A spotlight on wellness

How three schools are taking important steps this year to improve the well-being of their students and staff

Wellington Primary School, Dubai

Responses from Joanne Urry

What steps is your school taking to improve well-being?
WPS has chosen to undertake a Well-being Award over the next year. This takes the school through the process of identifying areas for development in supporting the well-being of students and staff. We are compiling an evaluation report of what we do well and creating an action plan.

What activities/sports do teachers and students engage in to improve physical health?
WPS offers students a wide range of extra-curricular activities (ECAs) as well as weekly exercise classes for staff alongside regular well-being weeks that promote healthy living and the importance of exercise.

What guidelines does your school follow to implement healthy eating practices?
Students are encouraged to bring a healthy lunch box to school. Unhealthy treats for birthdays and celebrations are not allowed in school to monitor what students eat.

How do you encourage parental engagement to ensure policies are followed through at home?
WPS holds parent workshops focusing on a wide range of well-being practices. These include talks from nutritionists, psychologists and teachers focused on the importance of mental health, exercise and healthy lifestyles.

Does your school engage in spiritual practices to boost self-esteem and what are they?
Mindfulness breaks are built into the school schedule as needed. Teachers adapt activities to suit the personal needs of their class and to build self-esteem.

What wellness community events/projects is your school involved in?
WPS has been involved in the following initiatives:
-Dove Self Esteem Project
-Anti-Bullying Week
-Well-being Week – links with providers such as Kibsons (providing fruit) and nutritionists (talks for parents) as well as promoting healthy treats for students and staff
-World Mental Health Day

Are you planning to introduce any new initiatives in 2020?
Well-being will form a significant part of life at WPS this year as we work towards gaining our Well-being Award. Our team of Well-being Champions are moving forward with creating a healthy and happy community where well-being is at the heart of the school.

The Millennium School, Dubai

Responses from Principal, Ambika Gulati

What steps is your school taking to improve well-being?
The well-being of students and staff is hugely important at The Millennium School, Dubai (TMS), so much so that it’s written into the school motto; ‘we choose to care’. Following the Well-being Census by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), TMS is striving to strengthen its well-being journey.

Well-being initiatives for 2020

  1. ‘Morning mindfulness’ was introduced over the past two years. This involves two minutes of meditation to give students and staff time to connect with themselves. The initiative is a success, reflected in a survey conducted by TMS student leaders, which revealed that 73 per cent of students strongly agree that the initiative should continue as they find it helps to boost calmness as well as concentration and focus
  2. Last year, the school rolled out a similar initiative for middle school students; ‘happiness hour’ permits children to play board games on campus. Students shared their experiences, resulting in seniors also requesting a ‘happiness hour’ every month
  3. To further promote student well-being, the Counselling and Learning Support Department held workshops on topics such as anxiety and stress management, the importance of sleep and nutrition and the ill effects of substance abuse
  4. The school hosted a ‘values matter’ workshop with the aim of helping both students and parents to improve communication channels. This was extremely well received and the findings have been shared with the wider school community
  5. In terms of staff well-being,
    the school formed a 10-member committee with representation from all faculty departments. Named ‘Joy Radiators’, the committee has, in the past year, organised popcorn and movie mornings, Zumba sessions,
    Eid celebrations and a well-being day for staff. Further plans include organising a workshop on growth mindset and stress management for staff members, as well as weekly mindfulness and yoga sessions for the entire school community.

Student initiative
TMS student leaders have played an active role in promoting well-being, kicking off with a workshop for ‘well-being champions’ made up of one student from every grade. These workshops explored how well-being could be further enhanced at their school. Based on their findings, as well as their analysis of the Dubai Well-being Census 2018, the students put together an action plan that they shared with the management board. Student leaders also conducted several talks on the topic of bullying and how it can be prevented at TMS, which adopts a zero-tolerance approach to bullying.

Our Own English High School,
Al Ain

Responses from Blessy Varghese

What steps is your school taking to improve student well-being?
-Our ‘well-being action plan’ includes building a culture of respect and acceptance and making the school a safe environment
-A focus of the month that enhances the development of a skill that is in line with the student learner profile and students’ own reflections in the Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) Survey
-The appointment of ‘happiness ambassadors’
-The appointment of an anti-bullying squad
-Our ‘befrienders programme’ initiated by the student leaders to reach out to new students and/or those who require emotional support.

What steps is your school taking to improve staff well-being?
-Positive psychology strategies under the PERMA (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement) model applied to equip staff with tools to handle personal/professional pressures
-‘Speak your mind’ sessions with the school counsellor to understand pressure points
-Conducting well-being audits for staff
-Embedding a culture of respect and empathy.

What activities/sports do teachers and students engage in to improve physical health?
-Teachers participate in friendly matches with students during the annual athletic meets
-Weekly house assembly includes exercise, Zumba and/or aerobics
Inter-house and Inter-School sporting and athletic events
-Fruit Salad Day, Green Day and Healthy Eating Days.

What guidelines does your school follow to implement healthy eating practices?
-School canteen is in complete adherence to Food Control Authority Policies
ADEK Policies WRT BMI are strictly adhered to and one-on-one counselling is arranged with students
-Regular visits from healthcare professionals to educate on healthy eating
-Two nurses and a visiting doctor employed to monitor all of the above.

Does your school engage in spiritual practices to boost self-esteem and what are they?
-As part of our ongoing ‘action research project’ some classes are currently engaged in mindful meditation at regular intervals.

What wellness community events/projects is your school involved in?
-Mental health awareness month
-Mini Global Village (A cultural day to promote brotherhood and fraternity amongst 29 nationalities represented in the school community)
-Garden of Tolerance Project in partnership with the Ministry of Tolerance.

Are you planning to introduce any new initiatives in 2020 to improve wellness and health?
-Two Thursday afternoons each month to be set aside to conduct well-being workshops and sporting activities for staff
-TED Talk-Mind Matters (student-led).