Talking heads: how does your school help teachers look after their wellbeing?
While children’s mental health continues to be a top priority, schools show how they are supporting their staff too
“Felsted is one of the first schools in the country to have its own in-school wellbeing centre, which is the hub for a year-round programme of activities designed to support the wellbeing of the school community. Yoga, Pilates and mindfulness sessions run every week and staff may use the school’s swimming pool and gym, free of charge. Our employee assistance programme offers 24-hour access to professionals for advice, information, support and counselling.
“Staff members are welcome to discuss any personal and professional worries with me in confidence. We value our staff very highly and their wellbeing, alongside that of every other individual in the Felsted community, is our top priority. We know that a happy and healthy staff will provide the best possible education for our students. “
Karen Megahey, deputy head, counselling and wellbeing, Felsted School
“All staff are offered MHFA England training, which raises employee awareness of mental ill health conditions, and teaches practical skills to spot triggers and symptoms. Those trained have a better understanding of where to find professional support and have more confidence in helping others.
“During a whole school staff wellbeing day and ‘Teacher Twilights’, staff are offered health checks, wellbeing workshops, reflexology sessions and Pilates classes to learn more about complementary therapies to support physical health, mental health and emotional wellbeing. Evidence shows that complementary therapies and exercise help stress recovery, rest and reflection, all of which can strengthen resilience.”
Tracy Pollard, headmistress, Abbey Gate College
“Teaching is a stressful job. Whilst in the independent sector we are free from the yoke of Ofsted, the demands placed on teachers are significant with both pupils and parents having high expectations. At Durham School we take staff wellbeing seriously. We have a group with representatives across the staff body which makes suggestions on how wellbeing can be improved, with ideas ranging from Wellbeing Week through to peer support.
“I would hope that as senior management we create a positive culture where success is celebrated and criticism is always formative. Finally, we trust our staff. We give them the autonomy to teach in the classroom in the way they want and feel is best for their pupils. That’s the best motivation they could have.”
Kieran McLaughlin, headmaster, Durham School
“Teaching is demanding. We cannot pour from an empty vessel; we must nourish our wellbeing and top-up our energy levels. Wellbeing is not tokenistic gestures like staff yoga before school or bringing treats to the staffroom.
“True commitment to wellbeing is making small, regular changes which impact positively on our work: wellbeing tops the agenda in staff briefings, an open-door policy to SLT acknowledges an ‘it’s OK to not be OK’ mindset, support mechanisms are in place for colleagues where needed, there is a constant review of systems to streamline and reduce workload, and staff are encouraged to take a regular guilt-free night off.”
Catherine Dodds, headteacher, The Froebelian School