Steve Rippin is assistant headteacher at Tapton School in Sheffield. Following the announcement of the department’s expert advisory group, to look at leader and teacher wellbeing, Steve explains why securing first-rate teacher mental health and wellbeing at his school has led to the very best experience for pupils.
I have been at Tapton School for 12 years and have always looked to provide students with the very best experiences and opportunities. At the heart of this is ensuring staff mental health and wellbeing is first-rate. School staff can only deliver great lessons if they are in good mental health and their wellbeing is at the forefront of a school’s mind.
Where it all began
Back in 2015, we jumped at the chance to get involved in a newly launched national pilot to foster links between school and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). We were very aware that mental health issues were impacting on a number of students. Through this work we quickly realised that to have any form of impact, a whole school approach was needed - building a culture that supports mental health and wellbeing across the entire school.
Taking action to support teacher wellbeing
One of the first changes we made was reducing reporting requirements and meetings to support staff workload. We needed to demonstrate that we were taking staff wellbeing seriously.
We also took the notable decision to change our email protocol: the server is now switched off between 7pm and 6am Monday to Friday, and at weekends. Cutting down on emails has helped staff to plan and manage their time better. They are more relaxed and prepared for school so can address and de-escalate situations that might arise so the school can run more smoothly.
The staff are benefitting from switching off the server - fewer emails means more staff talking to each other, building relationships and a supportive teacher network. We now always take into consideration the impact everyday decisions and new policies might have on staff mental health and wellbeing.
We have a wellbeing and happiness group, organising in-school activities for staff such as coffee and cake get together at break, art therapy sessions after school, walking clubs and for the more energetic, circuit training – all to support staff wellbeing and happiness.
Forming a whole school approach
At the start of the year, I always ask staff to share a photo and brief sentence explaining how they look after their mental health and wellbeing. These are now part of a corridor display and have provided a great talking point amongst staff and students throughout the school term.
We also ensure that any support we offer students, we also look to offer staff. I believe schools should encourage staff to learn to support their own mental health and wellbeing so they are able to care for students.
We provide a fantastic opportunity to upskill staff in supporting both student, and their own, mental health and wellbeing through the Fields of Learning Alliance programme. And our mental health and wellbeing and resilience worker now offers confidential drop-in sessions for students and staff feeling overwhelmed/needing to talk to someone.
If you’d like to find out more about our approach, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Email Steve Rippin: firstname.lastname@example.org.