Sid Inglis, headmaster, Elstree School
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on schools is immense. Within a very short time frame, teachers have embraced a completely new way of delivering virtual lessons. The pressure is huge. Empowering staff and playing to the strengths of individuals is crucial, eg those with the greatest IT skills can take a lead and support others.
At Elstree we have created welfare subcommittees to ensure a strong safety net of support. The sense of community is vital. Thursday evening clapping for the NHS, weekly Zoom quizzes and scavenger hunts in the Elstree grounds bring an element of fun and an opportunity to relax. We will emerge from this pandemic as a stronger, more compassionate and cohesive team.
Sally-Ann Harding, senior school head, Rydal Penrhos
I think it’s important for teaching staff to switch off when they can. This is an unprecedented time for everyone and it is vital they take time out from their busy home and work life. We have encouraged all our staff to use some of their time during the day to relax, reflect and gather their thoughts.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the health and wellbeing of the Rydal Penrhos community is of paramount importance and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Our chaplain, head of pastoral care and school counsellor have all been in constant contact with staff and pupils to keep in touch with how they are doing and looking to assist in any way they can.
Jane Gandee, headmistress, St Swithun’s School
At St Swithun’s we quickly decided that personal contact, pragmatism and routines were important. We therefore decided to retain regular fixtures such as assembly, registration and staff meetings, albeit in an amended form, to give structure and familiarity.
Where once colleagues would have caught up with each other at break, we now have online break and lunchtime meetings using Teams, group activities such as Zoom yoga and whole school quizzes, and a regular wellbeing ‘temperature check’. We also seek to be realistic in what we ask of staff so we are not expecting all lessons to be live, we have reduced the number of co-curricular activities and we are significantly shortening our reports.
Richard Marshall, headmaster, Ashville College
I cannot overstate just how important the wellbeing of staff and pupils is to us. This is not something we introduced as a knee-jerk reaction to coronavirus and home schooling. It’s what we have always done. Since we were forced to close our doors, we have organised regular online meetings to understand and support colleagues.
We have provided equipment to enable staff to continue their work at home, even arranging the delivery of desks and chairs if needed. We encourage staff to take time for themselves, away from the ‘virtual classroom’, to join exercise challenges set by our PE department, and to spend time with their families, to protect both their physical and mental health.
For information on Mental Health Awareness Week, visit https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/