Being Human: Pastoral Care at RST

“A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone”. So says Matt Haig, author of ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’ which confronts the reality of rising rates of stress and anxiety in our technological era.

As a school we have pastoral responsibilities to keep our children happy. We offer them a positive, nurturing environment to learn, while also aiming to give them the tools to adapt to the challenges posed by the changing world around them. Educational philosopher, Guy Claxton, looks at the way many schools purport to “(prepare) their students for a ‘lifetime of change’”, but how the difficulty is to “prevent these fine words slipping back into a concern with improving examination performance”. Academic excellence will always be a key focus for us, but the development of wider interests, character and core values is equally vital. The emphasis on developing the human in such a fast-paced technological world is a fundamental part of our pastoral care here at Rugby School Thailand.

With a prevailing era of wellbeing, the benefits of self-care and mindfulness within organisations have become widely recognised. Wellness (in its holistic sense), promotes happiness, which enriches performance. It is deep in our DNA to devote time to physical health (after all, our roots lie in the very school that invented the game rugby), but we also whole-heartedly believe in the power of emotional health. The Rugby school motto is ‘the whole person, the whole point’, and our holistic approach to education underpins this. Much of the learning here happens far beyond the classroom walls, with activities that nurture mind, body and spirit, across the 80-acres of countryside we have at our disposal.

Studies have shown that simply exposing children to nature can reduce stress by as much as 28%, while also improving mood and cognitive performance. Nature distracts from civilized life and allows the mind to ‘be’ in an age of connectivity where there is little time for that. Our daily sports programme, sailing lakes and a unique Outdoor Education Centre (where children can learn the likes of archery and bushcraft), mean exposure to nature is part of life here.

Nature aside, one of the reasons we dedicate a large portion of our timetable to co-curricular activities and sport is for children to indulge their curiosity and discover new things that make them tick. It gives every child a chance to excel in a fun and social environment, and ignites passion for continual learning.

Dr Nick Bayliss notes the extraordinary benefits of simple social activities, such as community action. He says it “elevate(s) ones happiness, physical health, self-respect and sense of being able to make a difference”. The simple act of doing good for (and with) others, is actually doing good for yourself. Our pupils experience this self-service regularly through our Community Action Programme (CAP), which this year has seen RST senior students working alongside the Wat Koh school in Rayong to host a charity Fun Run that raised money for lunches and sports facilities that need additional funding at Wat Koh. The feel-good factor at the event was palpable.

So while technology has advanced even within the space of this article, and the world remains forever unpredictable, our hope is to provide a steadfast space at RST where pupils are happy and healthy. Somewhere that never loses sight of the human, and the importance of the whole self. Somewhere to learn the art of adaptability, so whatever this fast and nervous planet throws at them, our children are more than able to cope.

Holiday Camp at Rugby School Thailand

Children jumping in a sports day race

Behind the scenes… learning through play in Nursery

We go behind the scenes with Miss Joanna, Head of Nursery, to find out why her working day is all about learning through play!

What is your biggest belief when it comes to EYFS education?

That is a tricky question as there are so many things that spring to mind… I think my biggest belief is that education is about instilling a deep love of learning that affords children the courage to develop their imagination and explore their individuality. Children should be excited by their experiences in school and learning should ultimately be fun for both the learner and the teacher. In their earliest years, I believe this means that children should be given the time and space to explore their individuality by learning through play. This approach allows children to learn how to challenge themselves, problem-solve, share with others, use their own senses, communicate… the list is endless.

Why are these years so vital to development?

There is lots of highly-respected research out there that points to the fact that a solid early years foundation is the key to the future success of a child. It is so vital to get the years from 0-5 right so children have a good base to build upon as they grow through their educational years. Someone once described the importance of early years to me with the analogy of building a house and it has stayed with me ever since. It is like someone choosing to create a really beautiful loft conversion; with all shiny new appliances and lovely decoration. Without a solid foundation for the house itself, this shiny new loft conversion would soon come tumbling down. Early years education can be seen in much the same way; you get the foundations right, you give children every opportunity to have a great future ahead of them.

Why is it important for kids to get messy?

