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“I’m OK, you’re ok.”
Thomas Harris, in his 1967 book of this title, set out an important idea – if we are to be in a state to help others, and respond in ways that enable, support and empower, then we have to be OK in ourselves. Looking after the staff, so that they can look after the community, has never been so important. In other words, put your own gas mask on first.
Why is this so important at this time?
Helping staff proactively to be ‘OK’ has long been a high priority at Surrey Square; after all, our mission of ‘personal and academic excellence’ is for ‘everyone, every day’ – and we take that seriously. So how have we adapted our established practices for supporting, celebrating and empowering our teams at this time? What are our underlying principles and beliefs about this work, and how have we enacted these?
These are the principles that guided our approach
So, what did this mean for our response?
|Normal practice||COVID practice and beyond|
|All staff (not just teachers!) have regular, timetabled line management. Agreed approaches and expectations. Training for staff on coaching approaches and proactive development of coaching skills.||Staff check-ins – once a week – individually and in teams.
Seeking to understand personal circumstances/needs. Escalation to heads for additional support when needed.
|Non-managerial supervision for key safeguarding leads.||Extension of non-managerial supervision to all of the pastoral team and those managing the caseload from our vulnerability matrix.
Any staff member can self refer to this service if they want to
|External coaching for Heads.||Continuation of this.|
|‘Freddo awards’ – way to peer nominate those who have gone above and beyond||Continues at our weekly ‘Fridays at 5’ virtual social event.|
|Staff meetings to focus on CPD||Support staff having weekly meeting (more frequent than before)
HLTA/Early Years Educators having weekly meetings (more frequent than before)
Focused on well being, support for remote working.
|Year group team meetings weekly, including all teachers and support staff||Continue with this|
Termly questionnaire and ongoing open door culture
|Intense approach to staff feedback – asking how they are feeling, and offering a range of support services and opportunities. Further questionnaire regarding feelings about coming back to work, to inform planning for this.|
|Social and informal time
Tea and cake weekly after school
Range of social activities as a team
|Tea and cake – Thursday at 3pm – informal catch up
Friday at 5 – Friday at 5pm – ‘Freddo awards’ and marking of the end of the working week
|Managing endings and transitions – assemblies||Script to support staff having difficult conversations
End of ‘term’ assembly
Ongoing opportunities for staff to connect with children, Zoom calls twice a week with classes.
|Open offer to engage in Place 2 Think (Free, self referral service for staff)||Still an offer
Also offer of non-managerial supervision to all staff.
|Adopting flexible practices to support individual circumstances and choice||Giving additional thought to staff in various personal situations and accommodating/supporting that|
We are faced with a new set of additional challenges as we consider how a larger scale opening will work. From practical consideration about PPE equipment and hand sanitiser supplies, through to the emotional support needed to recover and re-engage in the world. We will need to support individuals in understanding the long term impact of this experience.
For us at Surrey Square, this experience has made us proud of a lot of the work we do; it has highlighted the ways in which we truly live our mission and values, for everyone, every day. No matter what that day brings.
But it also shocked and saddened us to see the lack of proper strategic focus and skillful management of this aspect of school leadership. This is a moment, through the shared experience we are having, to take stock and rethink.
Where to start with that agenda?
For us, it always comes back to mission – unless your team are ‘ok’, nothing else can happen. A focus on personal excellence ‘in crisis’ has to be the most important thing. Going forward this will be the key for making the next phase successful and sustainable or everyone.
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