I’m OK, you’re OK - Developing a developing a culture of positive staff wellbeing

My reflections

Head of Primary, School 21

Meg has recently taken part in ‘I’m OK, you’re OK – Developing a developing a culture of positive staff wellbeing, a Big Education course led by Nicola Noble.

This course is happening again in April – more information and how to enrol can be found here. Here are Meg’s reflections…

Wellbeing has always been on the agenda in my setting, for both staff and students, and I always felt we were a healthy working environment for the majority of staff.  When asked to think more widely about wellbeing and in particular my own wellbeing, I started to dig deeper with my reflections on how the school, and more importantly I signalled to staff that wellbeing was a priority and that I was actively working to help staff feel supported and well on a day to day basis. On reading the stimulus texts and speaking to other professionals however, I reflected that the way in which I always approached the subject of staff wellbeing was to focus on ways in which I could ‘fix’ or ‘alleviate’ the stresses or situations that were leading to my staff’s wellbeing being negatively impacted.  I always felt it was the responsibility of the leadership of the school (me!) to be able to maintain the wellness of the staff and to foster a positive environment where people felt their wellbeing and work/life balance was prioritised. This often led to reactive measures that held no value and did not have a lasting positive impact on the culture or the habits of the school and the staff. 

By doing this course it gave me the space and time to step back and reflect on wellbeing as a whole, not just that of myself or my staff, but what it really means to look after your wellbeing, the different facets of wellbeing and how to ensure wellbeing is part of a healthy and positive working environment where people feel empowered to take control of their own wellbeing and have the autonomy and support to change their working habits. This is what would lead to real change being embedded. 

Connecting with leaders and staff from other school settings and sharing our common trends and staff feedback it was obvious that most people felt there wasn’t enough ‘time’ – time to mark, time to plan, time to reflect, time to talk to colleagues, time… time… time… This was something that obviously I couldn’t change in so much as giving people more time in their day or week, but I could help staff develop the habits they needed to use the time they did have more productively and empower them to take back control of their time. 

As a result, I have looked at the school structures as a way to support staff to develop their own habits for their wellbeing. We have stacked our whole school meetings on one day – so all staff know the expectation will be they will meet on a Monday for line management and with their year teams. For most staff this would then mean the remaining weekday afternoons are meeting free (except for planned CPD sessions), therefore allowing them to plan their weekly workload and reclaim their evenings and weekends.  

Another structural change I have made is how we plan and how we store our planning. The first project in primary is whole school is values based. This project has been planned for all teachers by our senior leader team, giving teaching staff the much needed space and time in the first half term to focus on classroom culture and getting their own routines in place. All teachers, from Reception to Year 4 (including our senior leaders) read a KS2 shared reading text and planned the supporting texts and activities cross phase, creating a bespoke and practical resource for all staff. We have created codes for saving planning which then makes it easier to locate previous planning, saving staff time during their planning sessions. 

I have also set up a ‘Wellbeing classroom’ which all staff are a member of, and each week there will be a top organisational tip shared to help staff develop their own work habits that maximise their efficiency. This will spotlight practice to share and encourage staff to support each other beyond this weekly bulletin. 

I am of course also punctuating the year with social events and ways to bring the staff together, but my focus now is on helping all members of the team to develop their own habits of wellbeing to keep themselves well and to keep the conversation going! 

Join us for this course in April – more information and how to enrol can be found here.

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