Interview with the Principal: Mark McVeigh
How did this role come about?
It is widely recognised that the growing pressures on children in the modern age can have a significant impact on their wellbeing. My wife, Lisa, was appointed as staff and student Wellbeing Manager at DBS, to develop student support, communicate concerns, and train teachers. Her expertise in healthcare management and experience in children’s pastoral care made her ideally placed to take on this vital role. We are being proactive at DBS by equipping students from a very young age with the tools to be happy and fulfilled. The success of the wellbeing programme was recognised in the recent evaluation by the Council of International Schools (CIS), contributing to DBS becoming a CIS member school.
How does wellbeing sit with the vision of DBS?
Our enhanced British curriculum ensures that students acquire an understanding of the importance of exercise and they are encouraged to be resilient. Students are given individual support to help them to engage with a challenging academic curriculum. The DBS focus on creative thinking and entrepreneurship, prepares students to be great global leaders, who understand how to promote the wellbeing of those they lead. In preserving Thai values, we teach our students the importance of respect, compassion, mindfulness and charity.
How do you ensure student wellbeing?
Wellbeing is intrinsically aligned with the vision of DBS. Programmes for each year group have
We take all the appropriate measures to ensure that the health of students is promoted. Lisa is a qualified emergency first response instructor, so she runs courses for the staff with the aim of all being trained, and she is extending this to the student body. She also ensures that the school nurses are supported. Students are involved in numerous wellbeing activities, including the extensive co-curricular focus on sport. Lisa oversees student choices in the Dining Hall, too, and students whose plates lack colour (fruit and vegetables) are asked to make wiser choices! A high profile ‘5-a-day’ campaign backs this up.
Why is there such a focus on staff wellbeing?
If you invest time in staff wellbeing this has a ripple effect throughout the school. Happy teachers, who believe in DBS, will create a happy school delivering the best education for the students. Workload must be appropriate, and positive commitment and excellent outcomes should be recognised. Lisa is part of the team that ensures that staff have an effective voice as stakeholders in the school. Induction of new teachers reflects a nurturing community vision, making it a thoroughly positive experience for the new team. An important aspect is for senior managers to have an open door policy and ensure staff know they can talk to them about any concerns. Lisa promotes teacher activities, too, including yoga, Muay Thai and a book club.
One of the strengths of DBS is that all who teach the British curriculum have experience of it. In practice this means that the vast majority of the teachers are from the UK. Lisa and I recognise that working a long way from home can have a significant impact on staff wellbeing, so we try to make teachers feel safe, valued, encouraged, and able to grow both personally and professionally. An open dialogue is maintained, addressing concerns when appropriate, which can be as simple as helping with the stressful parts of working in a foreign country, like obtaining visas and setting up a bank account. We also have excellent staff accommodation on site, so new teachers do not have to find accommodation when they arrive.
What about the parents?
Lisa maintains and promotes an effective partnership with students’parents in all areas of student wellbeing, which includes running the representative parental committee (Friends of DBS). She organised a week-long ‘Denla 5’initiative, promoting a multitude of health and wellbeing messages for the whole DBS community: parents, staff and students. It proved to be extremely successful. Each day, there was a different focus: exercise, mindset, diet and sleep. Workshops were held for parents covering these areas, including cooking, sleep tips, exercise and yoga.
Do you think that the new Wellbeing Manager role has been successful?
Without a doubt, yes. An effective community needs someone to manage its care and wellbeing. When Lisa and I started at DBS, we joked that Lisa was in charge of happiness. It turns out that this is not far from the truth…