Staff wellbeing is commonly overlooked. In recent years, the education sector, particularly the FE sector, has been hit with tight budgets and, at the same time, teaching staff have had to deal with the pressure of qualification reforms.
The impact of these changes and the frustrations for staff are demonstrated by the increased stress levels reported by teachers, with the Education Support Partnership citing in its Teacher Wellbeing Index that 67 per cent of educational professionals now describe themselves as "stressed".
The same report showed that 31 per cent of teachers had experienced a mental health problem in the past academic year.
The picture looks bleak when it comes to educational professionals' overall wellbeing.
Trying something different
Faced with this adversity, it is a challenge for any institution to maintain morale and keep staff motivated for their future in the education sector.
However, my college is trying something different to enthuse staff and promote community and wellbeing without spending a penny. We have now hosted two successful health and wellbeing days, which have become integral to the college's ethos and boosted a supportive, community feel.
The wellbeing events are organised as part of Inset days when all staff are not on timetable, so staff are able to attend a variety of sessions.
As all staff attend a session, it normally provides most people with an opportunity to mix with other departments. It allows support and teaching staff to integrate and for senior leadership to be involved.
Teachers show off their extracurricular talents
The sessions typically last for an hour and are targeted at providing staff with an opportunity to try different activities that promote physical health, mental health and wellbeing.
Teachers are not just one-dimensional. They usually are individuals who have many outside interests and talents that are not focused around their job.
The response from staff to an invitation for them to offer activities has been extensive, and they have been showing their many talents. For example, a maths teacher has been able to offer karate sessions, a reprographics assistant led ballroom dancing sessions, another maths teacher has led bhangra dancing workshops, and a chemistry teacher has hosted a craft workshop.
These are just some of the examples of colleagues coming forward. The whole process has shown that there is much more to school staff than just teaching a certain subject.
Creating a buzz
Each session leader has, off their own back, developed ideas and provided a safe space to allow staff to get to know others and work together to develop more of a community ethos.
Other activities that have taken place include yoga, HIIT sessions, volleyball, a treasure hunt, spinning, quizzes, darts competitions, table tennis, jewellery making, vintage hairstyling, singing, mindfulness, comedy writing, slack rope walking, tree tours, salsa dancing and board games.
All of these sessions have been provided for free by staff and it has been so exciting to learn about what other staff can do and this, in turn, has created a buzz around the college and an ease of communication between all members of staff.
Refocus on staff wellbeing
The feedback from the staff has been immense, with these days influencing and changing their relationship with their colleagues. Together, some have engaged in new activities inside and out of college.
The health and wellbeing days will hopefully become a key feature in our college’s calendar – staff are already suggesting and developing ideas for July.
With budget cuts and relentless changes, it is important for us all to take part as a whole community and to refocus on staff wellbeing.
Jo Driscoll is an associate pastoral director and psychology teacher at Reigate College in Surrey