Messy play is not just about having fun, it teaches children to explore and challenge a wide range of senses at one time. I often say that the messier the uniform at the end of the day, the more of a sign it is that the child has had a successful and rich learning experience. On top of this, messy play is a great way to get young children to confidently communicate as they share their thoughts and ideas around how certain materials feel, smell and look. I will often look at the messy tray in my own class and see a large group, playing happily together, smiling, laughing and talking while they explore an open-ended activity as a group. Messy play can be calming as well; repetitively exploring the look and feel of slime, for example, can be quite meditative. Getting messy is just great, I cannot advocate for it enough!

What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?

The little smiles on the children’s faces when they see you in the morning. My job is rewarding in so many different ways, but developing those safe and trusting relationships with these vulnerable little beings is definitely the reason why I get up in the mornings! I also love seeing how far they come in the year. I know that’s the same for all teachers of all ages, but there’s something about these little people that come in covered in tears when they first start, growing in confidence and ending the year being able to listen, follow instructions, speak English and share in the fun of life together.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Getting the children from one place to another without any tears! At the start of the year, it is quite honestly like Monty Python’s ‘100 yard dash for people with no sense of direction’. But by the end of the year, they’re walking in a lovely little train from one side of the Pre-Prep to the other all in one line and that’s a huge achievement; and they know it too!

What is unique about education at RST?

What makes our Early Years unit so strong is the emphasis and time we allow for play-based learning. In Pre-Nursery, almost every activity that is on offer is open-ended, and while the stimulus is there to inspire the children, what they choose do with it and how far they decide to take it is entirely up to them. On top of this, the Specialist Teachers that we have make a great contribution to the children’s development. Each child has two PE lessons, a Swimming lesson and a Music lesson in Pre-Nursery and I feel this is pretty special at this age.

How does a typical day in your class embody the RST ethos?

In the Nursery years we teach the children socially, emotionally, physically, culturally and spiritually, as well as academically. Our school mantra is ‘the whole person, the whole point’ and Pre-Nursery embodies this in all that we do. It is not about academic excellence for me at this age, but about instilling children with a real zest for learning; providing them with fun and engaging school experiences that mean they enjoy coming in every day. It is about lighting that spark that makes them want more. If I can achieve this, then it has been a successful year for me!

 

RST Art Exhibition: 25-29 June 2019

You’re invited to our

ART EXHIBITION

Open Evening

Tuesday 25th June 2019

from 5pm-7pm

in the Sixth Form Centre

On 25th June, from 5-7pm, we’ll be opening the doors to our very first public Art Exhibition!      Join us for refreshments as you peruse the collective artistic talents of our Prep and Senior students from this year.

The exhibition will remain open from the 25-29th June and will be open daily from 8am-6pm (Weds-Fri) and 10am-1pm (Sat).

Behind the scenes… the staff football team

We’re going behind the scenes with Mark Symmonds, our ‘Year 1 Sharks’ teacher who helps manage the staff football team.

Why do you think having something like this is important?

We have a huge campus and the school is growing all the time, so we don’t cross over with other areas of the school as much as we’d like. The football team brings a group together and allows us to make better connections as individuals, as well as giving better understanding of each other’s personal strengths at school. Many of the staff I’ve employed for the RST Holiday Camp have come off the back of learning their characters when playing for our team.

What’s your role within the staff football team?

Due to my aging bones I have taken a step back from playing and become the manager of the team ensuring we are competitive on the pitch. I have been tasked with communicating with the league on the fixtures, arranging the team for each game and bringing us together at the end of each season to celebrate our successes.

Who do you play against?

We play in a two-division six-a-side league and we are currently in Division One. The teams consist of a range of nationalities. There are some teams from the local area, teams from other local and international schools, as well as teams from Russia and other parts of the world.

Are the matches just a bit of fun, or do you take them quite seriously?

Initially it began as a bit of fun but as we played more we realised that we were able to compete and so it has become a little more serious. We ensure that we give everything we have on the pitch and support one another no matter the result; just as we do with the children in school.

How do you feel after football each week?

Win, lose or draw (and even if we are a little sore) we enjoy getting together after the game to celebrate our success and discuss where we can be better next match. The bonds that we have developed has been a real positive to being part of the team.

What are your future hopes and aspirations for RST’s football team?

