how many teachers have been keen to get involved. A school that is cooped up and compressed can feel very claustrophobic, and this can be a real challenge for some schools that just don’t have the space to expand. Equally as grim is having no outside areas for children to play. Whatever the surface is, children need to get outside and get fresh air where possible. The difference in the mood of students is noticeable when they have been outside during their breaks. In Latvia the temperature is minus 20 in winter, but they still insist children spend time outside and recognize the benefits. In my current role in China, I insist that we provide balance to children’s education, and give them time outside wherever possible. Denmark sets a great example in this field as children up until the age of six set most of their time aside for play. 3.Creating a community and sense of cohesion. Ensuring that schools are places where students and staff feel they have a voice, are respected, and listened to, is a crucial factor in creating a healthy atmosphere. This creates powerful unity, and the sense that everyone is working as a team might function on a mountain rescue or on a life raft. Find the teachers who buy into the culture in a positive way, and ask them to share about it and to encourage others to join them in local pursuits. Over time it is great to see teachers heading off for weekends together and creating their own sense of wellbeing through comradery with their colleagues. In Oman and Dubai many of my teachers headed off for desert camps together which was great to see!

I also remember visiting a school in Lithuania, where there was little red tape, and classes regularly went out together for a walk through town or to museums. The community also walked to school or cycled – all of this helps. Encourage children to appreciate wide open spaces and nature, take them camping and nurture all kinds of experiential learning. Put plants in your classroom. Have inspiring and thought provoking quotes on the walls. Have a Twitter feed and a rolling video celebrating school achievements. Small changes can make a big difference, and inspiration for better wellbeing can come from lots of different places… enjoy the journey towards continually creating better schools for everyone!

Neil has more than 30 years’ experience teaching and leading schools in the UK, Middle East, and Asia. He has led school startups in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and China, and in the last 15 years he has focused on leading the four IB programmes. He is also an IB workshop leader and CIS school visitor.



BY JO MALONE “The greatest gift you can give to a student is the opportunity to get to know themselves. When you know who you are at your core, you have somewhere to go back to when the tough times come.” - Shonogh Pilgrim, Headteacher, Ansford Academy, UK You are probably familiar with personality insights, systems or frameworks. You may have answered a personality quiz online, or taken part in a deeper analysis during professional training or teambuilding. Personality frameworks have been around for centuries. In fact Hippocrates came up with the first around 400 BC. With wellbeing at the top of the agenda for schools, now is the perfect moment for educators to look more closely at personality styles. A glimpse into a student’s unique mix of styles can provide the teacher with insights not only into their learning preferences at that point in their development, but also the rationale behind their thinking, communication and behaviour. Such insights can have a significant impact upon student wellbeing and help to improve relationships both in and outside the classroom.

But while there are significant potential benefits to students, educators and schools from the application of personality insights, it is important to remember: Young people’s personalities are dynamic and can change rapidly over time. Different aspects of young people’s personalities are likely to be prevalent in social, learning and work contexts. Some young people may have a focused personality, but many exhibit a broad range of characteristics at different times. Relationships, communication and ‘self’ Whether a teaching approach falls under the category of ‘traditional’ or ‘progressive’, the research clearly points to quality relationships being key to effective transfer of knowledge, skills development and community building. For almost two decades, research has indicated that almost half of the factors contributing to a student’s academic success revolve around relationships with others – particularly teachers, and to a lesser extent family, peers and headteachers.

There is also a societal benefit for all of us, as described by YoungMinds, the UK based children’s mental health charity:

Source: John Hattie, Australian Council for Educational Research Regardless of the direction of transfer, in secondary education the conduit for knowledge is more often than not ‘communication’. And for effective transfer to occur, a good understanding of how best to communicate is required – whether verbal or non-verbal, written or spoken. But where do we start? First, we must understand how people ‘see’ and ‘hear’ us – we must get to know ourselves from the perspective of others. Second, we must understand how others prefer to be ‘seen’ or ‘heard’. In other words, by gaining insight into our own personality, and those of others, our ability to communicate effectively is significantly increased. Similarly, good wellbeing also starts with an improved understanding of the self. Not only is knowing yourself the beginning of all wisdom (Aristotle), it is the beginning of all wellbeing. At its core a more positive relationship with ourselves. The evidence for wellbeing impact

“A sharp focus on promoting wellbeing, building resilience and good mental health will improve outcomes for children and young people, and the nation as a whole. The benefits... are clear – increased employability, capability and productivity, reduced absence, reduced demand on services and improved family relationships and happiness.”

Personality insights and wellbeing So how does a better understanding of personality styles impact on wellbeing? One personality insights framework, developed specifically for young people by Persona Education and rooted in robust behavioural science research, provides a ‘thinking framework’ that helps secondary students accelerate and improve the acquisition of socialemotional skillsets. Developing these life skills enables them to cultivate more successful relationships, by consciously adapting their thinking, communication and behaviour, thereby achieving more positive outcomes in the life challenges they face, and helping to build and maintain mental wellbeing. The Persona thinking framework is based on four personality styles, which are descriptive, positive and rapidly internalised. The four styles are derived from observing two fundamental aspects of thinking, communication and behaviour: Assertiveness and Responsiveness.

