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Developing a culture of wellness: five key factors

Reading time: 3 minutes. Relevant event: TeachWellFest 2018

Georgia Holleran of Teachers’ Mental Health and Wellness shares five main factors for leaders to consider when developing a culture of wellness in a school

There are a quite a few definitions of the word ‘culture’. Two of them are particularly apt:

  • the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people.
  • to maintain in conditions suitable for growth.

Wellness or wellbeing cannot be ‘applied’ to an individual or organisation. Wanting to create an organisation that is well must stem from a genuine concern about the wellbeing of others, not be a quick fix solution to ‘unwellness’. Here’s a checklist of what Teachers’ Mental Health and Wellness considers to be key factors when developing a culture of wellness– not just for teachers, but for everyone who works in the school.

  1. Genuine ‘buy-in’ from the headteacher or, at the very least, key members of the SLT. Without this, wellness will not feature enough in the school development plan. And it should. There needs to be a senior member of staff taking a very high-profile lead on this throughout the school. If this is not the case with you, try an ‘unwellness audit’, and see how much it costs your school to have absent or underperforming staff. Sometimes this approach can focus attention long enough to put forward the case for change and to try wellness instead.
  2. One size does not fit all! Wellness and wellbeing can mean many different things to people and your staff are no exception. While some might jump at the chance to have yoga sessions or take part in healthy eating initiatives, others may be yearning for someone to listen to them, or help them sort out their finances so they feel more in control. Ask your staff. They know what they need in order to experience a sense of wellness. An anonymous staff questionnaire can be useful, or find another way to elicit ideas without judgement. You might be surprised at what emerges.
  3. Wellness is personal, so let individuals manage their own progression, as fast, slow or haltingly as they want to. Nothing should be set in stone other than making it clear that the school wishes to invest in its staff. In turn, the staff will be expected to raise any ideas or opportunities they might have to support their own wellness. That’s not to say the school should be expected to pay for mass mindfulness training or provide a state of the art juicer for the staffroom. There are lots of ways to encourage and develop wellness at little or no cost, and finding solutions to how this could be achieved can be a whole-staff task.
  4. When the steps towards wellness emerge from the consultations with your staff, you must then seek to implement them in an authentic, organised and sustainable way. An example of this is if your school decides to develop something major, like staff coaching, it has to be cost-effective and sustainable. It also needs to be regularly monitored in some way, so as to ensure it remains appropriate and effective. One way to do this is to skill your teachers in becoming coaches to each other – then the process will become ‘owned’ and regulated by the staff themselves.
  5. Finally, there needs to be continued communication about the importance of wellness. Wellness should not be seen as a passing fad. It should be featured in school ethos statements, key policies and in communications with all external parties, especially parents. As the school begins to notice changes and the results of its investment in wellness, these can be widely celebrated. This gives the school a real opportunity to demonstrate what a ‘well’ organisation looks like. Being a beacon of wellness can also have a huge impact on the community around your school.

There are many people who support teacher wellness, and some of them will be presenting at TeachWellFest at Passmores Academy (SSAT member) in Harlow on Saturday 30 June. Anyone who works in a school can bring along their family for a day of learning, connecting and having fun in the name of wellness. New speakers and workshops are revealed daily at

There are lots of ways to encourage and develop wellness at little or no cost, and finding solutions to how this could be achieved can be a whole-staff task

Book your place the Teacher Wellness Festival at SSAT member school Passmores Academy here.  

Read on the SSAT blog: Getting to grips with unwellness

Follow Georgia Holleran on Twitter

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