Wellbeing is for life, not just for Christmas

Our staff advent calendar has been enjoyed by all, writes Laura Baker, but the real secret to wellbeing is making it a leadership priority year-round

Our staff advent calendar has been enjoyed by all, writes Laura Baker, but the real secret to wellbeing is making it a leadership priority year-round

18 Dec 2021, 5:00

pupil wellbeing

the Christmas season is an especially poignant time for expressing our thanks to and appreciation of all our staff. But leading for wellbeing must be about more than letting the calendar dictate when we create the opportunities to show we value our staff.

Park Lane was recently nominated for a national award for our wellbeing work, and we are becoming more used to people contacting us to find out what we do and why we do it. Any visitor to the school will tell you that it really does look and feel very special. And we’re proud of that, but achieving staff wellbeing is within every school’s reach.

All our trust’s schools use pupil voice, staff engagement and parent partnerships to create inspiring environments where everyone feels a sense of ownership and belonging. As an example, for our staff that means the staffroom is more of a staff lounge. It feels like a hotel lobby, designed to ensure staff have a space to come together, rest and relax between lessons.

And of course Christmas does matter a lot. This year, we rolled out a new initiative in the form of a wellbeing advent calendar, which has garnered some attention. In the build up to what will be a richly deserved break for every teacher in the country, each day three members of Park Lane School and Nursery staff are receiving an advent surprise. Each door in the calendar features a ‘little Christmas miracle’ in the form of something wellbeing-focused that we know will be appreciated.

Wellbeing creates environments where exceptional opportunities are the norm

Wellbeing has always been important to us, and the past couple of years have only served to emphasise just how much how much it matters to consider our team’s mental health. For a start, Covid has caused extra pressures both at work and at home, sometimes amid a media narrative that has added a sense of thanklessness to our efforts. So initiatives that reward schools staff for the critical work they do are important in helping them feel valued and maintaining a positive state of mind. The Griffin Schools Trust prides itself on being a ‘family of schools’. Being a member of an extended work family has never been more needed, and families look out for each other.

But Covid has also presented untold challenges for our communities too, and staff across our schools have gone above and beyond to help them meet them. So as well as recognition for doing the job under such tough circumstances, we also focus on ‘discretionary effort’ to keep morale high. It’s all too easy to let the extra things they do go unnoticed. But the children and their families benefit greatly from them, so we go out of our way to notice that otherwise invisible, selfless work.

And that creates a virtuous cycle. Our belief is that these many acts of kindness would not happen were it not for making staff wellbeing a leadership priority. What benefits the children and their families benefits the school and, ultimately, allows us to keep wellbeing at the top of our agenda.

That’s not the result of privilege, but of taking ownership as a leadership team. After all, Park Lane sits within decile one on the index of multiple deprivation. This brings an ever-increasing level of challenge for staff. The alternative would see the advent calendar initiative reduced to tokenism. Instead, because it is just one of the many ways we support our team, it’s genuinely fun for everyone, valuable and valued.

It comes down to this: positive staff wellbeing creates an environment where exceptional opportunities for pupils are the norm. There are other ways to achieve that, but we don’t believe they are sustainable. After all, wellbeing is for life, not just for Christmas. 

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