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Free article: A practical approach to effective staff wellbeing

Published: Monday, 04 May 2020 19:23

At Bishop Young Academy in Leeds, wellbeing is high on the agenda. So much so that every half term the school dedicates a whole week to it. Assistant Principal of Inclusion, Safety and Welfare, Emily Kempthorne, explains how they’ve made this possible and the impact it is having on all stakeholders.

Summary points

• A ‘wellbeing week’ can indicate a school’s recognition of the importance of mental health.

• It is important to invest time in your staff and celebrate their achievements.

• Promoting the wellbeing of staff can improve pupil wellbeing and extend into the community.

Wellbeing is fast becoming recognised as an integral part of education and is as important for staff as it is for students in all educational institutions. Dedicated time within the academic year helps to ensure that all stakeholders have space to actively engage in recognising that their mental health needs are as important as physical needs.

One practical suggestion is to schedule wellbeing weeks across the year. During a wellbeing week, all staff:

• are guaranteed to have no after-school meetings, deadlines or formal observations

• have the chance to access a variety of thought-provoking activities

• have opportunities to bond with peers or not feel guilty if they wish to spend more time with their loved ones.

To be able to make this a reality, it is vital to plan the annual calendar for the year in advance and schedule one wellbeing week each half term that is dedicated solely to wellbeing activities and celebrations.

While yoga activities, craft making and organised sports are all excellent activities to get involved with, it is important to recognise that wellbeing is also about identifying the barriers and stressors that staff face within educational institutions. From workload demands to policy adherence, pensions to everyday budgeting matters; each aspect of the job can have a direct impact on staff wellbeing.

Five ways you can enhance staff wellbeing 

1 Invest time in your staff

Investing time in your staff is vital in order to ensure that wellbeing is a priority. Staff voice is often overlooked, but it is important to find out how the staff body is feeling. Set up both informal and formal check-ins with staff, as well as the chance to access appropriate supervision, and ensure that wellbeing is on every agenda no matter what role the staff member has.

Conversations should be purposeful and signpost to further support and guidance, either internally as part of a counselling programme or through external support services if required.

Establishing a thriving peer-support network, good line management structure and the potential to review requests for leave on an individual basis, will stretch miles in ensuring that every staff member feels appreciated and supported within the workplace.

2 Celebrate your staff

According to one survey, people can spend on average approximately 3000 days at work over their lifetime, and it is recognised that in the educational sector this is significantly more. It is, therefore, perfectly reasonable for significant celebrations to take place for staff on occasions such as births, marriages, obtaining new qualifications and more.

A quick way to celebrate staff is to ensure that they receive a gesture for their birthday; a card from the headteacher or the ‘Ripple Fairy’ could visit their desk (other delicious chocolate bars are available). The introduction of a weekly e-magazine ‘Celebration Matters’ gives both staff and students the opportunity to nominate each other, promoting and celebrating lifelong learning and achievements and boosting morale.

Other ways of building a culture of wellbeing and unity include using social media creatively or handing out end-of-term appreciation certificates. You might also have staff raffles or allocate ‘secret friends’ who make your day a little better by anonymously gifting you a treat or supporting you with small gestures of kindness

3 Look for creative ways to cover lessons

Whether it’s a CPD course, meeting or illness, covering absent colleagues can have a huge impact on all involved. Why not try to introduce a scheme that encourages internal staff to cover lessons for an incentive?

The cover rewards scheme is based on a sign-up system where staff members can accrue hours over a period of time. For every set number of cover lessons completed above and beyond their allocation, staff can obtain enough additional hours for a day off in lieu to attend term-time events that otherwise may not have been an option.

4 Break the stigma

Promoting positive wellbeing and mental health starts through deliberate conversation. The more these are a part of the daily diet within the staff, student and parent body, the more usual these conversations become and the more they demolish the perceived stigma.

Empowering each other to ‘normalise’ discussions on feelings and thoughts will ensure that positive attitudes to mental health are a vibrant part of school culture. Adding a short email disclosure stating that there is no expectation for staff to reply between agreed hours, such as 7pm and 7am, is a quick win to eliminate guilt.

Remove barriers to how staff can support students’ mental health with detailed student passports that contain key wellbeing strategies that can be used consistently. Use programmes such as Provision Map, Class Charts wellbeing tracker and the Worth-It programme.

Promote reflective tools such as the ‘Five ways to wellbeing’ and ‘Wheel of life’, which can be used by both staff and students to open a wellbeing dialogue. Plan effective and meaningful CPD that can be transferred directly into practice and, most importantly, allow staff time to do this.

5 Extend the support to the community

The support that schools, academies and colleges can offer is not confined to within the bounds of the institution, it can radiate well into the community and into the family home. Coffee mornings have been a great starting point to empower parents to support their child and their own mental health needs.

You can raise the profile of wellbeing beyond the staff body, for example by sourcing parental counselling or at least signposting to accessible support. You might run workshops to educate parents about potential stressors and warning signs.

Ultimately it is everyone’s responsibility to promote wellbeing and mental health support as part of a healthy lifestyle. Wellbeing starts with you and your staff. Happy staff will lead to happy students which in turn lead to a happier and healthier community.

Further information

• ‘British people will work for average of 3,507 days over a lifetime, survey says’, Independent, 26 September 2018:

• Provision Map

• Class Charts wellbeing tracker

• Worth-It Positive Education programme


Use the following items in the Toolkit to put the ideas in the article into practice:

Worked example – Wellbeing week

Template – Wheel of life reflection tool

Form – Five ways to wellbeing

About the author

Emily Kempthorne is the Assistant Principal at Bishop Young Academy in Leeds. She has 14 years’ experience in education across the country and is currently completing her MEd in Special Educational Needs (SEND) and Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH)
Twitter: @KempthorneMs
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last modified on Monday, 18 May 2020 08:05

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