The presentation which is provided below explores a variety of ideas, strategies and key messages to support early career teachers to manage their workload and prioritise their wellbeing. After each section, there is an opportunity for the presentation to be paused to allow for reflection and/or discussion.
Much of the content is covered in my book ‘Making it as a Teacher, How to Survive and Thrive in the First Five Years’ which offers a variety of tips, anecdotes, real-life examples and practical advice to help new teachers survive and thrive through the first 5 years of teaching, along with snippets of insight from numerous practicing teachers and teacher educators such as Adrian Bethune, Gill Rowland and Andrew Cowley to name a few.
When I’ve delivered my presentation, I’m often asked for access to the resource bank. To access please click the download button below:
I am providing these resources freely to support others, but if you would like to thank me for them, please consider making a donation to Education Support or something smaller to my Ko-Fi account which helps to keep my site running.
What advice would you give to early career teachers? I’d love to collate the advice of others, so please feel free to leave a comment with your top tips.
Hope you find the resources useful.
It was around this time 5 years ago I first stumbled across #Teacher5aday. It felt like a breath of fresh air; something that gave me permission to put me first. As selfish as that may sound, it was something I hadn’t done since becoming a teacher.
At the time I was at a difficult school, one with high expectations for staff which meant high workload as well as many behavioural issues and lack of senior support in managing it. I was doing detentions most lunch breaks and regularly after school and didn’t have much time for a break during the school day.
Just before I came across #Teacher5aday I recorded my workload in order to ask for support (if interested you can see the workload diary here). I was working long hours and long weeks and putting my job before my health and wellbeing. I was constantly exhausted, snappy with my partner, always saying no to friends and generally not a likable person to be around.
There was an element of change when I came across #Teacher5aday. I felt like it gave me permission to say no. I felt like it gave me the support to say no. I felt like I was part of something.
Over Christmas, I came up with my first set of #Teacher5aday pledges and published them on December 30th 2014. You can read them here.
“I will be the first to admit that I get stressed, I work and work and work and then I buckle under the strain. I don’t speak up until I’m about to hand my notice in. I don’t rest and feel guilty when I give up because I’m too exhausted to do anything.”30th Dec 2014
The pledges were going to hold me to account. I was going to work hard to connect, exercise, notice, learn and volunteer over the coming year. I was going to do things for me and my loved ones. School was going to come second. Okay whilst that didn’t exactly happen, the pledges made me start thinking about how I was not looking after my own health and wellbeing. They gave me a daily focus and encouraged me to take time out from working where I could. That first January went better than expected, but then the workload went up several notches and the stress and anxiety kicked in. But there was a difference in how I handled it as you can see in the quote below from my end of January reflection.
This year started like any other, calm and relaxed and then boooooom! Workload went into overdrive. However there has been a slight difference in how I’ve coped with it. Normally I’m calm and placid in school but when I get home my frustration and stress comes out; I snap at Mr Humanities, eat tons of chocolate, work long hours, try to sleep but end up tossing & turning… the list goes on. The start of 2015 has been very different.
Keeping the idea of #teacher5aday in my mind has helped me to remain calm (most of the time), I had a wobble before school the other day but survived it through a chat with a HLTA and good friend. Phew. So far any time this term I’ve felt my blood pressure rising I’ve taken the time to think about ME and not felt guilty about it. How nice is that1st Feb 2015
Knowing that there is a network of other teachers out there thinking about THEIR wellbeing made a big difference. It gave me the courage to put time aside, even if it was only one day on the weekend leaving me with just 6 to do the work. Knowing others were doing similar gave me confidence.
That support and confidence has continued and 5 years on I’m in a much better place (literally and metaphorically).
I made pledges again in December 2015 and 2016. However come December 2017 I felt that I didn’t need to make pledges anymore because my mindset and circumstances had changed.
I was no longer at the school that causes me to burnout and breakdown.
I was actually saying no and I meant it. I was only working weekends when it really necessitated it.
I wasn’t working until late each night.
