Dubai school to add mental health to its curriculum in September

Sixth-form pupils at Brighton College Dubai will devote an hour every week to mental health studies

Mental health and wellbeing studies will be part of the curriculum at Brighton College Dubai. Courtesy Brighton College Dubai

A private school in Dubai will teach pupils how to lead happier lives and be more positive under its new mental health curriculum.

Mental health and well-being studies will be part of the curriculum when Brighton College Dubai launches its sixth form in September.

As part of the programme, teenagers will be taught about food and nutrition, exercise, communication, leadership, resilience and positive relationships.

The curriculum will be taught during school hours and will be aimed at pupils in years 12 and 13, aged between 16 and 18.

Pupils will devote an hour every week to mental health studies.

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It was about celebrating and reinforcing their strengths, rather than focusing on the negatives

Joe Hall, head of sixth form at Brighton College Dubai, who will implement the mental wellness curriculum, said he would focus on building the basics of emotional health and well-being in the school community.

"It would be about pupils identifying their own psychological and emotional strengths. Pupils will discuss their own journeys and reflections," Mr Hall said.

“The programme recognises that all children have particular strengths and potential to be very happy.

"It is about celebrating and reinforcing their strengths, rather than focusing on the negatives."

Mr Hall said there was an increasing number of discussions about mental health and well-being at most schools, but it was not built into the curriculum.

Joe Hall. Courtesy Brighton College Dubai

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the conversation on well-being to the fore as children around the world dealt with loss and anxiety.

"A huge part of my role will be supporting Brighton College sixth form pupils beyond the curriculum and academic studies, and supporting them with character development and how to adapt and be prepared for a post-Covid world," Mr Hall said.

“We need to prepare our pupils, now more than ever, to be able to stand out in a world where more and more of us will in essence become freelancers as employment patterns change due to the pandemic.

"Transferable skills, communication skills and confidence have never been more important to learn alongside a core curriculum.”

The mental health curriculum is based on the Perma model, a theory of happiness.

The Perma model stands for positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments.

The programme will be conducted over two years, after which pupils will receive a certificate called The Brighton Charter.

Pupils will be assessed through modules, activities, and presentations.

"Between May and July, I found pupils were getting tired and angry, frustrated with the amount of time they were spending online. They were feeling quite isolated," Mr Hall said.

"School is the one place we can make a difference rather than having to rely on expensive or inaccessible counselling outside."

Mental health and well-being are high on the agenda for Dubai schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gems Legacy School is set to launch a mental health curriculum for pupils in grades 3 to 6 in April.

It will focus on strengthening pupil’s personal, social, mental and emotional abilities.

Asha Alexander, principal at Gems Legacy School, said the mental health curriculum would help children who had dealt with loss and change during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Some children have moved schools and some have sadly lost parents," Ms Alexander said.

"To address this in a structured way, we are implementing a curriculum that will teach children how to deal with loss and anxiety."

Dubai College’s positive education programme, to which pupils devote 25 minutes every week, preceded the pandemic.

During the positive psychology classes, pupils were engaged in activities such as writing a letter to someone to express gratitude.

Pupils return to Brighton College in Abu Dhabi on August 31, 2020 – in pictures

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