How to start a teacher wellbeing plan

Frustrated Teachers

Teacher wellbeing has been in the spotlight for a while now. Research carried out last year by the Education Support Partnership revealed a bleak picture in view of the current pressures in the education profession, and the impact those pressures are having on the health and wellbeing of teachers. Work-load and work-life balance were cited as the main causes for psychological, physical or behavioural problems associated with work.

The survey of 1, 250 education professionals found the implementation of health and wellbeing policies in the education sector is inconsistent. Education professionals expressed a desire for more support on mental health and wellbeing issues in the workplace.

Headteacher, Daniella Lang, at Brimsdown primary school in Enfield, north London, took the decision to set up a staff wellbeing team, following a troubling time at the school. Problems within the school resulted in two Ofsted inspections, led to redundancies, and left morale amongst teaching staff low. The results of the staff wellbeing plan, she said, have been extraordinary.

Prioritising staff happiness at work has far-reaching effects. As well as greater harmony in the staff room, the process benefits pupils too. Here’s how to get a wellbeing programme started.

1 – Encourage open discussion and look at the hard truths

Create a forum for all staff members to be open and honest about how the pressures of work are affecting them. Consider fairness, consistency and any problems associated with workload.

2 – Start small

It’s far better to grow a wellbeing programme slowly and organically, than to set yourself up for failure with unsustainable projects. Motivational posters and small initiatives to support staff who appear to be struggling can start to bring the focus onto wellbeing. Also, give teachers and support staff the chance to contribute their ideas.

3 – Look at workload and work-life balance

Look at ways to manage workload more effectively, both at school and with marking or preparation done at home. Look for more efficient ways of sharing resources. For example, switching to more verbal feedback, rather than written, could cut down the amount of marking that needs to be done outside of school lessons.

4 – Ensure the leadership team are approachable

Having an open-door policy and supporting well-being practices within the school will help to make your school a happier place to be. It’s really important for staff to feel supported by their managers. Setting up a wellbeing team is a good idea.

5 – Offer tools

Provide opportunities for staff to learn about new techniques to cope with work pressures. Mindfulness activities and weekly priority lists are a good place to start. Cultivate an environment of increased awareness. The earlier problems are identified, the easier they are to resolve.

6 – Encourage increased social interaction

Positive interactions will help to nurture healthy relationships between colleagues. A simple smile and ‘how are you’ can be incredibly powerful. Try to encourage and establish a coaching culture where staff work together to support each other.

7 – Provide opportunities for exercise

Give staff the opportunity to take part in physical exercise, such as a running club, yoga or aerobics class. Ensure healthy options are available for lunch and provide easy access to water, so staff can keep hydrated throughout the day.

A simple wellbeing policy can create meaningful change for teachers.

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