I had found strategies to manage my workload in the 4 months at my new school.
I was taking anti-depressants and my mental health was improving.
I had support from EduTwitter friends and loved ones.
I felt I could manage.
Teacher5aday is always in my mind, it’s given me many fantastic friends, connected me with many through #Teacher5adayBuddyBox and changed how I approach wellbeing and mental health. I even wrote a whole section about it in ‘Making it as a Teacher‘.
There was a time when I didn’t recognise the importance of looking after myself. I’d plough away at the to-do list and work and work until I broke. That was no good for me, my students or my loved ones. #Teacher5aday helped to change that. Whilst it may only be a small part of a bigger story, the 5 elements and the support of a great community got me through some very difficult times. It changed my mindset and now I proactively look after myself. Why? Because ultimately it makes me better at my job, benefits my loved ones and makes me happier in both work and life.
All that is left to say then is a massive thank you to Marty Reah!
You’ve done an incredible job of putting wellbeing at the forefront of our minds, of bringing people together and ultimately improving the lives of many school staff and their students. For that I am sure there are many that would like to say a massive THANK YOU.
How has #teacher5aday benefited you?
Books on teacher wellbeing
I’ve seen lots of tweets this last week about back to school anxiety and I just wanted to say that new school year nerves are completely normal. Hence why my A-Z on the back to school realities started with it.
There are very few teachers I’ve met both since I’ve been teaching and whilst growing up around my Mum’s primary school that didn’t get the back to school jitters. You’ve had several weeks off to enjoy yourself; to use to toilet when you wish, to eat when you’re hungry, to relax and recoup from the previous year, it’s no wonder you’re feeling a little anxious.
I get it EVERY year! The nightmares, night sweats and moments of sheer panic in the remaining days of the school holidays. However there are also moments of inspiration and excitement for the year ahead. Why? Because…
Teaching is Awesome
Teaching, whilst fulfilling is a tiring job. You are performing every time you teach to an audience that can sometimes be unpredictable. What will you have to juggle whilst trying to teach them x, y and z? Who’s going to burst into tears? Who can’t sit next to who because they’ve just had a falling out? Why aren’t they getting it? Who needs a helping hand and who has whizzed ahead of the rest of the class? As a result by the end of the school day you are pretty tired and some of you will have further work to do before you can relax.
Don’t panic about your to-do list!
Your to-do list may go from a few points to multiple pages in seconds of being back in the school grounds…. but you will manage it!
Start by breaking down the tasks into compulsory-must do and desirable but not necessary. So often we strive for the perfect classroom, resource, activity etc. and in doing so we make more work for ourselves. So I’ve started thinking along the lines of is it required or just desirable by me?
Then apply my to-do list tasks to the Eisenhower Matrix
I use this as a mental guide to organising my to-do list and I find it really helps. Often many of the tasks on my list are those I want to do rather than need to and so get deleted.
Do you need to do it?
Do your displays really need changing or could they just do with a bit of tidying up?
Do you really need to spend ages looking for the perfect font or could you just use one single font for everything?
Do you need to create a whizzy powerpoint or could a slide with just the instructions on do?
Do you need to differentiate that task multiple times or could you scaffold it instead?
Do you need to use a wide variety of activities or could you develop a bank of templates that you frequently use?
This year, aim for less is more in your teaching practice, I highly recommend it.
Avoiding Back to School Burnout
If you’re concerned about the approaching workload, here are some tips for avoiding back to school burnout over on BBC Teach –https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/teacher-support/top-5-tips-for-avoiding-after-school-burnout/zkdsxyc
Still worried? Support is available
If you are feeling extremely anxious and worried about the school year ahead consider making use of the services provided by the Education Support Partnership, the only UK charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the entire education workforce. The helpline (08000 562 561) is open 24/7 and from my experience I can tell you they are helpful, reassuring and encouraging. Speaking to them back in Spring 2016, helped me to find the confidence to take time off, to apply for a job at a different school and to open up to my family about my mental health. In doing so, it kept me in teaching!
