As part of World Mental Health Day, Jenny Rigby, Headteacher at Meadow High School in Hillingdon, shares how her school are taking action to improve wellbeing and support their staff.
At Meadow Hall we are proud of our record on supporting our staff. We’ve taken action over a number of years to address issues – big and small – that affect wellbeing. And we’ve put in place steps to monitor this, to learn what is working, what needs to be tweaked, and what new challenges we may face each year.
There were two key actions that helped us get to the root of wellbeing issues in our school.
The first was committing to a work-life survey, and really encouraging all staff to take part. This helps us pinpoint the areas that really need attention, and the issues that cause them.
We hold the survey every other year which gives us time to address the problems and then give the changes time to bed in and have an effect.
Once we get our survey results in, we set up small working parties for the areas that score very low. Those groups often quickly discover easy-to-fix issues that can have a very big impact. For example, one of the early problems we unearthed was poor communication between staff which meant many people felt out of the loop. We initially tried to solve this with email updates, but realised this wasn’t going to work as another problem was too many emails! Instead, we prioritised time for one-to-one communication between staff, which really helped everyone to keep up to date.
Take the time to talk
The second action we took was placing a real focus on taking time to talk. As a special school we have a range of colleagues working for the school who are health professionals, including therapists.
Our therapists – because of their different perspective and training – inspired us to focus more on talking and sharing problems. All team leaders across the school now hold one to one meetings with their team members, once a term, specifically about their wellbeing. This is a big investment in time – but we’ve found it helps spot and therefore solve problems and issues much earlier. Staff have a chance to talk about things worrying them, with out any judgment, and before they snowball and potentially start affecting their work and their wellbeing.
We are so lucky to have these healthcare professionals as part of our team but such an approach doesn’t require trained professionals and isn’t about any formal therapy.
Benefits to staff and the school
Our actions have had huge benefits. Creating a more open environment – through more regular feedback - gives our staff the opportunity to talk about what they would love to do and how they would like to develop. This also provides an added benefit to the school – like the teacher who set up a horticultural department to support mindfulness, which is flourishing.
In actual hard results we know we are making a difference too. We’ve reduced sick days, absenteeism, and now have very low turnover of staff which supports a much more contented workforce.
Jenny is also a part of the Department for Education’s Expert Advisory Group on wellbeing, helping us learn from best practice to better support teachers and leaders in their roles.
Find out more about the Department for Education’s advisory group on wellbeing.
Download resources to support pupil wellbeing on gov.uk