Alleynian Review: The Changing Environment of Student Wellbeing

Today the global student community continues to undergo testing times, that has created a new normal for the current cohort of students, in an ever-changing environment. A number of academic researchers tell us sport and physical activity can contribute positively to academic pursuits, but more importantly it develops the physical, psychological, cognitive and social capabilities of students (Bell et al., 2019; Biddle et al., 2021; Miles, 2007).

Combining full-time studies and elite professional sport at the highest level for over a decade I have been able to understand the importance of holistic well-being and how that relates to well-run, high-quality sport and physical programmes. Here at DCSG, Dulwich College (Singapore), the high-quality interconnected structure of the sport and physical programmes allows students well-being to thrive in these unprecedented times.

The term holistic wellbeing is linked with positive mental health. Positive mental health stated by the World Health Organization is classed as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to his or her community” (World Health Organization 2001, p.1). Wellbeing is a concept that recognises individual and wider social, economic, political and environmental contextual influences creating a balance for the individual (Dooris et al, 2018; McLeod & Wright, 2016; Sointu, 2006). The student's holistic wellbeing is an integral part of the ethos at DCSG which encompasses a range of tools including wellbeing classes as well as the sport and physical programmes.

Figure 1: Shows the interconnectedness of the many factors of the sport and physical programme at DCSG


Teachers often have a distinctive awareness in class about their students and can build meaningful relationships outside of the classroom setting with students through the programmes at DCSG (Climie, 2015; Ott et al., 2017; Tolan & Dodge, 2005). Figure 1 highlights the interconnectedness of the high-quality sport and physical programmes. These programmes promote positive learning outcomes and the development of key areas for individuals of :

  • Being part of a team
  • Building social, emotional and physical skills;
  • Teaching independence, resilience and teamwork; 
  • Constructing initiative and creativity; 
  • Developing persistence, problem-solving, communication and collaboration

These positive learning outcomes and development of the above key areas for individuals has been highlighted across many academic studies (Bourke & Geldons, 2007; Eckersley, 2005; Gillet-Swan, 2014; Soutter, 2011). A high-quality physical education framework, which is seen daily at DCSG, is efficiently applied using relevant teaching models and plays an important role in the social and emotional learning of students. A commitment to high-quality sports and within a quality physical education framework plays an important role in students’ daily holistic wellbeing (Luna et al., 2019).

In addition, Murray et al., (2007) suggest that programmes that promote students’ broader wellbeing and development also benefit their academic learning. Furthermore, Eley & Kir, (2002) suggest that the development of student citizenship can also be achieved through sport. This reinforces the need for such an integrated model for schools. Strategies such as seen in Year 11 PE leaders, a format that develops and encourages this with the PE curriculum. In this approach, students plan and lead sessions amongst their peers and also deliver and run lessons to the younger junior school students at the college. This connects and develops the college community by creating strong bonds and links within the school community by giving connectedness and purpose to these students. Not only is connection and purpose seen across all students who take part in this it also develops leadership skills and skills of problem-solving, communication and collaboration.

There is now a strong evidence base for health-promoting interventions in school, that combine holistic health curriculums with whole school activities, to develop students wellbeing (Tirri, 2011). Another example that can be seen in this area at DCSG is the high-performance IGNITE! programme. This programme is where customised and personalised programmes are given to students that help shape and guide students in their physical and mental development by giving them structure allowing them to flourish. This IGNITE! environment provides physical and social support, such as like-minded friends and staff who share similar interests and provide a friendly environment for teaching and learning, thus should also be part of an important element of student holistic wellbeing.

In today’s everchanging changing environment the development of students well-being needs to be at the forefront of their learning. Today’s educational institutes need to teach students not only academic knowledge and cognitive skills but also the knowledge and skills they will need to promote their own mental and physical health and help them successfully navigate their world. Bonell et al., (2014) state that there is now a strong evidence base, not only for curriculum interventions suitable for sport and physical programmes, but also for health-promoting interventions in school that combine health curriculums with whole school activities. This measure will ensure that students can thrive throughout their educational journey. There are still areas that need to be done in an international educational setting there is still more that can be done, such as raising the current standards and regular collaboration between schools, but with such strong foundations, the future of holistic student wellbeing is looking particularly encouraging.




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