I was talking to a group of experienced school leaders a week or so ago and they were stressing to me just how important the wellbeing of their staff was, and how exhausted they felt. They also intimated quite strongly that the current situation around bubbles, especially in secondary schools, can’t continue into the next academic year as it is simply unmanageable. Secondary aged children are effectively in lots of different bubbles with different learners and teachers so realistically it is an unsustainable model.
Working on the principle that getting Covid in the future should be no more life threatening than flu due to the vaccine, we need to change the way we respond to burst bubbles and I get the feeling that there will be some announcement on that on 19th July. Schools need that surety if they are to plan effectively for the new academic year.
What we can say with surety is that this has been one of the most taxing years for those working in our schools and everyone working in our schools should be congratulated for the work they have done this year in professionally managing the situation and keeping their schools open where possible.
The pandemic has made us all think carefully about our wellbeing and has helped us to re-align priorities about what is important in life. We must not lose sight of this as we move towards the end of the pandemic. We can’t go back to the way things were and we must think about not just how effective we are at work, but how we can truly flourish at work and as individuals.
Its interesting that the DfE seem to agree as they recently launched their school staff wellbeing charter. The charter is an attempt to move the wellbeing agenda forward with some guidance around important principles. What it doesn’t do, is prescribe to schools how to build a positive whole school wellbeing culture. In many ways this is for schools to decide based on their values and ethos, but one thing is clear, wellbeing cannot be seen as a destination we move towards, but a journey. There will be many times on the journey that we ask those travelling with us to give us feedback on how we’re doing and that should be stitched into every aspect of the journey. Staff will have different wellbeing needs and we need to know what these are to create a wellbeing culture that supports all staff. Some staff may choose to do this anonymously others may not only want to volunteer their ideas but become part of a group that steers and upholds the wellbeing culture day to day.
I would encourage all schools to have a look at the charter, but in the form of a document I have created for all SAS client schools. Another benefit of being an SAS school, is that I have taken the charter, unpicked what it is getting at, and signposted you to support which you already have through your policy with SAS. Its worth doing some work on this as an SLT or a school staff because we know Ofsted will be looking at staff wellbeing and this gives you a framework for your preparation. Not only that, but it’s the right thing to do. The document is here and accessed through the password you were given with your policy.
The SAS sponsored Mental Health and Wellbeing school leads community at the Carnegie Centre, Leeds Beckett University goes from strength to strength with over 400 school based mental health and wellbeing leads now regularly sharing their experiences in school and learning from each other.
The last session we had was with Julie Hurst who told us about the power of Positive Education, and you can watch back all the meetings that we have had so far as they are recorded on the website in Vimeo.
As you will be aware SAS are now a wellbeing service for schools, who will also make sure that your budget is protected. The change is a subtle but fundamental one. Our wellbeing services are proactive in being there when you need them rather than just supporting you when you are off work. If we can support staff to be well in the workplace then staff are more likely to be in school, which is good for them, good for the children and good for the school.
It is therefore vital that all staff protected under the policy know how to access the services without the need to go to SLT. I heard a lovely case study this week of just how well this service supports staff in work.
A school business manager in one of our client schools had been struggling with neck pain and was potentially looking at some time off work had she not used the app to access some free physio from SAS. She is now 3/4 of the way through her treatment, is feeling a lot better and has been able to be at work every day throughout the treatment. Her case is supported by the data that we hold.
5 years ago, 91% of the staff who contacted our stress helpline were calling us from home. The latest data we have is that this has fallen to 41% which means that 50% more staff are able to stay at work whilst we support them.
This must be the way forward and with SAS we can support you, so that where possible you don’t need to have time off work.
Finally, this month, I know that some schools are already thinking about September and how they are planning to build whole school wellbeing into their INSET in the year ahead.
Don’t forget that I am available for INSET as part of your policy with us. I’m already planning training for five schools on the return in September and will happily have a meeting with you to plan how we can best meet the wellbeing needs of staff and students in the year ahead.
By the time that my next monthly blog comes out, schools will have broken up for the summer. Although summer holidays might not look like they usually do with the likely ban on travel to certain destinations overseas, please take time to rest, relax and recharge. This year has taken its toll on all staff working in schools. We don’t know what September will look like yet, but we know it’ll be here soon enough. The summer break is time for you and your family. I wish you a restful and relaxing summer break and look forward to working with you in the year ahead.
National Wellbeing Director