How Staff Wellbeing is the key to a Successful School
A significant challenge we face is mental health within our workforce. Everyone suffers from mental health. At my school, staff still have those days where they struggle because we’re all human; we have good days and we have bad days and we have external pressures which can affect us in school.
If staff aren’t happy, aren’t motivated, don’t feel valued and that they’re making a difference, they’re not going to want to get out of bed in the morning. So, it’s really important that we look after our staff not only so they can be the best teachers, or teaching assistants, they can be and so that the children get the best education they can. But also, so they are encouraged to the best job they can, because if they feel valued and they’re in a happy and positive environment then ultimately they’re going to want to stay.
My school is incredibly challenging; it’s in the lowest 10% of national deprivation, has really high special needs and really high child protection, so recruiting and retaining staff is really difficult because it’s such a tough job and it really does take those special individuals that really want to go that extra mile and make that difference in people’s lives. So, for me the wellbeing, retaining and developing of staff so they have that long-lasting career and achieve their goals is as important as supporting our children’s dreams and ambitions.
As Head it’s really critical that mental health and wellbeing is part if the culture and fabric of our school, so it’s a golden thread that runs throughout our school ethos and our school curriculum. And it has to be. And it has to start right from the top otherwise it doesn’t have that presence and importance that it needs.
We’ve done whole school training, we’ve embedded mental health and wellbeing throughout our curriculum so our children develop those character traits of resilience, perseverance and coping strategies and also carried out training for our school staff. Our staff also access psychological support and all our staff have gone through psychological profiling. All designed to create a happy and productive place.
We’ve also brought in TAP’s free-to-use digital thanking platform to motivate people as it’s the little things that make a difference. It’s those thank yous, that little acknowledgement when you’ve done something and somebody’s noticed. You can suddenly see their shoulders go back. Getting a TAP thank you message on the phone in the evening puts a smile on people’s faces!
Mental health and wellbeing in whatever form, whether it’s gratitude and thanks, or training and development and curriculum, has to be part of the fabric of the school. It can’t just be a bolt-on or it just won’t work.
It’s about whole school culture – it’s not about one group or another. Well over 95% of our staff are regularly using TAP to send and receive messages of appreciation. It’s the fact that no matter who you are or where you are, TAP is accessible on a mobile and it takes just 30 seconds to share a message. Also if you’re not confident as a staff member to go up and say to a colleague, “I really appreciated that”, the security of doing it through TAP still allows you to have that contact, just as it does for our hard to reach parents or those working parents who can’t come and say thanks in person.
So, TAP is a really accessible, friendly platform that allows people to engage with it at their own pace, so there’s no demand and no expectation which makes it even more exciting when you do get a buzz and you see the TAP logo and you know someone’s noticed you, someone’s recognised something you’ve done. The power of giving thanks across the whole school community (including our Governors) means you can create that real culture of thanks and gratitude. No matter who you are, everyone’s voice is important and we all get that opportunity to say “You made a difference to me today” and I want to say “Thank you”.
It’s great for the person receiving the message but also benefits the person giving that act of gratitude and kindness; it supports their wellbeing as well so it has that double effect. TAP is a really lovely random act of kindness!
Let’s get realistic in education; you’re not going to have happy, high-achieving successful children if your staff are stressed, burnt out and not enjoying the job, it’s just that simple.
Leaders need to know the importance of looking after staff because if your staff are not doing a great job, because of all the noise in the background, children are not going to academically achieve.
COVID has absolutely brought mental health to the forefront and there’s now a greater understanding of the impact of mental health in school communities.
It’s really important if you want to develop mental health and wellbeing in your school, that the leadership is fully behind it. And it becomes part of that ingrained ethos that you’re developing.
Senior leaders are the people who can enhance and improve the wellbeing across their staff. I know the impact it’s had at our school and how that has impacted on the teaching and the successes that then have come. And because our teachers are happier, are enjoying what they do, are motivated, ultimately it impacts on the teaching they provide which has a knock-on effect to pupil progress.
We need to find, as leaders, every opportunity to boost our staff not just our children.
As it’s in boosting our staff wellbeing, making people feel valued, making them feel motivated, making them want to succeed in the job they’re doing, that ultimately has the knock-on success to the school as a whole.
We can evidence the impact our focus on mental health and wellbeing has made at our school and that’s the difference. We’re bottom 10% for national deprivation and our children are now in the top 1% for progress.
Kerry Hill is the Headteacher of Eyres Monsell Primary School, a BETT Show speaker and a Tes 2019 Headteacher of the Year finalist. Kerry’s Primary School was the first in the country to receive the Princess Royal Training Award, for the impact of staff CPD in mental health and the first school to receive the Mental Health in Schools Award 'Gold status'. She is also a School Improvement Consultant and National SMSC Award verifier and has recently worked with BBC Teach on mental health. More recently, Kerry has completed a Masters in Leadership of School mental health and wellbeing with Distinction, being one of the first people in the UK to complete this qualification.
If you’d like to hear Kerry Hill being interviewed by TAP’s CEO, Matt Findel-Hawkins, please click here: TAP Education Webinar
TAP is a free-to-use social thanking platform which enables parents and carers to show their appreciation to the unsung heroes working in education, while raising much-needed funds.
The TAP platform allows people to:
- Thank a member of school staff privately to enhance their mental wellbeing
- Praise a school publicly to raise its profile with its local community
- Raise much-needed school funds through its unique match funding scheme