The Inset day with a difference

4th March 2011 at 00:00
Education `crisis' forgotten as Inset day focuses on pampering

With a series of critical reports prompting accusations of "classroom complacency", hard-working teachers across Wales can be forgiven for feeling disheartened.

But in Swansea, at least, a number of primary teachers returned to their schools after the half-term break on Monday feeling less stressed after a "training" day that included massages, holistic therapy sessions and even self-defence classes.

Health professionals were also on hand to offer healthy living tips and dietary advice, while hairdressers and beauticians were available for pampering sessions.

Around 150 teachers from the eight primaries that feed Pentrehafod secondary school, in the Hafod area of the city, attended the training day before half-term.

As well as a focus on teacher wellbeing, staff also discussed ways to improve pupil well-being, which is an integral part of Estyn's new inspection framework.

Alison Bastian, headteacher of Cwmbwrla primary, said the event was an opportunity to give something back to staff.

"Pupil well-being has a raised profile in the new inspection framework, but it's very easy for teachers to neglect their own well-being," she said.

"Teaching is a demanding and highly pressurised job and to do it properly, you must give 110 per cent every day.

"We have a cluster Inset day every year and we felt it was an ideal opportunity to hold an event that would focus on both staff and pupil well-being."

Rhydian Gough, acting headteacher of Pentrehafod School, where the event was held, said: "We have an obligation to the children in our community to give them the best opportunities for health and happiness in their future lives.

"If we are not fit and healthy ourselves, then we can't help our young people."

Organisers said the Inset day had cost "next to nothing" and attracted positive feedback from teachers.

Neil Mackintosh, a teacher at Plasmarl primary, said: "Teaching is a stressful job anyway, but it seems at the moment we are getting a barrage of negative publicity.

"I think the day was successful - anything that can help put you in a better frame of mind will help you perform better in the classroom."

In a speech to the event, children's commissioner Keith Towler said: "The commitment, the dedication and the love that's expressed in places like schools every day isn't recognised sufficiently and I think we should do more about that."

But David Reynolds, professor of educational effectiveness at Southampton University and an adviser to the Assembly Government, said that while staff well-being was important, he questioned whether such events were the best use of Inset training time.

"You need hard-edged activities to make sure staff are performing absolutely at their best," he said. "I'm not sure what benefit these sort of soft activities can have. Personally they would not be at the top of my list of training priorities right now.

HEALTH CHECK: Safe and happy?

Pupil wellbeing is a core part of Estyn's new common inspection framework. Schools will be inspected on how they promote well-being, using evidence from pupil and parent surveys.

Guidance for inspectors states that good levels of well-being in primary schools will see pupils "highly engaged and motivated and displaying pride and confidence in their work".

They will be fully involved in school life, feel safe, attend and behave well and have positive attitudes to healthy living and eating.

  • Original headline: Ah, this is the sort of training we could all do with more of

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