It is a great pleasure to introduce WISEducation’s very first Newsletter, due for release on August 17th 2020! I thought I might begin this blog (and jointly, newsletter) by providing you all with a little background. This newsletter came into existence following discussions with a former colleague and mentor, during which we identified a simultaneous growing demand for wellbeing-based materials designed for the international school context, and a significant gap in understanding of the complexities of wellbeing within these environments. This is further complicated by the blending of personal views, opinions and histories of students, staff and parents on some of the subject matters that the ‘wellbeing’ umbrella encompasses, particularly within territories and cultures that are not our own.
I would like to explain the rationale and scope behind this newsletter and vision going forwards, but first it may be useful to provide a more succinct definition of what we mean by wellbeing within the context of this newsletter. According to Davis (2019, p.1 ), wellbeing can be defined as “the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and ability to manage stress.” The increasing focus on wellbeing in a school setting is perhaps beyond the scope of this introduction but it feels common sense to focus on this within a school environment. Further, a leading UK-based charity championing the wellbeing and mental health of young people, YoungMinds UK, produced a report in 2017 entitled ‘Wise Up: Prioritising Wellbeing in Schools’ which highlighted the current mental health crisis in schools, drawing attention to the notion that there is a staggering estimated three children in every classroom that have a diagnosable mental health problem, and that suicide is the most common cause of death in boys aged between 5 and 19 years of age (Office for National Statistics, 2015; 2016).
Whilst it is important to acknowledge that these statistics are being reported from the UK, we can imagine, knowing our students in the capacities of teachers, support workers, or counsellors within an international school context, that indeed the problem of mental health difficulties are also very much prevalent within the communities that we work in. Whilst again it is important to recognise that this next piece to be highlighted was also UK-based, research by Professor Claudia Bernard (2017) at Goldsmiths, University of London sought to understand what is known about child neglect within affluent families. The report highlighted that there is currently a lack of empirical research that has indeed examined the experiences of children within affluent families, with the majority of research conducted to date having explored the relationship between childhood poverty and neglect. To this end, Bellis et al. (2014) has explicated that there is in fact a growing body of evidence to suggest that child neglect occurs to a significant extent from families belonging to the highest social classes. If you take this fact into account, along with the anecdotal understanding that international schools are rich in cultural diversity, that many families belong to a higher social status, and along with that often undertake time-demanding professions, it would suggest a need for a sensitive, and school and context specific, approach to wellbeing within the international school environment that we all have the opportunity to work within.
The role of wellbeing falls under different remits and looks different depending on the school curriculum of choice and the expertise of the staff available. Whilst at American Curriculum schools, the remit of wellbeing may well typically fall under the more established role of the School Counsellor, within British schools this may come under the umbrella of PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) and may or may not be solely delivered by classroom teachers and/or the school counsellor.
Research into wellbeing into international schools is very young, with Dr Angie Wigford and Dr Andrea Higgins research in collaboration with ISC Research leading the way with their report they published in 2018 which was entitled ‘Wellbeing in International Schools’. This research aimed to identify how wellbeing was promoted within the international school context, and what the barriers to wellbeing were, as reported and recorded via a large online survey aimed at teachers and leadership staff.
The hope of the WISEducation newsletter is to further add to this new but growing body of literature and understanding on wellbeing in international schools with the focus of the newsletter being threefold; (1) to provide a place for discussion on how international schools can provide wellbeing; (2) to showcase work being done within international schools; and (3) to provide a community for school teachers, counsellors, school leaders and parents to come together to support the wellbeing of their students and staff. This newsletter will be broad in its focus and will aim to discuss topical issues that affect the wellbeing of our international school community, to discuss the social-emotional challenges facing our communities, and will pay attention to university school counselling and guidance. Our aim is to ensure that we provide spaces where our students can grow into globally minded, socially and culturally conscious young people, that are equipped with the tools and resources that they require to overcome challenges, learn from failures, and achieve success at school and beyond. I very much hope this newsletter provides you with ideas, contacts and a community that is beyond the words in these pages.
Thank you for your support of this endeavour. I hope you find this blog/newsletter useful in your wellbeing journey.
Dr Sadie Hollins
Bellis, M.A., Hughes, K., Leckenby, N., Hardcastle, K.A., Perkins, C., & Lowey, H. (2014). Measuring mortality and the burden of adult disease associated with adverse childhood experiences in England: a national survey. Journal of Public Health, 37(3), 445-454.
Bernard, C. (2017). An Exploration of How Social Workers Engage Neglectful Parents from Affluent Backgrounds in the Child Protection System. Retrieved from https://www.gold.ac.uk/media/documents-by-section/departments/social-therapeutic-and-comms-studies/Report—Neglect-in-Affluent-Families-1-December-2017.pdf
Davis, T. (2019). What Is Well-Being? Definition, Types, and Well-Being Skills. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201901/what-is-well-being-definition-types-and-well-being-skills
Higgins, A., & Wigford, A. (2018). Wellbeing in International Schools: The 2018 Report. Retrieved from http://wiissh.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Wellbeing-Survey-2018.pdf
Office for National Statistics. (2015). What are the top causes of death by age and gender? Retrieved from http://visual.ons.gov.uk/what-are-the-top-causes-ofdeath-by-age-and-gender/
Office for National Statistics. (2016). Selected children’s well-being measures by country. Retrieved from https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/adhocs/005283selectedchildrenswellbeingmeasuresbycountry
YoungMinds (2017). Wise Up: Prioritising Wellbeing in Schools. Retrieved from https://youngminds.org.uk/media/1428/wise-up-prioritising-wellbeing-in-schools.pdf