Much the same as I say to the children I teach, we all just need to keep improving and aiming a little higher each time. We won promotion in our first season, as well as the Vase, so securing our place in the First Division and then pushing on for more success from there. With the new intake of staff we’re planning to create two teams next academic year, so we can involve more people. I think the aim is to have one more competitive team, and a team for staff who want to keep it more fun.

Marcus Large kicking the ball in a Rugby School Thailand staff football match Friends cheering the Rugby School Thailand staff football team

 

Behind the scenes… sailing on the school lake

We caught up with Ben Collings how sailing on the school lake makes him feel, and why it draws on his musical talent.

What’s your role here at RST?

Primarily, I’m a class music teacher for the Pre-Prep and Prep schools. I also teach one-to-one singing lessons to students in the Prep and Senior schools, as well as directing choirs, smaller instrumental ensembles, teaching music technology and coaching sailing.

When did you start sailing?

I started sailing when I was about 10 years old, so roughly the age that children start learning to sail here at RST. My family were inspired to join a sailing club back in the UK following a flotilla sailing holiday around the Ionian islands one summer. Within a year, my Dad and I were competing together at the Miracle Class national sailing championships.

How does sailing make you feel?

Sailing provides me with an unparalleled sense of freedom and tranquillity, especially when I am out on the water alone. I find it the perfect way to unwind and take my mind off things. It is also a fantastic shared experience, when you are in a two-person crew. The sense of challenge and strategy that is presented each time you go out on the water, particularly when racing, is invigorating and to have the opportunity to literally feel the force of nature in your hands as you are holding a sail is one that I would recommend to anyone.

What’s the best thing about running this co-curricular activity?

It has to be seeing the enjoyment and sense of achievement that the children get from doing it each week. Our sailing coaching staff are highly talented and I have learnt a huge amount myself from them.

How does sailing compare with your daily role as a music teacher?

Sailing a boat correctly requires tremendous attention to detail, patience and practice, in order to succeed. Similarly, when learning an instrument or a particular piece of music, you must also pay attention to each minute detail to realise the composer’s intentions. Even the smallest adjustment can make a huge difference.

How does sailing benefit the pupils who do it?

Sailing provides the students with the opportunity to get away from the daily classroom routine and experience adventure. No two days are the same on a boat and the children quickly learn to deal with challenges that they face. Sailing also gets them to use the skills that they learn every day at school in a new and unique environment, perhaps without them even realising.

What makes it such a popular activity to offer?

We are in a unique position at RST to be able to offer sailing thanks to the outstanding facilities on our huge campus, which includes several lakes. Not many school’s have the space to make sailing an activity on-site! Our visiting team of instructors are also brilliant teachers, and have all competed at national and international level in the sport.

How does sailing embody the RST ethos?

Through sailing, the children learn to apply the academic knowledge they gain in the classroom in a unique setting with real life challenges. For example, our pupils can use geography to identify wind directions and look for patterns on the water; they are able to use mathematical angles to project an appropriate route through a sailing course. The sense of discipline that our pupils learn from sailing also enables them to succeed in a classroom environment, so you might say they were symbiotic.

Two boats sailing at Rugby School Thailand

A teacher conducting a choir - Rugby School Thailand

Ben Collings singing

Behind the Scenes… the staff choir

This week, we caught up with Jo Westlake on the exultations of singing in the staff choir.

Why have a staff choir?

Music is a universal language. Every culture makes music. It unites and brings people together from all walks of life. As avid singers ourselves, Mr Collings and I thought a staff choir would be the perfect way for staff to get together and provide an outlet after busy school days. Group singing is such a good ice-breaker, and the boost you get from creating harmonious music is excellent. It releases endorphins, relaxes and inspires – and encourages time away from technology!

What kind of things do you sing?

In Term 1 we prepared a repertoire for the Carol Service, and the choir sang ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ beautifully for the Prep School. Since then, in weekly meetings, we’ve rehearsed a variety of songs, with anything from Miss Jones to African music.

Can anyone join… even those who can’t sing well?

More often than not people lack the confidence to sing, rather than lacking the ability to sing. We welcome anyone who’s up for being part of it – and no one expects you to be perfect on day one! Singing in a group gives such a great sense of camaraderie and is an excellent way for staff to bond and support each other.

