Schools Advisory Service. Report: Addressing stress; ensuring wellbeing

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1 Schools Advisory Service Report: Addressing stress; ensuring wellbeing November 2015

2 Contents Section Introduction 3 Page Article: How to promote staff wellbeing in our schools? Eight ways leaders can develop and promote staff wellbeing Case Study: Supporting staff through times of stress Case Study: Creating a wellbeingfocused culture SAS services for supporting Health and Wellbeing in schools Schools Advisory Service,

3 Introduction Welcome to this SAS report: Addressing stress and ensuring wellbeing. You may be aware that 4 th November 2015, was National Stress Awareness day. Schools Advisory Service is deeply committed to supporting schools to help their staff mitigate and address stress-related issues wherever possible. Indeed, from our experience, stress-related illness continues to be the number one reason for staff absence in schools. For all school leaders, ensuring both your own and your colleagues health and wellbeing must be a key priority - we know how critical this is to providing high quality learning for children. Understanding and being able to respond to stress-related issues (as well as other health issues) is at the heart of that endeavour. That is why we thought it timely to capture some case studies and views on how schools can anticipate and respond to staff wellbeing issues. We hope that this paper provides a helpful blend of provocation, new ideas and signposting as you look to manage these issues in your own setting. Warm wishes, Les Marshall Director, Schools Advisory Service Schools Advisory Service,

4 Under pressure: how to promote greater staff wellbeing in our schools Worries about the impact of stress and workload on education professionals have been simmering away for some years now but the signs are the issue is at last coming to a head. A cluster of recent surveys have helped sharpen awareness of the issues. An NASUWT poll in the spring revealed that 84% said their job had a negative effect on their health and wellbeing, while a similar number had experienced more workplace stress during the last 12 months. A new NUT survey suggested that of the 53% of teachers in England who were considering leaving in the next two years, 61% blamed workload. And the Department for Education s own teacher diary workload survey has highlighted the long hours teachers and leaders have to work. So how can schools tackle stress and workload and promote greater wellbeing? Earlier this month, Schools Advisory Service hosted a wellbeing workshop at the Inspiring Leaders conference in Nottingham to discuss practical ways schools can promote wellbeing. We want children full of joy and optimism but teachers are constantly under pressure from accountability and working hours and they have their own families to manage, said one delegate, a school business manager. Another delegate - a primary head added: There s a perception through the press that if a teacher isn t performing then they re a rubbish teacher. The thought that they are tired, ill or stressed isn t considered. If they re not looked after they won t be able to perform their roles to the best of their abilities. More school leaders are now considering their role in better supporting their teams - including referring staff to timely and relevant external support when required. Mandy Gallagher, head of nursing at Schools Advisory Service, outlined the support that her nursing team offers schools, including lifestyle health screening, absence support, stress awareness and cancer and menopause support. These services had Schools Advisory Service,

5 helped participating schools reduce staff absences and achieve a better culture of staff wellbeing, she said. Delegates agreed these services were a valuable tool, especially when they complemented in-school solutions. Developing a culture in which staff supported each other and leaders were able to provide confidential and supportive conversations and signposting to support was the bedrock for staff wellbeing, they agreed. Giving staff more control in managing wellbeing is also important, said one head. We ve established a wellbeing group made up of staff who look at issues like staff absence. The group has written an absenteeism policy and handles absence requests from staff. If staff have to go on long term absence it is vital to manage their return to work properly, delegates agreed. Conducting in-depth conversations with returnees focused on support were important, as were therapeutic returns, which give staff a gradual, supported introduction back to fulltime work. Delegates agreed that although it was vital for leaders to promote staff wellbeing they often neglected to look after themselves. The group also highlighted how leaders in larger schools could often get support from their strategic leadership team or even a mentor but that this was less likely at small schools. However the growth of federations and teaching school alliances was an opportunity to develop similar support networks for smaller schools. In one primary teaching school alliance in the East Midlands, for example, a pastoral mentor role has been created for teachers and leaders across the alliance. Working smarter was another key theme to emerge. One delegate suggested that leaders and teachers should use weekly staff briefings to identify five tasks that didn t need to be done that week and also to agree key areas where staff could help each other and avoid replicating effort. Schools Advisory Service,

