From the Principal’s Desk

Today’s article ‘From The Principal’s Desk’ has been guest-written by Peter Fremaux, Head of Secondary.  Inspired by the recent publication of the KHDA Student Well-being Census results, Peter shares his thoughts on student health, happiness and well-being at GCS.

During Secondary lunchtime on Wednesday there was an almighty cloudburst.  As I stood, rain dripping from my nose, I realised is it exactly seven months since I arrived in Dubai and this was the first time I had seen rain, having escaped the showers others have had.  What was interesting is how the rain made the students so excitable and I thought about how much weather affects us.  In previous schools I remember how whenever it was really windy, student engagement fell and clearly when the weather heats up some students find it harder to focus.

We all know how children are feeling has an enormous effect on how well they learn.  We have recently received the results of the Dubai Student Wellbeing Census.  This was a survey completed by 65,000 students across Dubai.  The students were in Grades 6 to 9, but the results are clearly relevant to children of all ages and what it shows are a variety of things that affect how students feel.  We only receive overall results for all the students and for different Grades, and do not have specific results for individual students.

We will be providing more detailed information, but some of the headlines give a real insight in to how our students feel and the things that affect this.  As we know a healthy diet make us feel better and the better the diet the better children learn.  It was good to see our students eat more fruit and vegetables than the average, though 10% still don’t eat enough.  Similarly, our students get more sleep than the average, but I was surprised by how many aren’t in bed by 10pm.  I find it hard to work if I don’t have enough sleep and lots of research shows this is the same for children.  It was also pleasing to see that the overwhelming majority feel they are healthy and don’t suffer from poor body image, though a very small minority clearly need support with this.

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Happy students at GCS

The survey also gives us information about how students are feeling about school.  It was great to read how our students say they have friends from a wide variety of nationalities and cultures and how diverse are the languages they speak.  We are truly an international school that welcomes everyone wherever they are from.  What was also interesting was how students feel happy about school with 95% saying they get along with most of their teachers and the overwhelming majority feeling connected to school.

Finally, the survey gives us an insight in to how students feel in general and again the overwhelming majority feel positive.  Students at GCS are more optimistic, less sad and have fewer anxieties than the average.  Clearly though we do have students that are less positive and like other schools, boys tend to be more optimistic and happier.

Like the trend nationally and internationally, well-being is lower for students in their early teenage years and these students tend to be less healthy, get less sleep and feel less connected to education.  What we need to do now is consider these results further and then put in place things that will further improve the children’s well-being.

As we know the success and happiness of students is achieved through a partnership between the school, parents and the students themselves.  The healthy diet and relatively high levels of sleep that parents ensure their children receive have clearly impacted on children’s general well-being and definitely affect the success they have in school.  The commitment and caring attitudes of all colleagues at GCS have helped make almost all students feel connected and positive about education and as we know as students get older they themselves have to learn to make the right decisions.

Clearly though none of us can sit back and relax.  Whereas being a teacher needs continued dedication and perseverance, this is nothing compared to the dedication and perseverance that parents need.  Being a parent is not always easy, especially as students enter their teenage years, which can be a time of challenge.  What all colleagues at GCS look forward to is continuing to work with parents to support your children, not only in achieving success in learning but also in being happy, healthy and confident.

– Peter Fremaux –

Head of Secondary

Greenfield Community School

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