Tips for improving staff wellbeing in schools

Amid the retention crisis and ever-increasing levels of teacher stress, it has never been more important to look after staff wellbeing. Sonia Mainstone-Cotton has some suggestions

Staff wellbeing is a significant challenge for managers and school leaders, who are in an excellent position to make a difference to the lives of their staff.

If your team are feeling good in themselves, they are able to improve the wellbeing of the children they are working with, and they can flourish and meet their full potential, which is good both for them and the workplace.

We know that poor wellbeing can lead to increased sick leave, dissatisfaction with the job, lower-quality work, and even staff departures. Wellbeing is affected by a wide range of issues, some of which are outside the workplace, but there are plenty of ways in which managers can support staff.

I’ve compiled a few simple tips and suggestions on how you can improve the wellbeing of your own staff, taken from head teachers and managers.

Your first port of call is simply asking your staff team how they are doing. The Education Support Partnership, a charity specialising in wellbeing in education, works with schools to audit staff wellbeing. They have a series of suggested questions, some of which use a scale of one to five. For instance:

How stressed do you feel?

Do you feel you have enough support in the workplace?

Are you able to manage your workload?

Do you have someone you can go to if something is wrong?

Would counselling be helpful to you?

What do you like about your job?

What do you dislike about your job?

A wellbeing audit can help to give you a sense of your team’s needs, and it can inform training and development requirements. You need to act on the findings, of course, and you need to respond to staff quickly and if possible put in some immediate changes.

Wellbeing covers many areas such as how we eat, sleep, exercise, spend time outside, relax and use spare time. As a manager there are things you can do to support staff in these areas. Here are some ideas:

-Provide hot drinks for staff.

-Ensure there is a staffroom to relax in, and take a lunch break.

-Enable staff to eat school lunches at a subsidised rate, which encourages staff to eat, or provide breakfast items like bread for toasting.

-Provide yoga classes for staff once a week.

-Make links with local gyms or exercise classes to provide a discounted rate for staff.

-Communicate well: publish dates of key events/reports/parents evenings, etc at the beginning of the year.

-Manage communication so it is clear but doesn’t overload staff. This includes sending out communication at reasonable times.

-Thank staff for their work, perhaps with a postcard, or by buying cake or fruit for the staffroom.

-Create a culture where it is okay to say “I am finding this hard or I am really stressed by this”.

-Cultivate a culture which is non-judgmental.

-Remember birthdays!

-Talk about wellbeing in team meetings. Have it on the agenda, encourage staff to take it in turns to lead on wellbeing: people could share ideas and tips on what is helping them.

-Set up a mentor system where staff are buddied up and supporting each other.

-Offer supervision: some schools buy in a supervisor particularly for staff who are working with very challenging children.

-Where possible accommodate staff requests, by allowing them to attend their child’s nativities, graduations, and suchlike.

Along with supporting your staff, as a manager you also need to look after your own wellbeing. Think about how you are eating and how much sleep you get yourself. Are you exercising, and how do you relax? And you must also consider where you get support of your own, as this is important too.

Sonia Mainstone-Cotton is an early-years consultant, and author of Promoting Emotional Wellbeing in Early Years Staff

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