Happy, healthy children do better in school and they need happy, healthy staff to help them thrive. Staff wellbeing is a vitally important aspect of a whole school approach to wellbeing for all, and as school staff juggle a multitude of different tasks and demands, it is important that everyone is given the right emotional and practical support so that they can, in turn, support their pupils.
In addition to having a positive impact on colleagues and children, staff wellbeing can improve performance and job satisfaction, which can lead to reduced staff turnover. It can also help to reduce absence (both short and long term), increase productivity and promote staff engagement.
How schools can support staff wellbeing
A school’s caring ethos and environment will have a major impact on the wellbeing of its staff and pupils. It’s important for leaders to define that culture and vision, making it clear what behaviours, values and beliefs underpin it. It is important too for the school leadership team (SLT) to build a culture of trust where school staff feel valued, can be open about their health and wellbeing and know how to access support if they need it. For all of this to happen, it is essential for the head teacher and the school leadership team (including governors) to model good mental health and wellbeing behaviour and practice. It is also important for head teachers to remember to look after their own mental health and wellbeing alongside that of their staff.
Changing a school’s culture may take time, but it is possible. Even in the most supportive school environments, there still may be changes that can be made to improve things.
Schools can support staff wellbeing in a number of ways.
Strategy and policies
- Does your school have a staff wellbeing strategy? Has it been co-produced with staff, governors and parents/carers? Is it effectively implemented and routinely reviewed through a process of consultation?
- Are there clear policies and procedures around staff wellbeing and are the same processes and expectations applicable to all staff? Is there clarity and fairness around implementing policies and processes?
- What practical strategies does your school have in place to promote good staff wellbeing? For example:
- Providing staff mindfulness, relaxation and managing stress sessions.
- Offering resilience-based workshops for staff to help normalise the process of speaking about wellbeing.
- Teacher appraisal that is encouraging and that concentrates on the ‘praise’ aspect. Targets should be realistic and concentrate on raising standards of children.
- Encouraging staff to buddy up with colleagues to support each other in providing opportunities for reflective practice and problem-solving school-based challenges
- Creating a sense of belonging to the school (e.g. through team development opportunities).
- Making staff recognition and praise a part of your school’s culture – setting aside regular time slots in meetings to do this.
School culture and environment
- Is the workplace a positive environment for staff? Is there a dedicated space where they can go and take time out? Is it appealing and looked after? Are there any low cost ways to promote wellbeing and make staff feel valued (e.g. acknowledging good work, having fruit in the staffroom, bringing in treats to thank staff or for inset days)?
- Does the SLT model good working practices and self-care to encourage an appropriate work-life balance? Encouraging staff to take breaks, for example, finishing on time, having regular debriefs or supervision from colleagues or line managers when dealing with difficult situations.
- Is there a culture of clear communication about workplace wellbeing?
- Do staff feel able to talk about concerns?
- Do all members of the SLT have an open-door policy and do staff know they can discuss anything with them?
- How are staff consulted about change and involved in developing problem-solving strategies? A regular staff wellbeing survey, for example, could help to generate feedback and ideas.
- Does the school communication style help engage staff and build good staff relationships? Is there a staff champion for wellbeing?
Help and support
- Are staff and the school leadership team (SLT) confident and encouraged to notice and offer support early when a colleague’s wellbeing is under threat? Early problem solving and support can help de-escalate difficulties.
- Is there clear information for staff about how they can get help inside and outside the school environment if they need it? Does the school have a confidential employee assistance programme and do staff know how to access it?
- Are there good training and development opportunities for staff at every level? These opportunities can often be reduced due to increasing budget pressures. However, studies show that continuing professional development increases job satisfaction and contributes to good health and wellbeing.
Staff Wellbeing Training
In response to many requests for support from schools in Cornwall, we have developed a FREE 2 hour Staff Wellbeing workshop to fit neatly into your school's twilight or inset sessions. The session includes ways to develop personal and team resilience, and look at ways to incorporate the Five Ways to Wellbeing into your day. Contact us to arrange dates for your school or MAT.
This staff wellbeing programme, commissioned by Cornwall Council, Macmillan and Healthy Cornwall, has been in operation since March 2014. The programme trains members of school staff to be Health and Wellbeing champions, whose job is to signpost to appropriate services. Work is one of the most accessible places we can get guidance and support and the programme is committed to providing healthcare information and opportunities for school staff to live healthier, happier lives. Visit www.whwcornwall.co.uk for more information.
The UK's only charity providing mental health and wellbeing support services to all education staff and organisations. They champion good mental health and wellbeing of teachers, lecturers, school leaders, support staff and prison educators throughout their careers and during retirement as well as supporting education leaders with a wide range of tools to help improve professional and organisational development too. Their support includes a 24 hour helpline 08000 562 561, grants, and support to develop a healthy and nurturing workplace.
Healthy Workplace Award
Improve the health of your workplace for free!
Cornwall Council's Workplace Health Award is a county standard of good practice and a quality mark of health and wellbeing in the workplace.
The aim of the award is to act as a free toolkit to encourage employers to think about ways to improve the health and wellbeing of their employees, and several schools and academies in Cornwall have used the free access to improve the health of their workforce and support staff.
The toolkit provides steps to achieve and improve in a wide range of health areas covered in the ten award criteria.
The process enables focus on the current good practice in place within an organisation, and assists in recognising priorities and providing solutions to addressing any highlighted issues specific to the company and the working population.
For more information see the Be Healthy At Work website or call 01209 615600