It’s perfectly natural to feel anxious about something you care about, but even after a negative experience there breakthroughs to be had. Here’s an insight to 5 of mine https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/blogs/5-breakthroughs-made-me-better-teacher
Remember why you teach
So when the workload starts to increase, whether it’s meetings, marking, planning, data or whatever else try to remember why you wanted to become a teacher.
To help you why not try one or two of these ideas from an extract of ‘Making it as a Teacher’
Remembering the why
- Draw up a list of all the things you love about teaching for regular review and reflection
- Write your ‘why’ on a postcard and keep it on your desk or wall as a reminder
- Note down and keep messages of gratitude from students
- Keep a positivity box or journal and record happy moments from your classroom and school day
- Create a positive mantra for yourself, for those days when you feel you just can’t do it anymore
Strive to thrive, not just survive!
For more advice and ideas to inspire and empower you through the next academic, you might like to grab a copy of ‘Making it as a Teacher’. Although aimed at early career teachers there is plenty in there for the more experienced too.
Other recommended wellbeing reads
Don’t forget to reach out if you need to! Whether it be your colleagues, friends or family or maybe those you find online. Don’t bottle up your anxieties and worries, talk about them, get them off your chest and work on them. Speaking from experience, hiding them away only leads to problems down the line.
Best wishes for the new academic year, make sure you enjoy it!
p.s. This isn’t a sponsored post, I’m just a really proud ambassador for Ed Support and teacher mental health and wellbeing.
Hello lovely people,
After almost 8 weeks away from social media and blogging, I’m feeling refreshed. Still very anxious about all the changes coming in the next academic year – new staff to lead and a completely different department as a result plus a 3rd subject to teach (which I wasn’t informed of until the penultimate week of the school year). But I’m feeling refreshed and ready to return to life as a teacher (just).
There have been lots of exciting developments over the last few months so thought I’d share them with you.
1 // My first book was published
First of all, my first book ‘Making it as a Teacher‘ was published at the end of May.
So far it has received a positive response from the teaching community which I’m really pleased about.
Making it as a Teacher doesn’t deny or shy away from the problems we are facing in the profession; it acknowledges them and agrees that it is a challenge to avoid being part of that one-in-three statistic of teachers leaving the profession in the first five years. But, through its human approach, helpful structure and real-life case studies, it offers a positive message: you can do it. It’s a cathartic read – therapy in paperback form.Haili Hughes, Tweets as @HughesHaili
A lot of ‘me’ went into the book in order to show others that it can be hard in teaching but also that you can get through the challenges of the profession and come out the other side. If you haven’t read it yet, here are some of the reviews so far to maybe inspire you to:
Tes Book review: Making it as a Teacher by Haili Hughes
UKEd Chat Book Review by Colin Hill
Schools Week Book Review by Loic Menzies
Parents in Touch by Sarah Brew
Plus the lovely reviews on Amazon. If you’ve already read the book I’d love to hear what you think, feel free to comment or leave a review on Amazon (which would be very much appreciated).
2 // We’ve bought a house
I figured this contributed towards some of the anxiety of the final school term. Luckily it was quite an easy process, however I found myself working until 6 pm most night when normally by term 6 I’m leaving around half 4/5 pm. Then I’d be going home and packing boxes or filling in paperwork or something similar. However we’ve had the summer holiday to unpack and are feeling settled in our first (own) home. We never thought we’d be able to buy a property so are feeling very lucky that we have been able to.
3 // I’ve been working on a second book
When I was invited my Routledge to write a book proposal, this is the book I originally had in my mind. However, I didn’t know how it would work – a book about moving from marking to feedback. It sounded too simple so I felt it needed something that would make it worth reading. This came to me whilst writing the feedback section of Making it as a Teacher – case studies.
And so, after finishing my first book I wrote the proposal for the second. I’m really excited by it. I’ve been shouting about #FeedbackNOTmarking since September 2016, when I did my first presentation at Pedagoo Hampshire on the topic of Less is More – Marking with Purpose. Something I said was quoted on twitter and from that the hashtag #feedbackNOTmarking was born. Since then I’ve done 20+ presentations on the topic, written numerous articles and published a large number of blog posts.
