Wellbeing and mental health policies for staff and pupils are no longer separated
Wellbeing and mental health policies for staff and pupils are no longer separated at the school, with the needs of staff and children intrinsically linked within each policy statement. It’s a strategy driven by the belief that pupils cannot be nurtured without similar levels of support being offered to staff.
A recent survey found that 94 per cent of staff say that their workplace is having a positive impact on their mental health. The survey also found that that staff talk more, are more resilient, more optimistic and feel less stressed and anxious. We caught up with Thrive Licensed Practitioners Becky Norman and Emma Smith and Deputy Headteacher Matthew White to find out more.
Q) Staff wellbeing is so important – how do you approach it?
Matthew: Thrive is a big part of the picture here that we offer our staff. Thrive is really personal to the pupils and it’s an ethos that we’ve adapted to working with staff. I think the staff team and the leadership team recognize that everyone has got something going on every day. This informs the way you teach and also the way that you interact with colleagues. We have quite a strong focus on language and we use a common approach with children and with each other. We also have a Family Link worker who supports staff as well as children and we have a staff meeting every term focused on wellbeing. It’s important to recognise that we’re still at the beginning of our journey – it’s very much something we’re still working on. Next year, we’re planning to look at how we can make better use our outdoor space to support wellbeing.
Emma: We’re always checking in with each other and we are very supportive of each other. Everyone who comes into our setting says what a lovely feeling it has and how friendly staff are. Everyone gets a wellbeing day where, once a year, staff get a day off to do something that benefits their wellbeing. It can be spending time on a hobby, self-care or family time. The idea is that everyone can choose what will help them. For me, I spent some time with my grandchildren which was amazing. I think it’s something that everyone has found really beneficial.
Becky: For my day, I had my hair done and enjoyed some ‘me time’. I’ve got three children so I never get a day to myself and it was lovely!
Q) What does SLT do to ensure that a culture of wellbeing is embedded in the school for staff and for pupils?
Matthew: It’s not a top-down thing - everyone is supportive of each other and trusts each other to do their job and that’s the way it’s been for a number of years. We try to recognise where staff go above and beyond. There is an area on our website where parents and the wider school community can nominate staff members and give them a bit of a shout out to recognise what they do.
Nothing that we put down on our award submission is 100 per cent unique to us but I think what we do really well is to make it meaningful. Wellbeing in the workplace can be seen as fluffy and tokenistic but when it’s like that, people know it and I think that here, everyone knows that staff wellbeing is a genuine commitment.
Emma: This school doesn’t feel like it has a hierarchy. Anyone could go and chat to SLT because there is a culture that their doors are always open. We’re HLTAs and we feel like we’re on the same level as teachers - all of us feel like we’re all on the same side and that we’re working together.
Becky: In the same way that we’ve got strong relationships with the children, we’ve got strong relationships with each other. We know each other really well and we trust each other which makes us a strong team.
Q) How did you feel when Southwater’s name was announced at the Tes Awards?
Emma: When it was announced that we were the winner I was in shock. We were really pleased with it.
Matthew: It’s always nice to get recognised and we’ve had other schools get in touch wanting to set up similar things and to find out more about what we have done so it’s been nice for us from a professional perspective to be able to pass on what we’ve learned.
Q) Why is it important for schools to focus on staff wellbeing as well as pupil wellbeing?
Matthew: If you get a happy staff team then it’s going to be an effective team. You want to have a happy, fun school as a professional but also, as a human being, you want to make sure people are happy doing what they’re doing.
Emma: It’s something that helps us to be the best we can be professionally. If you have something going on at home, it feels like you can leave it all behind when you come to school. To me, this place has always been a sanctuary, you can always talk to someone and have someone listen to you - it’s a very special place to be.
Over to you
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