'My teachers are not snowflakes'

Headteacher defends pet therapy and pilates wellbeing week for staff amid criticism in national media

snowflake teachers

A headteacher has defended her efforts to improve staff morale by offering them a wellbeing week, which involved massage and beauty treatments and a visit from a pet therapy dog.

Teachers at Ilkley Grammar school were branded "snowflakes" in a national news story about the week of events, which also included pilates sessions and singing workshops.

The Sun newspaper reported criticism of teachers – and said the dog had been hired to help them beat "exam stress" – while quoting a parent as saying it was pupils facing GCSEs who were stressed, not the teachers.

When contacted by Tes, headteacher Helen Williams said staff had been “downhearted” about the article which had also been picked up as a discussion item on ITV’s Loose Women.

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She said her teachers were no more stressed than in any other schools and that the week of events was part of year-long programme of wellbeing events for staff, including the 50 per cent who weren’t teachers such as TAs, catering staff and site staff.

Ms Williams described the atmosphere in school this week as “lovely,” adding: “It’s a chance for our colleagues to take some time for ourselves so we can have a bit of enjoyment and focus on ourselves, while still focusing on our students.”

Referring to the term snowflakes, she said: “The use of the word is ill-informed. It’s humorous in how inaccurate it is. This is not the picture of teachers. Our staff are so resilient and go above and beyond in what they do!”

Ms Williams said after watching the TV broadcast of Loose Women, she was heartened to see support for teachers from the likes of Janet Street-Porter and Stacey Solomon, along with the studio audience.

She said: “It’s laughable, but it’s also sad that the profession continues to be given a negative false perception by people who don’t understand the pressures of the job.

“The mainstream press continues to think teachers have 13 weeks' holiday a year and work nine to three. It’s such an old-fashioned view.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “Describing anyone suffering stress as a ‘snowflake’ misses the point that ongoing stress can and does have a deeply damaging effect on people’s mental and physical health.

“At a time when there is greater focus on speaking up about mental health, dismissing and undermining the real struggles people face in their everyday lives is cruel and unnecessary.”

As reported in Tes last week, there has been a "steep rise" in teachers struggling with mental health over the last two years, with many cases related to workplace stress, while other common issues included bullying, harassment and conflict at work.

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