However, that presentation wasn’t the beginning of my journey with feedback. That had started back in 2014/2015 when I started looking into ways of reducing my marking but maintaining effective feedback and thus the progress of my students. It started a new phase of my approach to teaching. It changed the way I teach and honestly it has changed for the better. My teaching practice is simpler, it’s reduced the workload yet the planning and provision of feedback has greater impact on my students than any of my marking ever did. And that’s why I felt this book was important.
The book consists of case studies from schools that have moved from marking to feedback and of departments but also looks at how individuals can apply the concept in their own classroom even if they don’t have the support of their SLT. I’ve really enjoyed reading the case studies so far, I’ve enjoyed further researching the evidence on the application of feedback in the classroom and writing up everything so far. I personally think the ‘Feedback NOT Marking’ book is going to be a change maker – well I hope it will be any way.
4 // Fundraising for the charity Education Support Partnership
If you’ve read any of my blogs on mental health and wellbeing, you’ll know I’m a massive advocate for the charity, Education Support Partnership. Honestly, I know that if I hadn’t spoken to them back in April/May 2016, I wouldn’t have stayed in the profession. I’m so proud to now be able to be an ambassador for them and support them in helping other teachers, leaders and support staff.
Since I failed to look after myself as well as I had been doing, in terms 5 and 6 of the last academic year I didn’t feel like I was the best I could be for my students and colleagues. So to help me look after myself over the next academic year so I’m at my best for those I work with, I decided I’d sign myself up to a challenge that would get me outdoors whilst doing some good for others. So May bank holiday 2020, I’ll be walking 100 km from London to Brighton over two days in aid of Ed Support. As part of my training I’ll be out walking and running as much as possible – Abigail Mann ( @abbiemann1982) and I have even discussed organising a ‘Wellbeing Walk’ at some point which will be open to all that wish to attend or join in.
So here’s where I’m going to be cheeky and say I’d absolutely love it if some of you reading this were to sponsor me and help me to fundraise vital funds for a charity that means so much to me and many others in the education sector. Without donations, they’d be unable to provide the support through their helpline, grants and advice to those that need it (including myself). Here’s my Just Giving page, if you’d like to contribute to the work of Ed Support.
In addition to fundraising for Ed Support, I’ll also be writing a series of blogs for my favourite charity throughout the year.
5 // BBC Teach
I’m really excited to have been commissioned to write 3 articles for BBC Teach over the coming academic year. The first of which is on 5 ways to avoid back to school burnout and can be found here.
In addition, I along with numerous other teachers, have recently filmed with BBC Teach for their Teacher Support section of the website. These videos will be out later in the academic year.
Finally, I’d like to say a massive thank you for the lovely messages and emails I’ve received over the last few months asking about my wellbeing. They’ve meant so much to me! When you put yourself out there in order to help others, sometimes it becomes a distraction and it can be hard to admit when you’re personally struggling. Thankfully, my prior experiences have helped me to identify when my personal mental and psychical health isn’t at it’s best and I’m learning to step back. But just in case you are wondering why I’m writing another book and articles if I’ve been experiencing high anxiety in recent months, it’s because I find it really cathartic. Like being outdoors, it weirdly helps me to relax and put things into context. So don’t worry I’m not choosing to overexert myself in this area of my life, for me this gives me more of the ‘life’ in the work-life balance.
Hope you’ve all had a great summer break and enjoy the final days if you have any left.
So I’ve had a number of emails and direct messages concerned about my wellbeing as I’ve decided to take some time offline and refocus myself as I’ve had a recent wobble with my mental health.
I just want you to know I’m okay.
In the last few weeks of the school year I reached a high state of anxiety and found that my emotions were spiraling downwards.
I’ve found myself spending so much time recently helping others that I’d kind of forgotten to look after myself. Resultingly, I’m trying to spend as much time away from social media as possible and instead more time with my husband, my friends and on writing.