How does singing make you (personally) feel?

When I sing I feel happy and relaxed. It improves my breathing and posture, makes me feel more focused and less distracted from any irritations. In many ways I find it a meditative practice.

I’m sure many people would agree that music is highly evocative; it’s often at the root of strong feelings and memories.

How does the staff choir embody the RST ethos?

It models the ‘whole person’; it is physical, mental, social, emotional. I love the way our staff choir (any choir) offers a unifying space where people can switch off from daily life while creating something wonderful.

A music teacher conducting a choir at Rugby School Thailand

Spring Camp 2019

Spring Camp 2019

While RST students disappeared off for the Songkran break, two adventurous young tribes descended on our campus. Divided into ‘Panthers’ and ‘Peregrines’, the children taking part in our day and boarding Spring Camp were able to experience one of the best holiday camps Thailand has to offer.

‘With a schedule full of activities such as zip-lining, archery, mountain biking, STEM, ‘The Tower of Power’, rugby, sailing and trips to local attractions such as the Elephant Sanctuary, it would be hard to pick just one highlight’ says Camp Director, Mark Symmonds. ‘Spring Camp concluded with a Grand Finale where children, parents and camp staff could reflect on what was an amazing eight-days. The children had all tried something new, learned something new, made a new friend, and become stronger people from their time at camp.’

Mark Symmonds, Camp Director

We could tell you more about what went on at Spring Camp, but why not watch the video and see for yourself why we’re on track to become one of the top holiday camps in Asia.

https://youtu.be/_XgMs3YmMD0

‘We’re now getting excited about the three-week Summer Camp in July, where we will build on the success of the Spring Camp and add even more amazing activities, lessons and excursions’ says Mark. ‘There’s a reason our holiday camps keep booking up so fast!’

The Summer Camp is sold out, but we’ll be announcing new holiday camp dates soon… so watch this space.

A boy choosing lunch at Rugby School Thailand Holiday Camp
Lots of children toasting marshmallows at a camp fire - Rugby School Thailand

Holiday Camp at Rugby School Thailand

When you’re green, you’re growing

A boy jumping at sports day, Rugby School Thailand A canoe on the lake at Rugby School Thailand

By virtue of our lush emerald surroundings, we are constantly reminded to think green. While our pupils enjoy activities outside and the nature around them, we ask them in return to take responsibility for this environment. In doing so they can not only enhance the world around them, but reap personal rewards, broadening their outlook in life and developing good values.

We firmly believe that ‘when you’re green, you’re growing’ and make this attitude part of the educational experience at Rugby School Thailand. With the city smog of Bangkok some 140km away we feel truly grateful for our green surroundings and fresh country air – but it’s a close reminder of increasingly alarming environmental issues.

Runners getting ready at Rugby School Thailand's largest lake (aerial shot) Students learning about growing produce at Rugby School Thailand

The news on global warming, pollution and animal extinctions can be overwhelming, but our actions as individuals can make a difference. “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” (Margaret Mead). We all have choices, we need to change our behaviours and make the right ones to meet the UN Global Goals for Sustainability. Because there is no Plan(et) B.

At an Eco Beasts Action Day attended by a select group of RST pupils, a speaker pointed out that ‘children are 20% of the population, but 100% of our future’. This is why Mrs Dawson has recruited a passionate Eco Club within the school. These pupils make an excellent body of green ambassadors for their peers, developing initiatives such as poster campaigns promoting energy saving and waste reduction.  They have had fun doing recycling craft projects such as making bags out of old t shirts, decorations from rolled newspapers and planters from plastic bottles.

A teacher with students learning about green energy at Rugby School Thailand Pupils learning about kinetic energy at Rugby School Thailand

As a school, we have recycling bins throughout the campus. Our on-site café, Scrummy, offers discounts to anyone using their own cups. Staff and pupils are encouraged to use their own water bottles, rather than paper cups by the water dispensers, and paper shopping bags are available in the school shop to minimise the use of plastics at all. These initiatives help remind people within RST to reduce, reuse, recycle.

