How to Develop an Effective School Well-being Strategy

Well-being in our schools is currently a hot topic and while there are no shortage of startling newspaper headlines and advice on how to address teacher burnout, reduce workload or minimise stress, there seems to be very little that is concerned with helping teachers regain their sense of agency and power.

An effective well-being strategy will not only include practical tips and tools for helping teachers manage the external demands of the role, it will also help them to manage that over which they have the greatest control – themselves! Yes, there are external pressures exerted by the profession, but there are also internal pressures consisting of our thoughts and emotions and teachers need to know how to both understand and respond appropriately to them.

As the author Aldous Huxley once said,

“You can’t change what’s going on around you, until you learn to change what’s going on inside of you

So where does a school, that wants to develop an effective well-being policy – that addresses both the internal and external pressures of the role, begin? My suggestion is that you begin by doing three key things.

1. Ascertain whether you are all on the same page

Before asking staff what an effective well-being strategy would look like for your context, ask; “What does Well-being mean to you and how can a common understanding influence our behaviour and attitudes as educators?”

I suggest that you ask this question first because responses will help to lay the foundations for what is to follow. If responses from staff indicate that they have a rather narrow definition of well-being and that any strategies implemented might inadvertently create a dependency culture, which in both the long and short term, will only add to the expectations and workload of senior managers, then you know that you have some work to do.

Staff will need to be supported to consider their own personal/professional responsibilities as part of the creation of an effective well-being strategy.

2. Look at what is already being done well

No-one wants to re-invent the wheel. Time is too short and too precious for it not to be used wisely. So, from teaching and learning, to school councils, to parent consultations, to curriculum reviews, look at every aspect of school life and ask; “How does our policy and practice contribute to well-being (as defined and agreed by us)?”
“Is there anything that we either need to stop/start or continue doing (either as an organisation or on an individual basis) to improve our current practice?”

3. Identify what the preferred future will look like

This is a key step for the development of any well-being strategy. Staff need to be supported to identify their own ‘well-being success criteria’. They need to be able to say when the policy is in place how will they measure its effectiveness. Some key questions that can be asked are:

–  “What will be different about the way in which you respond to stress?”
– “What will be different about the way you in engage with your role?”
– “What will be different about your relationships with pupils/parents/staff etc?
– “What can you see yourself doing more/less of?
– “What will be the benefits for yourself and others?

This list of questions is not exhaustive but are designed to help staff members realise that effective well-being strategies are as much to do with helping them regain their own sense of agency and purpose, as they are to do with creating climates in which all of our children are well and can succeed.

Academies Well-being Programme

We believe that true and sustained educational excellence can only be achieved when the need to provide a first-class education for our young is accompanied by the need to meet the emotional, mental and vocational wellbeing of those who teach them.

However, over the last few years, we’ve seen the challenges that schools, in particular, those in MATs face as they seek to raise and maintain standards. Many of these centre around relationships, people management issues and harnessing individual will for the collective good.

New structures, new systems, new roles, new policies and practices can lead to intense periods of transition and uncertainty which can evoke feelings of anxiety, doubt and worry. These feelings can quickly spread from one school to another and if not managed effectively can seriously undermine efforts for creating a unified approach to school improvement across a MAT. Common issues that can arise as a result, include…

– Low levels of Trust
– Poor communication
– Conflict in leadership styles
–  Role adjustment fatigue
– High attrition rates

Left unaddressed these feelings can seriously inhibit the performance and well-being of those who lead and work in our schools which can, in turn, impact on the outcomes for our children.

That’s why we are now offering an Academies Wellbeing Programme designed to help CEO’s, Headteachers and senior leaders as they seek to overcome the challenges of leading in a MAT, support the well-being of themselves and those they lead and above all, enable them to achieve outstanding results for their Schools. This programme is designed to support leaders to create schools that are:

– Places in which communication is open, constructive and honest
– Emotionally resilient environments in which all adults and pupils thrive
– Characterised by strong, supportive, professional relationships
– Healthy and happy and help to foster a true love for learning and in which personal transformation is possible


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