August 2018


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    Geoff Barton reflects on what has been another extremely busy year for school and college leaders, and says the summer will hopefully, for many, be a time to unwind with family and friends. More
  • Stress less
    As we continuously strive to improve and support the wellbeing of our pupils, we mustn't forget to ensure the health and welfare of our staff too, says Trust Director Julie Yarwood. More
  • Social media: Enjoy, engage or avoid?
    Whether you're developing a social media strategy for your school or college, reviewing existing policies, or managing your own online presence, Online Editor Sally Jack provides advice to help you navigate the social media maelstrom. More
  • Make the news
    By telling their story and knowing how to respond to bad news, schools and colleges can build a successful relationship with the media which can be a huge benefit to them, says ASCL's Head of Public Relations Richard Bettsworth. More
  • Free for all?
    New research from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the Sutton Trust has found that pupils at secondary free schools perform slightly better than pupils at other types of schools, but is that the only thing we should judge them on? Karen Wespieser looks at the data. More
  • Pioneer programme
    The NPQEL programme offers multi-academy trust leaders a roadmap for leadership in this challenging new territory. Julie Nightingale reports. More
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As we continuously strive to improve and support the wellbeing of our pupils, we mustn’t forget to ensure the health and welfare of our staff too, says Trust Director Julie Yarwood.

Stress less

At the beginning of the year, it was reported widely within the media that a nationwide ‘epidemic of stress’ at work had left many teachers suffering from pressure, anxiety and mental illness.

With class sizes increasing, seemingly never-ending budget cuts and workloads continuing to rise, this negative impact on school and college staff is not surprising.

So, as we constantly look to improve and support pupil wellbeing, what are we doing to support our colleagues?

Our organisation, the Shaw Education Trust in Staffordshire, is a growing multi-academy trust that leads and manages nearly 5,000 students across all phases, and has over 700 members of staff. We believe that the welfare of our employees is a key priority, so we actively promote positive wellbeing through all aspects of school life.

Provide support

When it comes to internal support, communication and networking are key; to develop and improve internal relationships, it is important that colleagues feel valued and supported.

We recently used an INSET day to hold an all-day Wellbeing Conference for all staff. The aim of the conference was to promote methods of maintaining health and wellbeing, as well as to help develop relationships and promote collaboration between all the schools within our trust. We also hosted the conference to show colleagues we value and support them, and ensure they can access information to help them progress to the next stage of their careers.

From yoga, mindfulness and crystal healing, to cake decorating, and dance classes, the event taught staff alternative and unusual techniques to help them maintain good health and wellbeing.

Staff also attended talks on career pathways, explored continuous professional development opportunities and received pensions advice.

Our conference was just one of the many ways that we promote positive wellbeing. An important ongoing step we take to help maintain a healthy mindset is to ensure that, as leaders, we always act transparently by being honest with colleagues and keeping them ‘in-the-loop’ with the direction of the school. For instance, we publish regular bulletins, hold staff meetings and undertake frequent staff surveys to ensure staff are fully involved in any developments and feel valued as a member of the school community.

To help further support staff members’ career progression, the trust also offers paid sabbaticals, as well as provision of an accelerated leadership pathway for talented and aspirational teachers and support staff.

Walton Hall Academy Principal Amanda Cameron, who undertook the trust’s best-in-class senior leadership course, said: “It was a great opportunity to meet with other senior leaders from the trust’s academies and offered the opportunity to undertake a project in a partnership academy.

“The course was delivered exceptionally well; the networking opportunities and insight into other academies brought huge benefits for everyone participating.”

Top tip: Appraisals shouldn’t be the only time of year that career progression is discussed. Talk to your staff about their careers throughout the year and ensure that they can access information about career progression. This often helps colleagues remain focused and motivated in their role.

Review procedures

Make sure you have policies in place that are wellbeing and mental health-focused. Such policies help ensure staff are taking the necessary actions to look after themselves and others.

For instance, a good Staff Wellbeing Policy could include clarity of how to achieve a healthy work–life balance, different methods to reduce stress and processes for reporting concerns. It could also indicate the support your school or college offers, for example, the provision of a private space for discussions, details of confidentiality procedures, and counselling services.

Conversely, and to no surprise, a negative work environment will have a detrimental effect on staff wellbeing. To reduce this risk, senior staff within our trust model positive behaviours, language and approaches to both staff and pupils. Staff are also regularly reminded of our Code of Conduct, which provides guidance on their expected behaviour and promotes positive communication between employees to help reduce internal grievances.

By ensuring everyone is aware of what is expected of them, schools and colleges can aid positive relationships between staff, ultimately improving their attitude towards work. Top tip :When developing staff policies, use staff feedback to ensure that the proposed actions and procedures effectively meet their needs. Through this consultation, leaders help staff feel valued and show their views have been heard.

Promote self-help

It is important to remind staff to make time for themselves – teaching can be all-consuming, and a positive work–life balance is essential to being effective in our jobs.

At our Wellbeing Conference, we held numerous fun and light-hearted workshops to aid physical and mental wellbeing, including cake decorating to help staff focus their energy in a calm and stress-free manner, and a drum circle where staff could let off steam beating a drum.

Similarly, our exercise-themed workshops provided colleagues with the opportunity to explore the different physical activities that they otherwise may not have considered, such as yoga. We also introduced high-energy activities like boxing and high-intensity interval training, demonstrating how exercise and the release of endorphins can boost mood and overall wellbeing. These proved popular, and many colleagues said they felt motivated and uplifted after taking part.

Employees described the event as “a good chance to unwind with colleagues”, with Steve Wilkinson, Head of ICT and Business Studies at the trust’s Wolstanton High School, explaining: “Having been in teaching for over 16 years and never having heard of a wellbeing day, I was unsure of what to expect.

“Having embraced the caring concept of the day, I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of activities and felt invigorated, and genuinely appreciated as an employee.”

Top tip: Promoting stress-relieving techniques and alternative coping mechanisms can be beneficial. Why not hold a ‘Wellbeing Week’, where, apart from the day-to-day teaching in your school or college, no formal meetings are scheduled? This time can then be used to provide opportunities to engage in creative, artistic, relaxation or sporting activities. While it may seem difficult to juggle your daily duties with ensuring you are effectively supporting your staff’s wellbeing, integrating these simple actions into your school or college routine could help you improve employee mental health, develop positive relationships and promote a healthy work–life balance, which all leads to a much happier and healthier workforce.

Why not hold a ‘Wellbeing Week’, where, apart from the day-to-day teaching in your school or college, no formal meetings are scheduled. This time can then be used to provide opportunities to engage in creative, artistic, relaxation, or sporting activities.

Julie Yarwood
Director of Education Quality, Standards & Training at the Shaw Education Trust in Staffordshire