As the campus here develops, we do our best to be sustainable; planting trees, growing produce, preserving areas for wildlife and adding ecosystems with our school lakes. We are also working with BANPU INFINERGY to install solar panels across the campus, and these already produce almost 30% of our energy (a figure set to increase substantially). Project week this year focused on power and renewable energy, which we were able to demonstrate live in action. We are constantly reminding pupils to be environmentally conscious – the hope being that this attitude becomes second nature and that every child leaves RST with an innate sense of duty towards the world.

A solar powered tuktuk at Rugby School Thailand A solar powered tuktuk at Rugby School Thailand

As motivational speaker Denis Waitley says, “There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” So, we are accepting responsibility and doing our best to counter some of human assault on the world. We may only be a few caring people, but we’re here to change the world.

 

Behind the Scenes… at the Prep boarding house

Behind the scenes with Tim & Fliss Jones, our Prep Boarding House Parents, who tell us why the multi-cultural ‘family’ in Marshall House is so special.

Tell us a bit about what you do?

As House Parents, our role is to provide pastoral support and guidance to the children in their home away from home. Boarding is such a unique environment; the children are away from their own homes, but they become part of a really unique family environment here. They are loved and supported, and develop a deep sense of loyalty, responsibility, kindness and courage, helping them to thrive in other areas of school life, as well as nurturing characteristics to see them into adult life.

How do you create such a warm ‘home from home’ environment?

A lot of it comes from the children themselves. Boys and girls, across all age groups and nationalities, come together as one big family in a very natural way. They genuinely look out for each other, 24 hours a day, every day of the week. We see our children here develop such a strong sense of loyalty towards Marshall House, and it’s a very happy place for them to be.

The sense of community here is something special. We seem to have drawn on the best of the traditional British Prep School model – keeping pupils active and entertained, nurturing individual interests and community spirit– whilst drawing on top qualities from the international system – notably the empathy and understanding that comes from the wonderful mix of different cultures, and the lifelong friendships it fosters. Ask any of the boarders what they love about it here, and friendship will be top of the list.  Marshall House is a unique ‘family’ of friends.

How do you keep everyone entertained and happy?

As well as the in-house team (us, the assistant House Parents, Penny and Steve, and the house matron, Amanda) we have a rota of Prep staff who bring an extensive range of evening activities into the mix. It includes everything from fun sports, to more relaxed or creative options. Some of the more popular activities have been dodgeball, ultimate frisbee, face painting, drama, slime-making, baking, photography and Mr Dawson’s famous Scottish dancing!

On weekends, highlights include going to the beach, catching the latest movie, ten-pin bowling, exploring some of Thailand’s best water parks, trampolining, laser tag, pizza-making, ziplining, rock-climbing, marshmallows around the campfire… the list goes on and on.

How does boarding fit with the school ethos, ‘the whole person, the whole point’?

The ‘whole person, the whole point’ aims to help pupils reach their potential not just academically, but also in sports, music, the arts, drama and equally in the formation of their character, morals and manners. Boarding provides a supportive environment where we actively encourage all of these things; but also where pupils are happy and healthy, allowing them to make the most of all the activities offered to them throughout the long school day. Instead of travelling long distances or sitting in traffic each day, boarding pupils can immerse themselves in all that Rugby School Thailand has to offer. And that’s a lot, right on their doorstep!

A group of children in the boarding house at Rugby School Thailand

The truth about A Levels

You may have heard some rumours that say A Levels are only good for entry to UK universities. This is simply untrue.

A Levels are the gold standard for entry into UK universities – but they are also globally accepted. Students from the UK use their A Level results to attend universities around the world. Likewise, schools in Thailand that offer A Levels have been sending students to universities worldwide for decades, and this includes the most prestigious university establishments.

In fact, at some US and Canadian universities, certain A Level courses are so highly regarded that students can gain one year of university credit by virtue of their A Level studies at school.

To learn more about A Level qualifications for university entry, you can read this article on the Cambridge Assessment International Education website.

Rugby School Thailand is fully accredited with the three international A Level examination boards – Cambridge Assessment International; Pearson Edexcel; and OxfordAQA. Rugby School Thailand is an examination centre for each of these boards. Our first examinations occurred in January, 2019.

If you wish to talk to us about your child’s Sixth Form education in preparation for university, please do get in touch with admissions@rugbyschool.ac.th to arrange a time.