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A low cost, high impact strategy to maintain morale and high performance

Steven Dool, headteacher, Neston High School writes

Ask yourself; do you know someone in your school who deserves recognition for going above and beyond’ in their job role? I am certain that someone, if not several colleagues, would spring immediately to mind: people who respond, inspire and lead with creativity and professionalism, day in and day out.

It was for this reason we wanted to formalise and create a systematic way of giving those who deserve it acknowledgement and appreciation. On setting up the process, which I would add is one of the simplest, cheapest, most effortless and satisfying initiatives I have implemented, I didn’t realise how well it would be received or the impact it would make.

We designed and advertised postcards and online forms for anyone connected with our school community to complete to nominate staff, enabling them to be recognised for:

  • being inspiring
  • creativity
  • leadership
  • professionalism
  • responsiveness.

We set up an administrative process to respond to the nominations by creating letters describing the nature of the nomination, signed off by the headteacher, chair of governors and deputy headteachers. Letters were then presented to staff, usually on a Friday afternoon in the head’s office along with a bottle of wine for the weekend as a thank you.

A database is maintained and published on our website, and for governors each term to monitor and observe. Actions are taken where few nominations are evident; this particularly raises morale where a department or team needs a more positive culture or approach.

We did not anticipate the flood of nominations coming in from staff, parents, students and agencies in the community working closely with the school. In the last five years we have issued 1,567 recognition letters and bottles of wine.

Nominations from staff, parents, students and agencies working closely with the school have led to 1,567 recognition letters and bottles of wine for staff in the last five years

Recipients’ reactions each week have also been remarkable. The power of a shake of the hand, a letter and a bottle of wine on a Friday after a hard week goes way beyond any performance management pay award in which I have ever been involved. Comments like ‘that’s lovely’, ‘ ‘that’s made my week’, ‘how nice’, ‘I love it here’, ‘I’m going to cry now’ are just a few of the expressions of pride and satisfaction from those deserving of such praise.

I have no doubt about the value of this expression of our leadership team’s and governors’ commitment to recognising the fantastic efforts of all staff who contribute to the success of the school. It is indicated by the high ratings for staff morale in our annual survey, the gold award received for Investors in People and the quotes in our Ofsted reports including ‘there is a happy buzz around the school‘ and ‘staff morale is high.

Anyone wishing to find out more about our scheme is welcome to look at the details on our website or email me, head@nestonhigh.com, for samples of nomination cards and letters. Unfortunately the wine samples will need to be accessed through your local wine merchant – these are for Neston staff only! You have to draw the line somewhere.


The Staff Wellbeing Policy at Neston High School was shared on the SSAT PA Network email group. Join the SSAT online networks to access resources from members in the network. Find out about this member-exclusive benefit by email RMTeam@ssatuk.co.uk.

Read more on the SSAT blog: Why it’s crucial to engage all adult stakeholders in the school community


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