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Ask Andy – Blog 12

Over the course of this year, I have tried to bring some of the messages in wellbeing to one place and to do some of the sifting of the information out there on the web to make sense of it for those working in our schools. I hope these blogs have been useful and have helped to curate that information into one place for busy school staff.

As we look back over the course of this year and remember those dreadful early days where we had a lack of understanding about what this virus was and how it would affect us, it seems a world away. We’ve had lockdown one, where we shut schools for all but the most vulnerable and the children of those designated as key workers. We had ambiguity about who a key worker was and, in many cases, schools had to determine this for themselves as some parents turned up to school declaring that they were keyworkers because they worked at the bookies! Unbelievable but true!

Schools then had a picture painted by some in the media of not wanting to return to work which was completely unfair. Over the period of the return to school after lockdown one there have been harrowing stories of school communities torn apart by the virus. Indeed, one head had been in her first headship for just a week when she lost a member of staff. There have been times when I’ve wondered whether even with 17 years of headship experience, I would have coped with what has been thrown at schools and I haven’t even got into the exams, voucher and guidance fiascos!

“The resilience shown by schools over the last 9 months has been rock like.”

However, as you work towards the final day and breaking up for Christmas, those working in our schools can reflect on a year like no other with pride at the way they have held their communities together and supported them in THE most difficult of times. The resilience shown by schools over the last 9 months has been rock like. I know it must have felt like the proverbial swan gliding across the surface with legs paddling furiously but you should have immense pride in the way that schools have been there for families, children, and their communities. I am in awe of what you have achieved this year.

As we reach the end of another year and head towards 2021, I want to reassure you that SAS are here to support you with wellbeing for all of your staff after all, everyone has played their part in keeping schools open and functioning.  When we reach the point, in the none too distant future when we can all meet face to face again, I personally want to get out to schools and trusts to share the vision we have for schools with wellbeing at the heart of everything that they do. We have some great plans for networks of schools sharing their work like those working in Positive Education and we want to take the leg work out of searching for an antidote to the effects of high stakes accountability which saps the enthusiasm and purpose of our teachers and school leaders and leads to the recruitment crisis we face. We hope you’ll join us on this journey. Do please contact me and invite me to speak at events where you think schools are ready to hear the positive message that a wellbeing focused school is a school committed to the wellbeing of their staff and pupils AND high standards.

One of the jobs I have in the next term is to bring all the presentations that I’ve done together and put them behind the Ask Andy resources portal on our website. These will be free to client schools and will be useful for staff meetings.

I am also going to be working more closely with NGA and Governors for Schools to help governors understand wellbeing and how they can have a strategic overview which is supportive to the staff and school leadership.

We will also continue with our #WellbeingMeets series where you can hear first-hand from the providers on the National Wellbeing Partnership website. These not only have been interesting but in terms of CPD they are really informative and FREE! We’ll be following up the conversation with Dr Warren Larkin and will be running a webinar on trauma informed practice which I know is something schools would love to hear.

“Looking back whilst we’ve achieved so much with our National Wellbeing Partnership and with more formal partnerships with NGA, Forum Strategy and NAHT.”

Looking back, whilst we’ve achieved so much with our National Wellbeing Partnership and with more formal partnerships with NGA, Forum Strategy and NAHT there is still so much to do. Early in the new year I will be dissecting some work carried out by Leeds Beckett University around the impact of staff wellbeing on pupil outcomes. It’s fascinating stuff. If you want a sneaky peek at the report it is here:

However, I’ll be going through it and hopefully interviewing someone from LBU about the findings which can help inform your practice in being a wellbeing informed school.

“Your efforts this year have been truly remarkable.”

It has been a tough year in so many ways and everyone will have their own stories but as you sit down to Christmas dinner this year, there should be the glow of incredible pride as to what you have achieved. Your efforts this year have been truly remarkable.

I want to finish by paying tribute to the staff at Schools Advisory Service who do an incredible job too. The thing that strikes me about SAS is that it is a team and team focused on making a difference to people, to the staff in our schools; looking out for them and supporting them to do the incredible job that they do.

I heard this week of a real-life story of success which I want to share with you.

“Carmen (false name for anonymity) caught COVID two weeks into lockdown working as a teacher with vulnerable and children of keyworkers. She is 34 and a keen runner. However, COVID left her weak and unable to bend down and tie her shoe laces. Our SAS nursing team supported her back to the first stages of health and then handed over to the SAS physio who worked with her to develop movement again. Then the SAS physical trainer worked with her to get her strength back. She is now back at work and weaving her magic in the classroom.”

For me this is what SAS are all about. We’ re here for you, to support you in a joined up and coherent way when you need us. Making a difference to schools and their staff.

It’s been an absolute pleasure working with everyone this year and I look forward to meeting so many of you face to face in a COVID free 2021.

Have a wonderful Christmas and take time for you, you deserve every minute of your break and more. I’ll be raising a glass to you all on Christmas Day! Cheers!


Ask Andy

If you have questions about wellbeing practice, would like to suggest future content for Andy's blogs or if you are having success with wellbeing culture in your school and would like to share your story, please complete the form below.