The research tells us that happy and confident learners make more progress, and positive wellbeing in teen years is a key indicator for a more fulfilled life as an adult. "There is a strong international evidence base to support the assertion that whole-school approaches to promoting wellbeing can have an effect on academic attainment."

The evidence is pretty compelling – schools which invest in social-emotional wellbeing will reap the benefits in terms of academic attainment, improved relationships and behaviour, and better attitudes towards learning and school. Social and emotional competencies have actually been found to be a more significant determinant of academic attainment than IQ.

Assertiveness reflects how much someone tends to make statements or ask questions. Responsiveness reflects how much someone tends to focus on people or tasks. Combining these two aspects provides useful insights into anyone’s mix of personality styles.

In 2020 an Oxford University Wellbeing Impact Study found a clear correlation between students' wellbeing and their academic performance (as well as non-academic outcomes). An international study by the OECD in 2012 showed a correlation between emotional wellbeing and school success. And further evidence points to how pupils’ ability to manage interactions and emotions can support or impede their learning, their academic engagement, work ethic, commitment and school success.

Source: Persona Education


None of these styles are any better or worse than the others. Some people have a more focused personality, meaning their thinking, communication and behaviour tends to align mainly with one style. Others have a more balanced mix of styles, meaning they may exhibit one style when under pressure or being serious, and another when more relaxed. They may even tap into a third or fourth style at times, depending on the situation and who they are with. Everyone has a unique mix of personality styles. Personalities are about 50% determined by genes, and 50% by external factors such as family, school, friends and experiences. As a result of this – importantly – anyone’s mix of styles is very likely to change as they navigate their life journey, especially when they are young and still exploring their self-view, and how they want to world to see them. Equally importantly, context is crucial. Different aspects of personality become more prevalent depending on the situation. For many young people there is a noticeable difference between the dominant characteristics exhibited in a ‘learning’ context, and those seen in a ‘social’ context. And as they begin to experience workplace environments, a third mix of styles specific to the ‘work’ context will emerge. Naturally each of the four styles has its own positive characteristics, and some potential growth areas to be aware of. For example someone with a strong Sociable style who loves building relationships – a positive characteristic – may also fear having disagreements, which could be detrimental if it means they avoid saying what they really feel. Learning to adapt Now, what is really interesting and useful is to identify which of the styles are more or less evident at a point in a student’s life journey, how this affects their thinking, communication and behaviour, and how they come across to other people. Students can use a simple yet effective thinking framework such as the one described above not only for self-assessment, but also when considering other people around them, and how they might behave or respond. From there they can begin consciously to adapt in different situations, leading to improved social-emotional life skills, more informed decision-making, better relationships and enhanced wellbeing. Alongside this student journey of discovery and adaptation, teachers can also use these insights to understand why some students prefer different pedagogical approaches to others, and make their own adaptations. Knowing why one student likes to learn independently, while another prefers in-person discussion, for example, can help a teacher communicate better with each, and respond to their individual learning preferences.

For educators, this deeper understanding of students’ thinking and communication preferences helps teachers to individualise learning, and improve relationships both between teacher and student, and between student and student. Ansford Academy: Putting it into practice Schools which invest in a deeper understanding of the individuals who make up their communities reap the rewards of becoming more inclusive, improving student agency, and enhancing the wellbeing of all. Imagine a school community where a little bit of time and effort is invested in understanding each other’s personalities. Where everyone understands why they react in a certain way when under stress, and where individuals are equipped with a mental toolkit enabling them to adapt to one another’s needs for the sake of harmony, efficiency and improved outcomes. At Ansford Academy secondary school in the UK, they are doing just that. Over the past year the school has rolled out the Persona personality insights programme across whole year groups, using collapsed timetable days to immerse several hundred students and over 60 teachers in the Persona thinking framework. “The students at the academy have loved finding out about their personality styles and those of their friends.” - Tom Cue, Assistant Principal (Engagement & Achievement), Ansford Academy, UK As a result, the tutoring and coaching approach for which Ansford is known has become even more effective. Helping students with awareness of both ‘self’ and ‘other’ has enabled them to identify sticking points, and develop aptitudes such as perseverance, self-confidence and a growth mindset. Building on that social-emotional bedrock, they have learned how they can adapt to reach more positive outcomes in a range of life challenges, from friendship group issues, to use of social media, managing homework, preparing for exams, dealing with unexpected events, and even taking social action.

Jo Malone is a global education expert, with over two decades experience in teaching, e-learning, dialogic education and teacher training. A social and emotional learning (SEL) and PSHE thoughtleader, she is Director of Education at the Bristol based edtech company Persona Education, providing onboarding, guidance and support for schools and colleges using the Persona Life Skills personality insights life skills e-learning app www.persona-life.com





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