6 Eight ways school leaders can develop a culture of staff wellbeing Give a senior leadership team member responsibility for championing this area - make sure colleagues know that they can discuss their concerns in confidence and are aware of the support available to them Provide regular reports on wellbeing to school governors Track staff wellbeing through regular questionnaires Set up a wellbeing committee. And don't micro-manage it Invest in interventions such as health screening and insurance - and embed this within the school development plan Give your team access to CPD and personal development that develops their skills and passions and enables them to make a full contribution to school development Celebrate the success of individuals and the team Consider short-term flexible working arrangements where appropriate Some further reading Public Health England reported earlier this year that: promoting staff health and wellbeing is an integral principle of the whole school approach to emotional health and wellbeing. It added that: learning establishments can demonstrate a commitment to staff health and wellbeing through providing opportunities for assessing staff emotional health and wellbeing and providing support to enable staff to reflect on and enhance their own wellbeing. The full report can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment _data/file/414908/final_ehwb_draft_20_03_15.pdf Schools Advisory Service,

7 Case Study: Supporting staff through times of stress A School Business Manager at a secondary school in the North of England became increasingly concerned about a member of staff who, over a number of months, had demonstrated a strong trend of sickness absence. The staff member, a senior teacher, played a key role both within their department and in the wider school. It was critical for the individual and the school - that a strategy was put in place to avoid any long-term sickness absence. The SBM told us how important it was to be able to have timely conversations with individuals about their particular health and wellbeing needs something they put down to building supportive and trusting relationships with team members. In this case the member of staff was demonstrating symptoms of stress and depression, related to wider personal health issues. This was impacting on both the individual s work and personal wellbeing. The road to better health began with their confidence in knowing that senior leaders would listen with a sympathetic ear and, critically, signpost them to the appropriate support. Indeed, the SBM also told us how important it is to act on such conversations and be able to signpost colleagues, quickly and efficiently, to further appropriate support. Alongside the individual consulting with their GP, the school itself was able to signpost the teacher to the SAS counseling service, provided as part of SAS s wider wellbeing service to its client schools. The SAS nursing team were also on hand to provide confidential support and advice on navigating the options available. The staff member began a course of counseling within a matter of a week or two (far more quickly than NHS waiting lists would typically allow) which enabled them to build the personal strategies and resilience to be able to return to work full time in September. The individual is now back in their role and looking forward to the year ahead with the knowledge that the schools has supported them, invested in their health and wellbeing, and that any further support is just a conversation away. Schools Advisory Service,

8 Case Study: Discovering the power of staff wellbeing For many school leaders, the issue of staff wellbeing and motivation has never been higher up the agenda. More head teachers are recognising that a happy, healthy and enthusiastic staff team is central to achieving school improvement and the very best outcomes for their pupils. Investing in a school s most important resource its people is now, it seems, a bigger priority than ever for good schools. The Discovery Schools Trust, based in Leicestershire has made sure that staff wellbeing is a central focus as it has grown from just one outstanding academy to become a trust of ten schools. Discovery s Chief Executive, Paul Stone, and Business Development Manager, James Brown have worked to capture the key issues faced by staff, as well as their colleagues perceptions and experience of work generally. Paul Stone James Brown We began with the fundamental principle that we have a responsibility to everyone working in our schools says James. We know that investment in our staff is an essential recruitment and retention tool and ultimately it benefits the pupils in our classrooms. The trust was particularly inspired by the teacher toolkit s five point plan for staff wellbeing (2014) and the work of Briner and Dewberry (2007) which tells us that: if we want to improve school performance, we also need to start paying attention to teacher wellbeing. How teachers feel on an everyday basis is likely to affect their performance and so, in turn, the performance of the pupils they teach. Schools Advisory Service,