That means my site will be quiet for a while as will my social media.
If you wish to contact me in relation to #Talk2meMH I’m afraid I will be unavailable for a few more weeks, there are however plenty of others on twitter willing to listen please do reach out if you need to.
For now, I hope you’re all having a great summer break. Enjoy the remainder.
Wow, what happened to that gained time after my GCSE and IB groups left? This term has been hectic so there’s been a lack of posts this month. But here’s a small one with my most recent twitter highlights. You’ll notice a bit of a theme with the geography highlights.
Hope you find something of use!
Teaching and Learning
Wellbeing, workload and whatever else
And this one…. well it’s about me *chuckles*
Have a great week.
My book ‘Making it as a Teacher’ is now released.Click the image to find out more about it.
At the start of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week, I wrote this post but I must admit I was weary of publishing it. I worried it might come across as being condescending since there’s plenty of information available on managing and recovering from burnout from professional organisations. But after mentioning it on twitter, the positive response encouraged me to put it out there because if it helps just one person, that makes it beneficial.
However, before I get started I do just want to say that I’ve written this as a result of my experience of burnout resulting from workplace stress, these steps are my perspective of what helps.
I’m not writing this with the expectation that many will reach burnout, but with the notion that some will. Teachers, school leaders and support staff shouldn’t be experiencing burnout as a result of work place stress (nor those in other professions) however it happens. Even when preventative measures are taken, sometimes our work and mind drive us to breaking point and we can’t keep going the way that we are.
So, what should you do when you reach that point? When you feel like you can no longer go on with the job you once loved? You’ve hit a brick wall and can’t keep going. Where do you go from there?
Firstly, you need to stop. You need to step away from the situation that has led you to this point and reduce the stress. This may involve speaking to your employer and temporarily reducing your timetable or responsibility, it may require a day or two off of work or it maybe that you need to speak to your GP and take a prolonged period of sick leave.
It can be hard to take that break whether it be for the rest of the week, the month or term but it’s a valuable process that will allow you to find your way again.
Having been through burnout and knowing others that have experienced it too, I know it’s not easy to deal with on your own. There are so many questions and thoughts that go through your head – How will you overcome it? Are you making the right decisions? Do people know how your feeling? What will people think if you take time off?
There is plenty of support available, whether it be from loved ones or professionals. It can be hard to speak to those your love when you are struggling with your mental health and that’s okay. Reach out the others instead, organisations such as Mind, Ed Support or local counselling services can provide professional support or you can attempt to find others who will listen in an informal way.
For example there are people on twitter willing to chat and listen, not as a mental health professional but as a friend, with many of those listen having gone through their own experiences. You can find them by searching for the hashtag #Talk2meMH.
The main thing to remember is that there are plenty of support services out there, whether you’re at crisis point or just need some one to talk to, make sure you reach out and get help as and when required.
This stage may come at different points for each individual, but I highly recommend informing your employer of your struggles. That way then they can take the necessary, reasonable measures to support you.
They may refer you to Occupational Health. Having experienced it myself, I can say it was far less scary than I imagined it would be. They simply ask you questions about your current situation, what it is that is affecting your ability to work, what you think might help etc. and then they write a report which is sent to your employer to help them to support you in the workplace.
Additionally by informing your employer, it also means that if you experience a mental health condition that does or is likely to last 12 months or more and you can demonstrate that your mental health is a disability you could be covered under the Equality Act 2010 against discrimination at work. More information can be found here.
Invest in you
Whilst you take a break no matter how long or short it maybe, take time to focus on you.
I recommend writing a list of the things that bring you happiness or calm. If you can, try to tick a few off each day. I could have easily stayed in bed when I took time off, whilst for the first few days I had no energy, binged on Netflix and ate whatever junk I had in the cupboards. I knew I had to make an effort to not dwell on things, even though it was so easy to do so. In realising that I made a concerted effort to go for a speed walk every day, I’d plug in my music, turn it up and walk as hastily as possibly. Not only did it get my heart pumping, it would leave me feel exhausted helping me to sleep.
