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… the Outdoor Education Centre

As we go behind the scenes of RST again, this time we’re talking to our Outdoor Education Co-Ordinator, Nick Hitchmough, on escaping modern distraction and creating a space for children to be children.

What do you do at Rugby School Thailand?

I have been tasked with the (really fun) job of creating and running an area on the campus where children can escape from modern distractions, enjoy the tranquil beauty of the school’s rural location, and learn along the way. The ‘Outdoor Education Camp’ we’ve designed and built is essentially a place for children to be children. The traditional-style camp has a high ropes course, archery, rock-climbing, abseiling, a zip line, an assault course and bush craft activities. It’s perfect for team-building exercises.

What inspired the design of the Outdoor Education Camp?

The school is set in such beautiful countryside, and that played a huge part in the inspiration behind the project; I wanted to create a unique space where people could forget about the modern world and soak up the nature around them. All the materials used to build the camp have been sourced here in Thailand, and where possible I have used traditional Thai building techniques in the design.

What makes this place so special?

It’s been proven that kids who spend more time outdoors have better social functioning, confidence and creativity. Never have I known a school to have the space and enthusiasm to invest in such a unique project! Our children are so lucky to be able to retreat (on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis) to a space that not only educates them on important environmental issues, but enables them to grow as individuals, without the distractions and anxieties of the modern world. You won’t find any wifi, electricity, computers or mobile phones at the camp, kids are just left to play, be themselves and enjoy nature.

How many other schools can say they teach their children how to make survival shelters, purify water with natural materials and light fires using ancient techniques?

Why do you (personally) love it so much?

I am very fortunate that the Teepsuwan family, who own the school, share my great passion for the natural environment and know the importance of allowing pupils to spend time within it. The future of this planet lies within these children’s hands, so what chance does humanity have if they know nothing about its beauty or how it works? And, just as the camp allows children to be children, it allows adults to feel that childlike sense of vitality too. I have the best job in the world, for sure!

In what ways does the camp embody the school ethos, ‘the whole person, the whole point’?

Academia is important, of course, but great grades alone do not develop ‘the whole person’. Character, empathy, manners, life skills and an understanding of the world we live in are all part of setting up our children to be well-rounded individuals throughout their time at Rugby School Thailand and beyond. I truly believe places like our unique camp play a major part that.

A traditional Thai building at Rugby School Thailand's Outdoor Education Centre