Q: Could you tell us about the wellbeing work that you do at Rugby School Thailand?
A: As Rugby School Thailand 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 action 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.
Q: What have been some of the challenges that you have faced, and how have you tried to overcome them?
A: 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 Rugby School Thailand 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.
Q: At what point did you feel that you need a wellbeing policy/programme?
A: 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 three areas of the school.
“Reaching out and maintaining a crucial line of support with the more vulnerable members of our community has proved problematic at times.”
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 three 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.
Q: What have been some of your proudest achievements in relation to wellbeing, and what has the impact been?
A: The development of multi-agency working internally across the school. We have been 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 lends itself 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.
Q: Can you tell us about how your wellbeing focus supports all of your school community, and how the different elements join up?
A: 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.
“Even those students whose wellbeing appears strong are discussed so that none of our students slip through the net.”
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 per cent 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 creativity. 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.
Q: Do you use any products to support wellbeing in your school?
A: 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”.
“If our staff’s wellbeing is compromised, then that could potentially filter down and affect the delivery of the wellbeing programme for our students.
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. This enables us to put more emphasis on what is important right now in terms of adolescent mental health and wellbeing.
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.
Q: If you were to give three top tips to schools when devising a wellbeing policy, what would they be?
A: In the process of devising a whole school policy for your community it is important to look at the specific areas below in the planning stages, however we also understand that context is very important also, so that factors such as culture, customs and diversity are considered along the way.
- 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 counselling 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 Rugby School Thailand and is PA to the head of senior school as well as deputy designated safeguarding lead for the senior school.
This article first appeared in the latest edition of Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine, out now.