Take time to do what you enjoy and don’t feel guilty about it (or at least try not too). Invest in your body and mind, because by doing so you’ll enable the recovery process.
Whilst you take a step away or back from the situation, take time to reflect and reassess. Consider your situation, what do you enjoy about it? what do you find most stressful? Is it the job, TLR or the school?
You could merely take time to think and reflect or go a step further and jot down your thoughts and reflections. Do whatever works for you.
For me, my reassessment of the situation came from talking to the Education Support Partnerships helpline. During the first call the counsellor asked me to tell them about my current position, before encouraging me to consider what the issue was and what the solution could be. They helped me to assess the situation and make the decision to see my GP. From there I was able to reassess and consider what I wanted the result to be. Which leads me nicely on to the next stage.
Once you have reassessed, plan the next steps. What do you want the outcome to be? How will you achieve it? Whether it be a better work-life balance, reduced responsibility or a complete career change, have in mind what you want and consider the steps to get there.
It maybe difficult to determine and finding the confidence to then take that first step isn’t exactly easy but having that plan and aim insight does help.
For example, I debated with myself and my family a lot about whether I’d just hand my notice in and leave teaching or give one more school a try. After reassessment I decided I loved teaching and that it might not be the profession itself that was the problem. So after much encouragement I took the first step on my plan, which was apply for jobs at other schools. When I found a position I feared it maybe more of the same, but during the interview process my fears we eased and I’m still there now.
The final stage is recovery of course.
I will be honest and say that recovering from burnout is a journey, and it can be a long one. It takes time for your body and mind to recover from the physical and emotional exhaustion. There may be relapses where stress, anxiety or other mental challenges arise and get too much but you won’t ever be completely alone. You can and will overcome it.
It might require major changes in your life, but it is possible to recoup and recover. If you want evidence, take a read of this piece I did for Ed Support – https://www.educationsupportpartnership.org.uk/blogs/5-breakthroughs-made-me-better-teacher
Burnout is a natural response to repeated and continued stress, our tolerance levels vary and what stresses some of us, won’t stress others. It important to remember we are all different and manage stress in different ways. If you know someone that is experiencing or close to experiencing burnout, reach out to them, listen to them and support them as best you can. Reassure them that things can and do get better, it just takes time, help and a bit of patience.
I hope those of you that might find this relevant find it useful. Feel free to get in contact if you want to chat before reaching out to loved ones or professionals.
If you enjoy reading my blog, you might be interested in my first book due for release 28th May. Click the image to find out more or to pre-order it. Massive thanks in advance if you do!
I’m super excited to share with you that my book ‘Making it as a Teacher’ is now available to purchase from Routledge.
I’m super pleased, rather proud and somewhat terrified about it’s publication so I really hope it’s what is needed to help keep new (and experienced) teachers in the profession.
Teaching is a delightfully rewarding, wonderfully enlightening and diverse career. Yet, at present, teacher recruitment and retention are in crisis, with some of the most at risk of leaving the profession being those in their early years of teaching. Making it as a Teacher offers a variety of tips, anecdotes, real-life examples and practical advice to help new teachers survive and thrive through the first 5 years of teaching, from the first-hand experiences of a teacher and middle leader.
Divided into thematic sections, Making It, Surviving and Thriving, the book explores the issues and challenges teachers may face, including:
– Lesson planning, marking and feedback
– Behaviour and classroom management
– Work-life balance
– Progression, CPD and networking
With the voices of teaching professionals woven throughout, this is essential reading for new teachers, those undertaking initial teacher training, NQT mentors and other teaching staff that support new teachers in the early stages of their career.
Thank you for the support along the way.
I’ve had the urge this week to explore school wellbeing policies. I don’t have any particular reason to do so, it was just something that I was thinking about and wanted to investigate.
My findings came as more of a shock than I anticipated. You see if you do a google search on it, you’ll find plenty on student wellbeing but policies specifically associated with staff wellbeing, well they don’t seem to be as prominent as expected.
