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Ask Andy – Blog 8

“If we aren’t going to focus on wellbeing now, when will we?”

The question above is one to be interpreted by whoever reads this blog and their determination to place the flourishing of human beings at the centre of their mission.

If staff and pupils are flourishing then results will follow, not the other way around.

In my last blog in July, I outlined how a focus on wellbeing or thriving, will lead to improved educational outcomes (Adler 2016; Tough 2013). There is now no reason not to put wellbeing at the centre of our school philosophy and culture. If not now, in the middle of a global pandemic, then when?

“There is now no reason not to put wellbeing at the centre of our school

philosophy and culture.

If not now, in the middle of a global pandemic, then when?”

I was listening to the first of four FREE webinars we have set up with Simon Ward an Educational Psychologist from the Wirral, and he noted that quite often we as school leaders wait for the conditions to be right to put in place change (you can listen to this and join these free webinars by clicking here )

 He mentioned that in Death Valley (the most inhospitable place in the world) every 15 years the conditions become right so that the whole valley bursts into a blaze of colour with flowers everywhere. The difference with wellbeing is that the conditions are always right. A whole school wellbeing culture and philosophy that is supported and modelled by senior leaders will:

  • Improve outcomes for pupils and improve pupil behaviour
  • Help to retain staff and see them reinvigorated and save money (Dan Morrow CEO of the Woodland Academy Trust saved over £100,000 in recruitment last year and cut staff turnover from 40% to 4%)*
  • Help staff to feel fulfilled and lead meaningful and productive lives finding a balance between work and personal productivity and fulfilment.

There is no time like the present, and if as a teacher, school leader or governor you aren’t convinced by the information above then consider this. The intensity of focus on test and exam outcomes via inspection is likely to be the lowest in living memory as the children simply haven’t been in school, so there is no time like the present to build a whole school wellbeing culture which supports staff and pupil mental health and wellbeing and starts to nurture both staff and pupils back to a new normal.

As a head, I really didn’t know where to start in building a wellbeing offer for my staff, but we now have partners within the National Wellbeing Partnership who can help you to audit your provision and monitor progress against your plan. We have partners who can help you plan and I’m ready, to support our client schools in that process too. We also have partners who can help you to audit your provision. Very shortly we will be launching a full library of those partners within the National Wellbeing Partnership so that you can search by key word such as leadership or healthy eating for example. This will help you go straight to the partners you need for your school. You can learn more about the National Wellbeing Partnership by clicking here. 

I’ve often felt that there are many similarities between being a headteacher and being a football manager, indeed this was a point made by Alex Ferguson the highly successful Manchester United manager in his autobiography. Both involve the management of key players to ensure success, the measure of which it seems are results at the end of the year (season). Football teams have teams within the team such as defence, midfield and attack like Foundation Stage, KS1 and KS2 and team success can’t be properly achieved without all teams pulling together and contributing. Critically neither can be totally successful without effective and inspiring leadership.

As we approach the start of another football season, clubs will be ensuring that players have looked after themselves and are in top physical and increasingly mental condition; are eating well and sleeping well to ensure that they perform at their best. Whilst footballers are elite athletes, if we want our staff in schools to perform at their best we need to ensure that we as leaders do everything in our power to support them to be the best that they can be.

…if we want our staff in schools to perform at their best we need to ensure

that we as leaders do everything in our power to support them to be the best

that they can be.

We know that staff who are well, physically and mentally, perform better than those who aren’t. We also know that staff who feel well in themselves not only are more effective but also feel better about their role and themselves. This has a positive impact on the students and their outcomes.

Wellbeing is a leadership matter. We as leaders need to create the right conditions in school for our teams and individuals to excel. Staff physical and mental health is key to this performing well. No longer is wellbeing the optional extra, it is now front and centre to the success of our schools. For our children to be the best they can be, our staff need to be firing on all cylinders and there needs to be a plan and a whole school approach to developing this, so that all staff can articulate what the school is doing to allow them to thrive and the children to flourish.

As we head to the start of a new school year there will be the usual anxieties of new classes and the challenges that this brings but there are also new anxieties and real threats to staff wellbeing. As a school leader are you confident that you are ready for these challenges? Is wellbeing embedded to support staff at this time and if not now when?

However you aren’t alone in this. Schools Advisory Service and the National Wellbeing Partnership stand ready to support you in these most unusual of times. Please do get in touch. Every best wishes for this new academic year and we look forward to meeting the challenges side by side with you.

Andy Mellor

National Wellbeing Director – Schools Advisory Service


*  Dan Morrow quote from “For Flourishing’s Sake by Frederika Roberts (Jessica Kingsley Press)

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.