Harvey Eperon, Assistant Headteacher at Addey and Stanhope School, writes about the importance of incorporating staff wellbeing into every aspect of your school life, and why it is a team effort.
Schools are by their very nature busy and often stressful environments, at times finding the balance between the tasks that need to be completed and staff wellbeing can be real challenge. At Addeys we recognise that everyone has their own map of the world: Wellbeing means something different to each colleague. It is for this reason that we use a common language around Wellbeing (for both staff of students) building on the 5 ways of Wellbeing developed by the New Economics Foundation:
The advantage of this shared language is that it supports our collaborative culture. Wellbeing is all our responsibility, and we all contribute to each other’s wellbeing. This in turn leads to our key wellbeing principle “It is always a team effort”.
Schools rely on the fact that many teachers go well beyond their job descriptions. It is important to overtly recognise this and remind ourselves why so many people in our profession are prepared to give so much. At Addeys we know this is never because of a brilliant formulated policy or a progress 8 figure but rather because of intrinsic motivation which is fed by these four elements:
There is a famous story about JFK visiting the NASA space center, he saw Janitor carrying a broom and asked him what he was doing. The janitor replied, “Mr President, I’m putting a man on the moon”. This illustrates the importance of a common sense of purpose. At Addeys we regularly remind staff of our big project and support all colleagues to see their part in it. Recently we made a model of our vision called our “Hearts of Oak curriculum” and asked all staff to put their name next to a part to which they had directly contributed. Activities like this also support colleagues to feel connected to each other and to our common vision.
Everyone wants to feel recognised and valued for their contribution and this helps staff to remain motivated even when workload is heavy. We have introduced several recognition strategies, including recognition from peers, students, governors and the leadership team. This ensures everyone is clear about how they contribute to the journey of every student on their way to becoming an exemplar Addeyan.
A sense of giving
The reason colleagues have made the choice to work in schools is to make a difference to future of their students. At Addeys we have evolved our Performance Management system to a Professional Learning focus. We do not use targets with numerical success criteria that staff can feel disheartened by. Instead colleagues are asked to make Professional Learning Commitments which are linked with school development priorities. Staff have autonomy in setting their own commitments, ensuring these feel relevant, challenging and focused on improving students’ experience. We focus on process rather than outcome and staff are not required to achieve a specific summative end point.
The opportunity to keep learning
One of the great things about working in education is that it is a complex and ever-changing landscape, so we all need to keep learning which is both incredibly challenging and rewarding. At Addeys we have invested considerable directed time into Professional Learning giving staff the space and time to work collaboratively and keep learning, modelling being learners to our students.
By ensuring we work in a way that is true to these four elements we aim to combine school improvement with staff wellbeing, regularly reminding staff how essential and valued their contribution is and that “It is always a team effort” in the Addey’s Family.
We continue to ensure we keep staff wellbeing as a constant consideration and as such it is overtly referenced in our School Development Priorities. The huge, enforced changes to how we work over the last 18 months naturally affect Wellbeing so we carry out regular reviews with all staff and in conjunction with governors so we can be responsive.
Of course, we are still learning and there are constantly fresh challenges to be embraced but our most recent staff Wellbeing feedback suggests we are making progress and on the right track.