I started my search with ‘Teacher Wellbeing Policy‘ On the first search page I found the following:
Only one of these hits links to a policy that is in place. Just the 1!! Although there were some interesting hits on how to look after staff wellbeing and even a model wellbeing policy from NASUWT, there was a distinct lack of actuall policies.
Since I didn’t find this search of much of use, I tried ‘School Staff Wellbeing Policy‘, having considered that it’s not just about the wellbeing of teachers, but every member of school staff. Thankfully this provides more relevant hits.
The one thing I found interesting though were that over the first 3 pages of the search, only 3 out of 30 search hits were policies from Secondary schools; the majority came from Primary. Why is that? Do Primary schools focus more on staff wellbeing? Maybe they make them easier to find on their websites or just that they are more likely to make them publicly available.
Finding that most of the examples available came from Primary Schools, it got me wondering about the schools I’ve worked at. So after a bit of digging I found that out of the 5 schools, 0 have a staff wellbeing policy publicly available or perhaps they are hidden in the depths of their websites; either way I felt frustrated that schools don’t have to publicly provide a staff wellbeing policy. All of them have significant policies in regard to student wellbeing, everything from general wellbeing to safeguarding and bullying. But where were the ones for staff?
In particular, finding that one still had no publicly available staff wellbeing policy in place, actually upset me. This is because at the this school, I’d been asked to write a wellbeing policy because “you’re into that stuff”. It was only a few months later that I then experienced a breakdown due to work related stress – there are others that left under similar circumstances. I’ll let you ponder on whether there is a relationship there.
There were a few themes running through all of the policies I read.
- The role of different members of staff and teams in the school from the Headteacher and Governors to individual teachers and support staff.
- Who was responsible for the wellbeing, mental and physical health of staff
- The support available for all staff
What I found most interesting though was the variety in many of the policies. Some policies made the Headteacher and Governing body responsible for staff wellbeing, whilst others made it very much about the individual taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.
The well-being of staff is the responsibility of the Head teacher.
The well-being of the Head teacher is the responsibility of the Chair of Governors.Holy Trinity Primary School
Some outlined how they would improve and/or promote staff wellbeing. Some examples included:
- An afternoon treat – which involved small groups of staff taking an afternoon off to wellbeing activities such as baking, yoga, sports, a museum visit, a picnic at a country park etc. with the rest of the group
- Headteacher lunch – staff could drop in and join the Headteacher for lunch on a series of set dates
- Provision of facilities such as tea and coffee making equipment for free
- Annual reviews and communication of policies and implementation of changes
- Involving staff in the decision making process e.g. sharing school calendar before publication so staff can have their say on it
- Provision of whole school calendars for assessment and reporting so staff can plan their workload accordingly
- Induction processes for new staff to help them find their feet
- Provision of relevant and suitable PD for all staff
- Celebrating staff achievements
- Providing refreshments and snacks before and during after-school events such as parent’s evenings or school ceremonies
- Creating a private space for staff to take a break during their lunch and break times
Some outlined the support in place or available such as:
- The Headteacher
- Counselling services – face-to-face or over the phone.
- School vicar and prayer groups
- In-school wellbeing team
- A staff wellbeing group
- Human Resources
- Occupational Health
Whilst others took a very matter of fact approach which outlined the responsibilities and roles of different stakeholders and how to proceed with concerns surrounding wellbeing, work-based stress etc. Some went on to outline the reponse that would be taken if concerns were raised or time off requested. If I’m honest, these ones left me wondering to what extent these schools support staff or discourage staff from raising concerns surrounding staff wellbeing. I guess I’d need to visit them to really gauge the answer to that.
One in particular jumped out at me where it said:
‘Individuals will assist in the development of good practice and ensure that they do not, through their actions or omissions, create unnecessary work for themselves or their colleagues”.Annon
This statement really surprised me for several reasons.
- What constitutes ‘unnecessary’ work for themselves and others?
- How can one ensure they do not create unnecessary work?
- Will there be a list of ‘must-do’ and ‘don’t do’ work?
- What constitutes an omission?
This also got me pondering about the capability procedures associated with the actions and omissions, if you’re not contributing to the development of good practice, are you then creating further work for others? It really got me wondering.
What makes a good staff wellbeing policy?
Note: This is completely a personal consideration, I’ve not had any experience in HR or school leadership beyond HoD but I have experienced the negatives of poor work-life balance, a series of schools with different levels of consideration and support for staff. Therefore please don’t take what I say here as anything other than my opinion.
Firstly any staff wellbeing policy should identify what the school aims to achieve for staff overall. What does ‘wellbeing’ actually mean to the school, the leaders, the staff? How will they cater for everyone?
Direct to other policies
It should direct to other policies in place that support staff wellbeing e.g. marking and assessment, behaviour, sickness and absence, safeguarding, performance management, professional development etc. If these policies don’t already, the wellbeing policy should briefly outline how these other policies support and promote staff wellbeing.
Role of Stakeholders
The policy should outline who the stakeholders are such as the Headteacher, governors, SLT, teachers, support and office staff along with their role and responsibility in building an environment that supports and nurtures it staff, their wellbeing and their work-life balance.
Next should be an outline of what the school is doing and will do over the time frame of the policy and then beyond. Actions that will help to manage and reduce workloads, that will value staff and provide solutions to challenges. Essentially it comes down to how will they address stress.
This doesn’t mean the introduction of ‘wellbeing’ activities – token gestures that falsely shout “we care about you”. Actual strategies that help to manage workload, foster a work-life balance and support staff during stressful school periods or events in their life.
This does mean… no enforced ‘Wellbeing Days’, the kind where staff are sent off to do activities that if they wanted to do them they could do in the time they gain from better working practices,policies and procedures.
Sure offer activities before and after school or at lunchtime that staff can join in if they choose too such as after school exercise classes, morning yoga, tea with the teachers etc. but don’t make it compulsory or an explicit part of the policy. Instead it should be outlined as provision of opportunities and not compulsory activities.
Practical actions should be associated with other school policies and thus actions that help to support staff, their workloads and to manage whole-school or individual challenges.
In-school Support and Procedures
Next the policy should outline the support available in the school and the procedures in place to guide staff in what to do when they are struggling. This could be people to talk to and people that can guide and help within the school such as HR and admin, the school nurse/counsellor/wellbeing team and of course the Headteacher. No body should be afraid to speak to the Head of the school, if they are in my opinion they are doing the job wrong.
External Support and Procedures
In addition to the support available and the procedures to take within the school, the policy should also outline how staff can get support elsewhere such as through national and local organisations and charities. The school may provide a wellbeing package to its staff which may provide staff with access to counsellors and other services; this too should be outlined and contact details provided.
Finally, the policy should outline how they will manage any issues that arise. This should be a set of procedures so staff know exactly what to do, who to talk to and what the potential responses will be.
Perhaps more of a decision tree rather than a set of bullet points is what I’d envisage. This is so staff can clearly see the steps and procedures in place to support them, the help them manage and to enable them to thrive.
I’m not entirely sure where I’d place this, but I do believe there should be an outline of how the impact of the policy is assessed, how wellbeing is monitored and how frequently the policy will be reviewed. The review process should involve all members of school staff and should have a degree of frequency i.e. termly, annually.
If you’re interested in a bit of further reading on staff wellbeing here are a few links that I have found interesting:
The last thing I’d like to say on the matter though is that the policy isn’t necessarily the important part here, it’s the implementation and enactment of the aims, actions and procedures to foster an environment that values and cares for its staff. It’s about the creation of a workplace that places student and staff wellbeing in the same high regard and the development of working relationships that demonstrate care, compassion and empowerment.
Why? Because we want the best for our students. Happy, healthy teachers can create happy, healthy students.
Please feel free to share your experience of school wellbeing policies, the good and the bad.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.