Mountain hikes, aromatherapy, yoga and meditation with Buddhist monks. Lessons were put on hold for one day last week as St Andrews International School's Dusit, Green Valley, Sukhumvit 107 and Sathorn campuses all switched the focus to student wellbeing.
The four campuses joined more than 70 other Cognita-owned schools to celebrate the group’s first-ever Global Be Well Day, as part of an ongoing campaign to improve young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
A spokesperson for Cognita said: “We believe that wellbeing is perhaps the biggest issue facing education today. On Friday September 27, ‘Global Be Well Day’, our 45,000 students around the world stopped normal lessons for the day to focus solely on wellbeing. The day took the form of a festival aimed at improving their understanding of wellbeing, with a myriad of practical activities on how to maintain it.”
Students at St Andrews International School Green Valley took part in a 4km hike through the mountains and a meditation session with Thai Buddhist Monks; at St Andrews International Dusit there was yoga, talks on the importance of sleep for parents, and mindfulness sessions for students from Nursery to Year 6.
St Andrews Dusit's principal, Caroline Ratcliffe, said: "Our children have learnt a lot and we are excited to continue learning and implementing all of the fantastic ways we can support our own and others' wellbeing.
"For this day to have an impact, it must drive positive change for us all. We want everyone in our community to be inspired to take small steps towards improving their wellbeing and so everyone here has committed to three steps to being well for the coming year."
The day at St Andrews International School Sukhumvit 107 started with a boot camp, followed by activities including a biathlon, acro yoga, aromatherapy play-doh, cookery and musical sessions.
And Global Be Well day was marked at St. Andrews Sathorn with a whole-school healthy breakfast, shared parent and child mindful art lessons, whole-school yoga and a shared regional mindfulness session.
A 2018 World Health Organisation report found that up to 20% of adolescents experience mental health conditions, and half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated. And a recent survey carried out by The Key, a support service for schools in the UK, found that eight out of 10 primary school teachers reported their students suffering from increased mental health issues around the time of their exams.
It is clear that the pressures of the modern world are weighing heavily on the young shoulders of students today – and initiatives such as Global Be Well Day are now an essential rather than optional aspect of any curriculum. Wellbeing needs to be more than a weekly yoga or mindfulness class, or the occasional wellbeing day, and we are seeing it move towards the top of the agenda within many schools.
Cognita’s Global Be Well Day is part of the group’s Be Well programme, which runs throughout the 2019-2020 academic year and beyond. Teachers have access to a suite of learning resources, films, lesson plans, toolkits and other content for to support mental wellbeing throughout the school year.
Cognita has worked with the BBC’s Dr Rangan Chatterjee, sleep scientist Dr Matthew Walker of Berkeley and UCL brain expert Emma Kilford to develop video-based resources for teachers, students and parents. And the group includes a Be Well section on its website featuring tips on how to improve sleep and deal with disruptions such as nightmares and insomnia; how to eat your way to better mental wellbeing; advice on how young people can understand the biology of the brain to manage their emotions; and recommendations on screen time for young people.
Cognita’s CEO, Chris Jansen says: “We’ve worked with top experts in their field and drawn on the diversity of experience across our global group to provide a comprehensive set of tools offering the latest insights, expertise and advice gathered on the critical aspects of young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
“Cognita is committed to sharing this work as widely as possible so that educators, parents and young people everywhere can access it and benefit from it. We believe in creating an inspiring world of education that builds self-belief and empowers individuals to succeed, wherever they go to school.”
The group of St Andrews International Schools are not alone in developing a school culture that supports wellbeing. International schools across Thailand are targeting the emotional health of their students to help ease the pressure to perform in exams, address the negative consequences of social media, encourage a positive body image. Examples include daily mindfulness sessions; wellbeing education lessons; school counselling teams on campus; and parent workshops focused on different aspects of mental health.