9 We know that investment in our staff is an essential recruitment and retention tool and ultimately it benefits the pupils in our classrooms. Understanding the needs and perceptions of all staff became the basis of Discovery s commitment to employee wellbeing. James looked very closely at other sectors, including the police force, the NHS and the corporate sector, to gain a clear understanding of which data was captured in order to best understand and address wellbeing issues. We looked at what the best organisations were doing and there was a very clear trend around the issues they surveyed their staff on. Issues such as the workplace environment, the attitudes of leadership and management, the quality of teamwork, workload and work-life balance, opportunities for professional development, absence, and stress were all areas that were considered and fully understood by management. James drew upon his research to develop a bi-annual survey for the Discovery trust. Issues such as the workplace environment, the attitudes of leadership and management, the quality of teamwork, workload and worklife balance, opportunities for professional development, absence and stress were all areas that were considered and fully understood by management. The result has been a much deeper understanding of the issues staff face both across the trust and in individual schools. There are obviously things that we can do in response on a trust level, says James, however, a big emphasis has been placed on providing individual reports to each school within the group, so that heads and their SLT have ownership of how they respond and the strategies they put in place to address wellbeing issues. The nature of Discovery s wellbeing survey is such that, whilst questions are randomised and submitted confidentially, head teachers can spot trends in their schools and put strategies in place to address the potential wellbeing issues they face. The intelligence provides heads with a clear steer around how they invest their resources to meet the needs of staff and move towards a strong culture of wellbeing. The schools within the trust can also compare their data with that of other schools in the group if necessary. We are then able to spot who may need support, and, indeed, who potentially has the answers or has developed the strategies that may Schools Advisory Service,

10 inform other schools. The wellbeing survey facilitates an informed professional dialogue amongst senior leaders on these issues. (Wellbeing surveys) facilitate an informed professional dialogue amongst senior leaders on these issues. James is clear that the time and resource he has committed to ensuring staff wellbeing and related issues such as professional development, is an investment worth making. I want the team to end their working day having enjoyed what they do and to gain both professional and personal reward from their work. That is my management mantra, and investing in and ensuring the wellbeing of our team is essential to that. Discovery Schools Trust is not affiliated with Schools Advisory Service. The case study is intended to demonstrate how schools are increasingly committed to the issue of staff wellbeing and investment in this area. Schools Advisory Service,

11 SAS services to support Health and Wellbeing Health Screening The SAS health screening service is available to all client schools free of charge. It provides an opportunity for staff to speak confidentially with a qualified nurse about any health concerns they may have. It also helps to raise awareness of particular issues and ensure that staff are informed and able to ask for further advice should they wish. The sessions can be easily integrated within staff training or INSET days. Health screening helps because it involves our nurses visiting schools and providing appointments to staff who wish to have a range of health indicators checked and discussed. These appointments are completely confidential and allow the individual to be honest about their concerns and seek appropriate advice and support either within the school, beyond it, or both. We re also increasingly being asked by schools to run health and wellbeing awareness workshops - as part of an induction or training day for example potentially alongside the health screening support. We re seeing a big increase in the number of schools taking this up and the response has been extremely positive. Mandy Gallagher, Head of Nursing, Schools Advisory Service Schools Advisory Service,

12 Stress Awareness Workshops SAS has increasingly been delivering Stress Awareness workshops to schools in order to raise awareness of the signs and frequently cited causes of stress-related illness. The workshops provide practical advice on how to prevent, mitigate and manage stress-related illness both from an individual and organisational perspective. The workshops have been designed so that they can be easily integrated within a staff training day or conference event. If your school would like to access this service, please contact Mandy Gallagher, Head of Nursing at or on Counselling Services All of our policies include medical care as standard to aid our client schools in proactively preventing and reducing absence. This includes SAS s counseling services, which are provided where they are appropriate to an individual s health care plan. Through this service, SAS enables school staff to access local counseling support quickly and efficiently whilst supported by expert advice and signposting from our nursing team. For more information on any of these services, please contact Mandy Gallagher at or on Schools Advisory Service Trigg House, 11 Maisies Way, South Normanton, Derbyshire, DE55 2DS Registered in England No Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Reg No ) Schools Advisory Service,

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