Few would argue against the idea that staff wellbeing should be given more priority in schools, along with more budget.
But, with the funding situation as it is, is it possible to improve staff wellbeing with limited resources and still make a genuine impact?
The answer probably depends on your setting, its priorities and many, many other factors.
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There are, however, a few small ways to start to make a difference.
Saying thank you doesn’t cost anything. Ensure that management genuinely thank staff when it is deserved.
Or organise end-of-term staff awards or a Star of the Week noticeboard that everyone can vote for – these simple moves can work wonders for engendering an environment of positivity.
Using staff to deliver CPD is a great way to empower those providing the training as well as those receiving it.
And beyond that, there is likely to be a significant amount of other expertise out there among the staff body. Staff may well be willing to share this on a Tuesday evening or even for a whole-school Inset day, where teachers teach others a new skill, such as juggling, pilates or dance, or by running a circuits class.
Local health providers often offer wellbeing information sessions, health checks or screening but staff struggle to get there during termtime. Hosting such events for staff may allow them to see professionals more easily and access help where needed.
Encourage regular staff sports teams and lunchtime walking groups, and you could even ask a member of sports staff to run a fitness class – all cheap ways of promoting an active lifestyle.
With some careful planning and scheduling, school facilities can be used by all. If a few teachers’ families chipped in at the weekend for a lifeguard, they could perhaps all use the school pool safely.
Cycle to Work schemes, childcare vouchers and interest-free loans for travel can also all make a significant difference to some and come at a cost of administrative time only.
Whether it’s organising a day out at the weekend walking in the countryside or gathering in the pub on a Friday, a social element outside of the workplace is important for many to make connections when the school day is so busy. Try appointing a social rep or committee to organise events that can cater for all in a school.
An open door, a friendly smile and an approachable colleague can make all the difference to someone having a bad day. Through the allocation of buddies, adopting a coaching approach to management and a developmental appraisal system, schools can create a supportive culture where everyone is looking out for others. And, as a result, everybody benefits.
Another approach could be that when pupils cannot attend appointments with the school counsellor they could perhaps be opened up to staff members, who might benefit.
Developing a staff survey (there are lots of free templates available), organising a staff committee or having a question-and-answer session with senior staff doesn’t cost money – just time – and can make staff feel heard and part of the decision-making process rather than just observers.
Staff feedback is often insightful, genuine and developmental, and a successful school should never ignore it.
Mike Lamb is director of staff welfare at Hurstpierpoint College in West Sussex
This was originally published on 4 November 2019