What difference has a focus on wellbeing made?

This year we have put the wellbeing of staff and children at the centre of our School Improvement Plan. In this short blog post I’ll be talking about our staff wellbeing work.

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Some of the actions we have taken to improve staff wellbeing this year include:

  • More consultation about changes to the way we do things
  • Changes to PPA time to give you more time working as a year team
  • Allocated time in PDMs to carry out admin tasks and keep working environments looking good
  • Saying ‘thank you’ publically, for example on the Shout Out board
  • Leaders taking account of wellbeing before asking you to do anything
  • Adding wellbeing advice to staff notes
  • Restricting ‘all staff’ emails to mainly staff notes
  • Wellbeing time allocated the latest non-pupil day
  • Changed the marking policy to reduce time spent marking
  • Been very public about the importance of wellbeing
  • EH4MH training and consultation time

I thought the best way to find out if these actions have made a difference was to ask the staff, so we carried out a follow up questionnaire. We will be asking all staff groups before the end of term, but I started with the teachers to get some feedback in time for #wellbeingdgmeet.

The actions that have made the biggest difference in the opinion of teachers are:

  • Staff meeting time allocated for carrying out admin tasks and keeping classrooms looking good
  • Leaders taking account of staff wellbeing before asking teachers to do anything new
  • ‘Wellbeing’ time allocated during non-pupil days
  • Changing the marking policy to reduce time spent marking
  • More consultation with staff before making changes to how we do things

None of the actions we took have made wellbeing worse (thank goodness) but the things that have made the least difference are:

  • Saying ‘thank you’ publicly on the ‘Shout Out’ board in the staffroom
  • Adding wellbeing advice to staff notes
  • Restricting ‘all staff’ emails to a weekly bulletin

It seems clear that although wellbeing awareness initiatives are important, the thing that makes the biggest difference to our teachers involve giving them time to carry out their jobs properly.

If we want our teachers to complete an assessment form or to give feedback about something, we do this at our weekly staff meeting. We allocate staff meeting time for teachers to add data  on to our online system, and put aside a staff meeting each half term for teachers to work on the learning environment in their classroom.

We want our teachers to give good feedback to children, so we don’t waste their time asking them to write long, detailed comments in children’s books that the children either don’t read or can’t act upon. One of our most experienced teachers – the delightful @debhughes56 – commented that the reduction in written marking is ‘extremely positive, has made a huge difference, and has had the most impact’. 

The next step will be sustaining the work we have done this year, and looking at ways we can reduce the time burden of our annual reports. A group of teachers have come up with a proposal for this, and it will be interesting  to see what difference it makes.

Summer Half Term 2 Pledges

The second half of the summer term can be difficult. Some children find the impending change of year group, and for Year 6 the thought of moving school, especially difficult to handle, and the tiredness that builds up during the year can make everything that happens at this time of year a bit daunting.

My plan for this half term holiday was to prepare as well as I could for the rest of the school year. My plan was to rest, read, and run, and to catch up with all of the admin tasks I had got behind with over the last few weeks. I’ve kept to this, and now feel ready for the fun and challenges of the next eight weeks.

I have also made some work-based pledges to myself. I have found that writing and sharing these pledges helps me to keep them!

I will…

Look forward to and enjoy all the events that make this half term special. Instead of looking at the calendar and dreading the sight of three late nights in a week, I will make a conscious effort to enjoy everything that happens. Governors meetings are an opportunity to share successes and to get the challenge that I need to keep working on our improvement targets. Concerts and Productions are uplifting, and a chance to see the children shine.

Continue to exercise regularly. By making myself run a couple of times a week I find I have more energy and feel better. I don’t run very quickly, and I’m sure it’s not a particularly pretty sight, but gave up worrying about that a long time ago. For me, the hardest part of running is getting out the front door, but I will make sure that I keep up a good routine.

Have a good sleep regime. There’s always more to do, but I will make sure I stop in time to allow myself a good night’s sleep. I have got much better at closing off the worrying and thinking about work that used to keep me awake at night, but need to make a conscious effort to do this. So no late nights, and switch off all the phone and iPad by 9.00pm.

Eat a healthy diet. It’s easy to cut corners when you’re tired, but the body won’t work properly without the right fuel. So I will make sure I eat and drink properly until the summer holidays.

Smile, keep cool and keep calm. Whatever I’m feeling like, the outward me will be calm and positive. As Haim G Ginott says, ‘It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather.’ 

Keep the regular things going. To make things as easy as possible for the children and staff it’s important to keep school routines going throughout the term. We keep teaching a normal timetable right up to the last day, apart from special events like sports days. Keeping that structure and routine is so important for everyone, especially the children who struggle with changes to the normal pattern.

The plan is to enjoy the journey to the summer holidays. Keeping to these pledges will help that happen.