Sitting pretty

28th September 2007 at 01:00
Well-being among teachers in Fife and Renfrewshire is flourishing... and that's official.

A project to tackle the "chronic lack of well-being" of teachers has been hailed a success.

Creating the Conditions helped make well-being more central to thinking within 18 schools in Fife and Renfrewshire, and there was also evidence that it raised morale in some schools. It is now hoped that other local authorities will act on the project's achievements.

The pilot project, designed by charity Teacher Support Scotland, took place after it commissioned research that identified a "chronic lack of well-being" that was widespread among teachers.

The project, funded by the Scottish Executive, ran from September 2005 to July of this year and involved 11 primary schools, five secondaries, one special school and one nursery school.

It aimed to improve teacher well-being and effectiveness in classrooms, and involved more than a thousand teachers and support staff. It was also hoped that there would be a knock-on effect on pupil well-being and achievement.

Co-ordinators were appointed in both local authorities a staff welfare officer in Fife took on the role with existing duties, while a teacher in Renfrewshire was seconded. The charity provided three staff to support the co-ordinators, while a number of other organisations and individuals were involved.

Creating the Conditions became an "action research project", where participants learned through ex-perience and reflecting on what happened. Care was taken to ensure that work was not time-consuming, that it remained in the mainstream of school activity, and that it could be carried on after the end of the project.

Well-being became a common theme in the schools, discussed at in-service days, in meetings, and referred to in school improvement plans. There were several benefits to schools, with average well-being measured at above national levels.

Other positive developments included: increased discussion about well-being; improvements in morale and atmosphere in a number of schools; and the establishment of staff well-being groups.

Progress was slower in secon-daries, which heads and other staff attributed to the difficulty of com-municating in a larger organisation.

The co-ordinator role was "invaluable", according to an evaluation report by independent consultants, while strategic leadership from the local authority "essential". Schools felt, however, the project needed at least another year to develop fully.

The report stated that it was not realistic within the time available to say if objectives had been achieved, and that more work would be required to provide "robust proof" of its effectiveness.

But it reiterated the import- ance of well-being by showing that national documents such as Journey to Excellence placed staff well-being at the centre of a school's effectiveness.

Mike Finlayson, chief executive of Teacher Support Scotland, said: "What has been learnt from this project will make a real contribution to the Government's aim to make Scotland smarter, fairer and healthier. Teacher Support Scotland will be communicating the findings of this important project to local authorities throughout Scotland.

"I hope all local authorities will look closely at the outcomes of this project and recognise that when attention is paid to staff well-being not only are there health and financial benefits, there are also benefits to the learning experience of our young people."

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