2020 Summer Term

The know zone

  • Care-takers
    Cait Cooper from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families highlights four ways school and college leaders can support staff wellbeing. More
  • Primary focus
    Throughout the lockdown period, ASCL's engagement with civil servants at the DfE and with other stakeholders has continued. Tiffnie Harris provides an update on some of the key issues affecting the primary education sector. More
  • Lessons learned
    Hayley Dunn highlights the lessons learned from implementing emergency plans in response to the current health crisis. More
  • September's Sixth Form
    As schools and colleges plan for their new cohort of sixth form students in September, Kevin Gilmartin examines the key areas that will impact on provision. In a time of such uncertainty, what should schools and colleges prepare for? More
  • A helping hand for further education
    Anne Murdoch highlights a new ASCL and AoC mentoring scheme to help develop personal resilience among college leaders and to empower them when faced with difficult circumstances. More
  • Weather the storm
    Before schools began to open more widely, we asked members to share their experience of the health crisis and here's what they had to say. More
  • Hitting the right note
    Principal Andrew Parkin joined ASCL Council five years ago and is a member of the Funding Committee. Here he tells us about his dedication to education and his love for music and singing. More
  • Rites of passage
    Seasons, traditions and rituals are important markers in our development as humans, but the lockdown means that - for some of our young people - the rhythms of life will skip a beat. More
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Cait Cooper from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families highlights four ways school and college leaders can support staff wellbeing.


As schools and colleges prepare to open for a larger number of pupils, we know that this period of transition may be difficult for some members of the school community.

School and college staff have adapted rapidly to the changing circumstances to ensure effective home teaching and safeguarding. Despite working through this period of disruption, teachers have also been affected by the crisis on a personal level. They may have experienced trauma or loss, could now have increased caring responsibilities, or may have feelings of anxiety around returning to work.

Many leaders will be focusing on safety and recovery, as ways to rebuild their school and college communities. We would recommend focusing on the emotional safety of staff alongside physical safety – because when we feel safe, we are able to effectively manage our emotions and ask for support if needed.

Below are four ways in which school and college leaders can effectively support the wellbeing of their staff at all points in the academic year, but particularly in the current climate:

1. Promote staff wellbeing

As staff begin to return to school or college and navigate the changes in place, it is vital they are aware that their wellbeing is a priority. Communicating this commitment clearly, and often, will have a positive impact – on their frame of mind, but also on their ability to achieve in this changing landscape. Visual representation and written policy also help cement the idea that this is a crucial part of the school or college structure. In this instance, there may be some merit in appointing a staff wellbeing ‘champion’ who can continue to promote the agenda across the staff body.

2. Signpost to support structures

Teachers may face increased pressure as schools and colleges open more widely, so it is important that universal, targeted and specialist support structures for all staff are clearly identified and effectively communicated. If this is already in place, reminding and signposting staff on their return may benefit those who previously did not engage with the services. Support services offered can range from drop-in sessions and feedback boxes to a more targeted approach, such as supervision and training, employee assistance programmes and crisis support for those who need specialist intervention.

3. Conduct a confidential wellbeing survey

Wellbeing surveys can help school and college leaders understand what the key issues are for their staff, and therefore which areas of improvement should be prioritised. This is crucial to ensuring staff feel listened to. Conducting one survey as staff return (or in September) could be of huge benefit, given the significant changes and upheaval everyone has experienced. Staff surveys can also provide insight into the impact of steps taken to improve wellbeing, which may prove useful as many schools and colleges have put in place alternative strategies to support staff as a result of not working together.

4. Provide training to staff

While being immensely rewarding, teaching can also be pressurised at times – and staff may feel this pressure during the transition period. If we want our staff to be capable of all that is required, we need to make sure their mental health and wellbeing is effectively supported. Training in mental health skills and approaches can be of huge value to school and college staff. Consider including this within the summer term, or prioritising training for all staff in September. Finally, we urge school and college leaders to join the Anna Freud Centre’s free ‘Schools in Mind’ network (www.annafreud.org/schoolsinmind). It provides a trusted source of resources, training and research that leaders, teachers and support staff can use to support mental health and wellbeing within their setting.

Cait Cooper
Deputy Director of the Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools Programme at the Anna Freud Centre