How to Best Support Staff as a School Leader
As a school leader – be it a head teacher, deputy head, assistant head or part of the leadership team – you will often be given the role of supporting not only NQTs, but also early career teachers and teachers who are new to your school community. There will also be times when longer standing teachers at your school need additional support. Effective leadership and mentoring can be one of the most rewarding aspects of being a school leader. Tied in with this is the ongoing thought leadership that surrounds supporting ALL staff effectively. Key to this is workload. How can workload be managed and sometimes challenged without it impacting on the progress of the children – and the school? At Kapow Primary, we believe that there are ways to cut workload and simultaneously also improve outcomes. This will in turn lead to increased morale, improved staff retention – as well as giving teachers more time to do what they do best – teach.
Another thing to remember, is that it is actually in your interest as a leader to understand thoroughly and challenge the workload of your teaching staff. Happier staff leads to fewer HR issues, fewer people leaving so fewer new staff to find and support. It also leads to a happier atmosphere – so it will improve your work life balance too!
But workload isn’t the only issue here, there are other things to be considered when supporting teachers effectively. Is your staff room well equipped? Is it too hot, too cold? Does the fridge work? Who empties the dishwasher? Giving teachers a nice place to relax and chat is so important, yet often overlooked.
10 Ways to Support Your Teaching Staff Effectively
But where do you start? How can you support teachers and do everything else you have to do too?
Cut Planning time
Using Kapow Primary for specialist subject planning is something that can cut workload straight away. As long as the content is editable and personalisable for your children, why reinvent the wheel? The teachers behind Kapow Primary have had the time and experience to try and test the lessons and put a lot of time and thought into the sequences and ideas – something that classroom teachers just don’t have the time to do, so you actually end up with higher quality lessons. Encourage teachers to also share planning from previous years – what worked, what didn’t. Use something like Dropbox to store lesson plans and resources for future use. Want to have a thorough look at what we offer? Sign up for our free trial here.
Review your marking policy
Ofsted’s guidance is clear on this – do what works for your school. They have no set requirements when it comes to marking. There is no sense in a year 1 teacher marking a set of year 1 science books when the children can’t read what the teacher has written. Consider alternatives such as peer marking, verbal feedback or group feedback. Talk to other schools in your area and see what has worked well for them. Marking takes up SO much time – that time could be spent in a MUCH more effective way surely?
Survey your staff – anonymously
Give ALL your staff, not just teaching staff, the opportunity to anonymously feed back on what is working well at your school and what isn’t. Review and act on the feedback in a visible way so that staff feel that they are being listened to. Cover topics such as marking, planning, behaviour, leadership, resources and anything else you feel is relevant for your setting. Make changes for the better.
Think seriously about mental health
It is the responsibility of all leaders to think very seriously about the mental health impact of all teaching staff. Organise drop in sessions where staff are free to come and chat informally. Keep an eye out for anyone that seems to be struggling – talk to them, see if you can help. Our wellbeing videos and lesson packs pare packed full of tips on maintaining a healthy state of mind. Remember, that mental health is a number one priority and when people are feeling good, they will enjoy their work and personal life even more.
Say thank you to staff
For most people, a simple thank you can go a long way. This could be in the form of a letter, card, email, flowers – whatever works for your school. But be specific. Perhaps it’s someone giving up their weekend to go on a residential, running a craft club or feeding the school chickens every day – mention that. At the end of each half term, consider organising a thank you breakfast for staff or similar, or ask staff what they’d like the most.
Make prioritising a healthy work life balance the norm
Teachers are often looking for cues from the leadership team on what a good work life balance looks like. Racing to be first in school every day, or making it obvious that you are the last to leave and spend every holiday in school is not a good way to set the tone. It will also impact your own mental health. Set a good example by talking about your weekend plans, ensuring that you work reasonable hours and leave early on a Friday. By doing this, you will reduce pressure on staff to exhaust themselves – as it won’t help anyone anyway if the do!
Make a thing of personal events
If someone has a baby, graduates, gets married or whatever it is, make a big deal of it. Likewise, if someone needs to take time to attend a family wedding, to see their child in a play or support a relative, be flexible. You get back what you give in this case and since teachers can’t take time off in termtime, they are very restricted on what they can and can’t attend. Don’t encourage resentment by making it difficult for people to fulfil their out of school commitment and responsibilities.
Sometimes when you have a new staff member – be it an NQT, supply teacher or a more experienced teacher, it can unearth and expose behaviour issues within the school. If the children don’t know the boundaries, teachers won’t be able to teach and the children won’t be able to learn. It’s also extremely stressful for all staff. Be open about the issues you have and encourage staff to air any concerns as soon as they arise. Some useful reading about this is the book “When The Adults Change, Everything Changes” by Paul Dix.
Unlike in other jobs, teachers can’t really check their emails between 9 and 3. This means that any emails that are sent are an additional task to do at the end of each day. That said, they are a much more effective use of time than a staff meeting. Send emails sparingly, and if you do send them in the evening, weekend or during holiday time, consider using email delay. This means that you can delay sending your email until the working day and will reduce pressure for teachers to check their emails when they should be relaxing and doing other things.
Shorten staff meetings
Staff meetings should be a fixed length of time, scheduled in advance, useful, effective and positive. Survey staff to see what they’d like to have covered in staff meetings, do whole staff training and catch up on curriculum updates. Staff are already tired after teaching all day, make them light and empowering all at the same time. Oh, and remember the biscuits!
So there you have it, our guide to supporting the staff within your school.
Obviously you will have to do what works best for your staff and school – every setting is different, but hopefully these tips will give you food for thought when it comes to how to maintain a supportive and mentally healthy environment for all.