In a school we have many factors which have an impact on student and staff wellbeing:
Isolation: How many of us lock ourselves in our classrooms at breaks and lunches? How many staffrooms are empty these days? The lack of social interaction by some staff can have a detrimental impact on their mental health & wellbeing.
Stress/Burnout/Overwork: In some schools, the entire school community is stressed and overworked. Is there anyone looking at the overview of a child's/teacher's/staff member's day? How do we mitigate this?
Rise in Mental Health issues: Some would say this has been on the rise for quite some time amongst children. But now we have severely overstretched staff who are also coping with mental health issues.
Lack of Emotional Regulation: Children, parents and staff struggle with emotional regulation.
The above leads to a molotov cocktail of emotional, mental and physical health problems. So, what can we do as school leaders?
Assess your School Culture
Attendance Policy: What is your current culture in the school? Is there an atmosphere of martyrdom? Or is the feeling 'if you are sick, you are sick'? Do line managers have regular check ins with staff? How does the cover work? Is there a system in departments for cover or are sick staff expected to set cover? Are return to work meetings conducted? Do staff feel like they are being admonished for being absent in these meetings? Have line managers had training in how to have these meetings? Do students get rewarded for good attendance? Do staff? What is the impact on both staff and students of this policy?
Teaching & Learning (T&L): Do your T&L practices/policies increase the workload of staff unnecessarily? What is being added? What can you take away? What can you streamline? is T&L supportive & developmental or based on scrutiny & judgement? Do staff feel under pressure to perform? Or are they nurtured, coached and trusted? Do staff feel safe to take risks and be creative or do they feel constrained to follow the status quo and how managers have 'always done it'?
Modelling: Do your leadership model self-care? Do they have hobbies outside of work? Do they go home early at least one night a week? Do they show compassion and empathy for staff?
CPD: Do your staff need training/support in self-care? Do your leadership need training in empathy? Do they need support in how to have difficult and sensitive conversations?
Strategies & Tools to Support yourself & your team
I LOVE a good coaching wheel! This is fab by Great Place to Work. I've added some self-coaching questions. It's a good place to start looking at the overall picture of your wellbeing:
What are you planning into your week for your own wellbeing? Score yourself out of 10 for each section. *Which areas have low scores?
*What action points will you take to increase the low scores by just 1 over the next month?
*What will you start doing?
*What will you stop doing?
*What will you continue to do?
*How will you feel if you don't do it? *How will you feel when you do?
Does your Stress Bucket have holes in it?
Healthy pressure can be good for you but at what point does it become unhealthy stress?
As you can see from the bucket, prolonged stress can have a detrimental effect on your body and mind. You can download a great worksheet by Mental Health UK here.
You could introduce this stress bucket at your next staff meeting and get everyone to reflect on how full their bucket is.
Are you thriving? Surviving? In Crisis?
The common theme amongst all the teachers, middle and senior leaders, headteachers and Executive Heads I've worked with these last few years has been their exhaustion. I'm genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of many of our staff on the frontline.
If you are concerned about particular staff members, get them to see where they are mostly on the chart here. If you, or they, are teetering on the edge of being 'In crisis' it's time to get help now.
The RipleyTSA has shared this graphic with me. They use it across their different schools for children.
The white boxes are for things specific to each school.
They generously would love to share and for it to be widely used.
Are you concerned about your team burning out or suspect they already are? Get them to fill in this burnout self-test online by Mindtools:
The wellbeing web trademarked and copyrighted by Triangle Consulting was developed to support and measure progress of people experiencing a range of issues including homelessness, mental health problems and substance misuse.
In this case we can work with either a child or a parent to rate how they feel about the eight areas of wellbeing. This exercise can be repeated again at a later time to chart any changes. This helps visualise how children and parents are feeling but can also be used as a tool to reflect on progress over time as their scores on the wellbeing web change.
There are a few crucial questions here that impact a person's wellbeing. The lack of inclusion can have a detrimental impact on a child's wellbeing. A child that's being bullied can feel isolated, unsafe and miserable. This can affect their overall physical, mental and emotional health. We can't expect children to thrive and achieve if they do not feel nurtured and safe. The same can be said for adults. You can download this resource here.
Meaningful Ways to Improve Staff Wellbeing
Here is a great infographic by Mentally Well Schools containing 9 ideas for meaningful ways in which schools can improve teacher wellbeing and mental health, as well as the wellbeing of all staff. Please feel free to share this resource on social media if you wish. PDF version: 9 Ways to Improve Teacher & Staff Wellbeing PDF. For an animated GIF version of this resource, download the Teacher & Staff Wellbeing Pack.
