Guest blog: Supporting Your School Staff
The following blog was provided by our partners at Welbee for Mental Health Awareness Week.
Stress, kindness and a host of other topics all have their own awareness day, week or even month. This week it’s the turn of Mental Health.
We all know the purpose – to shine a light on the many challenges being faced, to start conversations and to identify and provide solutions. Of course, what we really need to do is build mental health into the culture of schools, adding to parental and community support.
The emphasis is usually on pupils, and there are so many of them that need help – an already sizeable problem made even worse by the pandemic and its effects.
Staff need support too, and I believe putting staff first gives us the very best chance of delivering the right outcomes for all stakeholders. There is clear evidence of a significant range of benefits in improving the wellbeing (and mental health of staff), including higher retention, lower absences, greater motivation, better financial performance – and of course these all further raise pupil attainment and outcomes.
The sector really needs it – recent headlines on missed recruitment targets (again), strikes, statistics from The Teacher Wellbeing Index and other reports, continually paint an unsustainable picture – can we really keep going like this?
Of those joining or starting a position in 2015, according to the DfE’s own workforce statistics in England, five years later we had lost nearly a third of teachers; 37% of secondary Headteachers and their deputies; 25% of primary headteachers; and more than 44% of middle leaders across both phases.
The School Leaders Work and Wellbeing Survey suggests 2 in 5 headteachers want to leave in the next 3 years and the Teacher Wellbeing Index shares that 59% of teachers considered leaving in the last academic year. While we know many of these will not leave, due to financial need and other factors, what might it say about how they may turn up to work?
We know that most will always put on the right face and be professional, as they care about those they teach and the impact this could have on them and their colleagues. Support staff also provide such a crucial role in keeping schools running, and growing difficulties in recruiting and retaining them simply add to the problem.
Workload continues to be cited as the biggest issue and all the problems highlighted above simply add to this and the deteriorating working conditions, not to mention pay. As I write this, it does add to the feeling of why anyone would continue to work in the sector and to do so needs a good level of resilience and health.
There is no simple solution.
For leaders, it is important they have a clear understanding about what has the greatest impact for staff and what they can focus their limited capacity on, so that wellbeing and mental health become good habits and part of the everyday culture.
For all staff, including leaders, developing their abilities to better understand and manage their own wellbeing and mental health is important – you need your own oxygen mask first.
It is why, as part of the overall Welbee offer, we developed a growing Wellbeing Toolkit – resources for leaders to help build staff wellbeing into the culture and for everyone to take better care of themselves. I’d like to give you lifetime access to over 50 resources in our wellbeing toolkit for free, in recognition of the work you do. You can sign-up here simply by using your education email address, as we are only making this available to those working in education.
For full transparency, there is a subscription service available, for a small contribution, with additional resources – however the free toolkit contains premium resources, including a number on Anxiety, which is the focus of Mental Health Week. It has a full interactive stress management course, one for leaders on supporting those experiencing menopause, and a wide range of videos, guides, and bite-sized learning. All designed to help you look after your own mental health and wellbeing and to help leaders build it into the culture.