Research tells us that a “whole-school approach” to mental health and wellbeing works best.
There have been a limited number of studies looking at school staff wellbeing. The majority of studies focused on individual-level interventions such as mindfulness. Fewer studies have focused on organisational level systems.
It is suggested that a combination of individual and organisational approaches to mental health and wellbeing is likely to be most effective, rather than focusing wholly on the individual. It is clear that further research is required. (Links to some of the most recent studies are listed below).
Here are some of the findings:
- Better teacher wellbeing is associated with better student wellbeing and lower psychological difficulties.
- A better teacher-student relationship is associated with better student wellbeing.
- Teachers with poorer wellbeing may be less able to develop supportive relationships.
- Teachers agreed that their wellbeing affects their ability to teach in the classroom.
- There are many factors that impact teacher’s wellbeing, not simply workload. Personal life and circumstances also impact wellbeing, for example, bereavement, relationship difficulties, childcare.
- The strive for perfection impacts some teacher’s wellbeing negatively.
- Being organised and being able to prioritise can have a positive impact on wellbeing.
- More schools are striving to be more open about mental health and wellbeing.
- Pupils in primary school were attuned to their teacher's mood and could usually pick up when they were stressed, even if teachers tried to hide it.
- Mindfulness techniques have helped manage some individual teachers’ stress levels.
What can schools do to support teachers’ mental health and wellbeing?
Culture and Ethos
- Show that all staff are valued for their individual contributions.
- Foster a culture of openness through an open door policy.
- Respect and consideration for others in day to day actions.
Leading on staff wellbeing
- Leadership that builds trusting relationships across the school is good for staff wellbeing.
- Demonstrate empathy. Know your staff, be aware of the pressures they may be feeling.
- Senior Leadership Team modelling good wellbeing and mental health behaviour and practice helps promote a culture of openness about mental health and wellbeing.
- Find out how staff are doing. Conduct a confidential yearly survey. This will give information on what’s going well and what isn’t.
- A staff mental health & wellbeing policy/strategy developed collaboratively allows all staff to contribute and understand what is in place to support them.
- Clarity and fairness for all staff in policy actions.
- Be alert, reflective, and responsive to situations that may impact staff wellbeing and mental health.
- Listen to and validate what staff are saying.
- Actively challenge stigma around mental health and promote a better understanding of mental health for all. Encourage staff to feel comfortable sharing concerns.
Actions and strategies for wellbeing
- Enabling staff to take responsibility for their own mental health and wellbeing.
- Clear communication systems and protocols (e,g. sending emails).
- Clarity around who staff can talk to about worries and concerns for their own mental health.
- For some staff having someone other than a line manager to talk to about their wellbeing can be helpful
- Staff appraisal process that identifies positives and supports individual development.
- Access to counselling and other self-care services.
- Effective signposting to external help and support.
- Recognise staff achievements and celebrate success.
- Look out for each other, notice when colleagues are struggling, support each other.
- Identifying a staff member with responsibility for staff wellbeing and allocating time for training in the role.
- Using feedback from confidential whole school reviews to identify whole school training that can support wellbeing.
- Use staff appraisal to identify targeted training and support.
Wellbeing in the time of Covid19
Schools are facing new challenges because of the pandemic and this is placing additional pressure on staff. During this time staff have had to be adaptable and innovative as they try to do their best for their students.
While many have adapted and been creative to ensure their students can access learning and support it is important to acknowledge that the situation has caused much stress and anxiety for many. This may be related to concern about their own health or the health of loved ones or the health and safety of their students. It may also be related to worry about students falling behind with work and the impact this will have on exams and future life chances. Whatever the worries and concerns they are all valid.
It is important that staff look after their own wellbeing so they are in a position to support the wellbeing of their students.
Here are some links that offer information and support with a focus on issues arising from the pandemic :
Self-care for education staff
Looking after yourself during coronavirus
A research report from Education (2020), looking at school staff experiences during the pandemic
Coping with bereavement
An informative video conversation about grief and bereavement
Staff Wellbeing Resources
Practical resources from Mental Health at Work
Wellbeing information and advice for school staff from Young Minds
A range of resources from Mentally Healthy Schools
Resources from Education Support, the leading School Staff Support Charity