I believe coaching should be at the heart of school improvement. It has been at the forefront of many business organisations for decades, yet the education sector is slower on the uptake.
Leadership, coaching and staff/student wellbeing: to me, the three are intrinsically linked. The best leaders coach their team members; inspiring, challenging and empowering them to be the best they can be whilst looking out for their wellbeing. Effective leaders, leads to more effective teachers, which ultimately leads to better student outcomes.
Used as part of the Teaching & Learning strategy, coaching can develop a culture where staff share their practice and learn from each other in an atmosphere of trust, structured professional dialogue and collaboration. It can thus lead to more effective teachers and ultimately have an impact on student outcomes. As a senior leader and recently as a consultant, when I have introduced a coaching culture into schools, it has led to dramatic improvements in teaching & learning. When lesson observations become less threatening and instead become developmental, learning is more likely to occur for both the teachers and students. Training teachers in coaching skills, can also raise the professionalism within an organisation. Teachers are able to have professional discussions with more confidence using the skills of coaching.
In essence, coaching can improve individual self-confidence, relationships between colleagues and overall team effectiveness - all of which will have an impact on school improvement and student outcomes.
In a Multi-Academy Trust I introduced coaching to several years ago, I encouraged those who had coaching to complete a survey on the impact of coaching. Over 95% said the coaching had had a positive impact on their professional and personal lives. They said it had a considerable effect, on their wellbeing and feeling valued in the organisation.
Coaching Young People: When I was a teacher, I often used coaching conversations with my pupils.
It was useful for:
* behaviour management - getting them to consider a different option
* dealing with low self esteem
* raising low aspirations
* developing their confidence to excel
* getting them to be independent learners
Benefits of coaching young people:
Cultivate a growth mindset enabling them to deal with and overcome setbacks
Boost confidence and build self-regard
Encourage emotional regulation
Ignite creative problem-solving skills
Develop empathy skills and enable them to understand that everyone is different.
As a result of coaching, young people will feel inspired, challenged and empowered academically, emotionally and will be able to deal with future setbacks with the knowledge and skills to learn from them.
How I wish I had had coaching when I was younger! Perhaps I would have been more confident and believed in myself more? Perhaps I would have bounced back from setbacks a lot quicker? Coaching can have great benefits for young people. Imagine if you had obliterated your limited beliefs when you were much younger?
At MalCPD we have a range of coaches who are wellbeing experts (Patrick is a self-appointed 'Wellbeing Supermodel'!
Ask for help.
It's okay not to be okay. If you feel you could do with support, I'm offering 50% off my 1:1 coaching sessions till Christmas.
BUT if you feel you are heading towards crisis, you must get help now. Contact your doctor, phone Education Support UK or your local mental health service where you can self-refer.
There needs to be a board in the staff room or somewhere where staff can easily see where they can get support.
I believe the greatest impact on staff, pupils and parents' wellbeing is how valued, supported and encouraged they feel. We are not robots, coming in to do a job then leave. We are not in a factory clocking in and clocking out. If we get the culture right, schools can be the most incredible places for all to be learning and working together in collaboration and shared values. The above practical tools, strategies and support will ensure Humanity in Leadership is alive and well.
Nourish The Workplace ™️. Helps schools to help themselves. An anonymous staff survey gives you what you really need to know – how staff feel about working at your school. https://nourishtheworkplace.com
@Teacher5aday - Follow this great organisation. Find out more here: #teacher5aday: why I started it, what we’re doing now, and its impact - SSAT (ssatuk.co.uk)
Andrew Cowley has a fantastic book: The Wellbeing Toolkit is an invaluable resource for promoting wellbeing and resilience among all school staff, thereby improving staff attendance and retention, and helping all teachers fall back in love with teaching.
Assertive Leadership Course provides leaders with the communication skills to be compassionate and empathetic leaders. I've been encouraged by the fact that headteachers are signing up their whole senior leadership teams to this course.
Essential Coaching Skills for School Leaders Course give you practical skills in using a coaching approach in the school-based leadership context.
Programme in Coaching & Mentoring (Level 5) is a professional course for those who would like to deepen their knowledge and skills in coaching.
Malarvilie is a former senior leader and history teacher. As an Education Consultant and Executive Coach she supports leadership development through InstituteLM recognised leadership and coaching skills courses. Contact her now if you'd like a complimentary 30 min coaching call to discuss some of the above.