How Can Leaders Improve Staff Wellbeing?
Published 17 October 2023 by Kapow Primary
Published 17 October 2023 by Kapow Primary
At a time when working in primary schools is arguably more challenging than ever, it is increasingly important to provide effective support for teacher mental health and wellbeing. While teaching young children remains a rewarding and fulfilling profession, pressures from workload, a lack of resources, and funding cuts to vital services can place significant strain on staff wellness.
In 2021, the Department for Education (DfE), Ofsted and members of the education sector, including teaching unions, charities and schools, joined together to create ‘The Education Staff Wellbeing Charter’. This document shares a joint commitment to improving staff wellbeing across all aspects of education.
It is clear that intentions to improve the wellbeing of teachers and support staff exist, but it can be difficult to ensure the approach has a sustained impact. By placing staff wellness at the forefront when making decisions and selecting wellbeing initiatives, we can create a culture where colleagues thrive.
In this blog, we will look at:
There are many benefits of prioritising wellbeing in our primary schools, not only for staff, but for the entire school community. School cultures centred around support and wellness allow for:
Ramberg et al.’s 2019 study into stress in the teaching profession found a clear link between improved teacher wellbeing and more positive outcomes for pupils. Happy, well-rested staff are far more likely to have the energy, resilience and mental capacity to support the children they teach to their best ability on a daily basis.
In a fast-paced school environment, it can be easy for staff to neglect their own wellbeing. As leaders, ensuring that colleagues have access to the resources, knowledge and expertise to enable them to look after themselves can significantly improve both physical and mental health.
Providing fruit bowls and snack boxes in the staff room ensures that staff do not go hungry if they forget their lunch. Encouraging friendly, optional competitions centred around movement (e.g. step-count challenges) promotes exercise and getting outdoors. Similarly, a lack of quality sleep can have a highly detrimental effect on wellbeing; therefore, providing resources on sleep hygiene may be beneficial.
In addition to promoting physical health, it is vital to promote mental health awareness and support, to improve whole-school wellbeing. Ensuring that staff have a quiet space to go to in school if they need some time alone, providing access to workshops on topics such as stress management, and clearly signposting colleagues to mental health support services are all strategies that can be utilised to embed a culture of mental wellbeing into your school.
According to UK charity Education Support’s 2022 Teacher Wellbeing Index, ‘68% of staff cited the volume of workload as the main reason for thinking of leaving their jobs’.
As leaders, eliminating unnecessary workload is one of the most effective ways of improving wellbeing in our schools. While it cannot be denied that the volume of work in primary schools is often high, revisiting key policies (in particular, feedback, curriculum and behaviour policies) to identify areas where the workload can be reduced is a useful place to start.
In addition, implementing boundaries around communication (such as setting clear time expectations around responding to emails from parents), facilitating co-planning/sharing of resources and providing a yearly calendar to avoid surprise deadlines can all support in managing teacher work-life balance for the staff in your team.
Ensuring that all staff feel that they belong and have a support network within their place of work is another essential component of whole-school wellbeing. Activities and initiatives that promote community can strengthen connection and increase resilience in the face of challenges.
Introducing secret ‘wellbeing buddies’ (allocating each staff member another colleague who is responsible for carrying out random acts of kindness), setting up a staff ‘shout-out’ board, or simply ensuring protected time for staff to eat lunch together are all methods that can go a long way in creating a culture of support amongst staff at all levels.
Extending networks outside of your individual school can also be highly beneficial in creating a wider sense of belonging. Joining a social media community centred around school wellbeing, for example, can provide inspiration for staff wellbeing activities for your team.
Finally, equipping staff with the correct training and knowledge to carry out their role to the best of their ability can have a significant impact on wellbeing in primary schools.
Supporting children with behavioural or mental health challenges can be stressful and frustrating for school staff if they feel ill-equipped to deal with such challenges. Providing training in these areas is not only empowering for staff, but also allows for the children in our schools to receive the highest quality teaching and support to manage their emotional needs.
Kapow Primary’s FREE Wellbeing Scheme is a progressive scheme that incorporates positive attitudes towards mental health, strategies for improving mental wellbeing and enhancing confidence for pupils.
Combining staff and pupil approaches in this way ensures a truly whole-school approach to wellbeing that is both impactful and sustainable.
Prioritising staff wellbeing is key to developing our teachers, promoting strong outcomes for our pupils and building sustainable futures for our primary schools. As leaders, there is nothing more rewarding than building a happy, resilient and healthy team who work together, laugh together and support each other when times are tough. By placing wellbeing at the heart of school life, reducing workload, strengthening connections and upskilling our staff, we enable our colleagues to flourish and our children to thrive.
More supporting resources: