Within my job I get the pleasure of connecting with leaders and teachers within all sectors of the education market. Whilst talking to individuals about well-being it is clear to all that something has changed. Post pandemic the workload and strain put on colleagues has changed, behaviour and boundaries have changed, expectations of what teachers are required to do has changed, expectations from stakeholders has changed. Teaching itself has changed.
Through discussions with many colleagues and reflecting on my own experience, the role of a teacher seems to have taken a new form varying from relationship manager, subject expert, counsellor, deliverer, planner, leader, extracurricular developer, wellbeing expert, parent guider & mental health provider. The list could go on and on. As you move up the hierarchy within your educational institute you can start to add to the mix the likes of policy maker, marketing director, strategy builder & public speaker.
As you can see it is a mixed and diverse role, some may say this is brilliant, it is what you sign up to when you take the job. However, the reality of it is that depending on the support around you, your own coping mechanisms, your technical expertise, and the culture of your workplace, the above areas can be stressful and damaging to your mental health.
Recent research by the DfE show that:
- The number of teachers leaving last year jumped by 12.4 per cent, with 4,000 more departures in 2020-21 than the previous year.
- Among newly qualified teachers, the number who left within one year rose from 11.7 per cent in 2020, to 12.5 per cent last year.
- Classroom teacher vacancies hit 1,368 last November, up 45.5 per cent on 2020 and almost four times higher than the 355 vacancies in 2010-11.
All the numbers above indicate that the profession of teaching is potentially becoming a less attractive prospect. Again, talking from experience and listening to others there are common themes that occur in educational institutes: burnout, long working hours, lack of appreciation, lack of opportunities for individual growth, lack of flexibility in working day, lack of fulfilment and lack of job satisfaction.
If the above themes are the reality of the job, then my question is, what are educational institutes doing to help their staff thrive in this environment instead of surviving?
The stress equation shows that stress occurs when your perceived demands outweigh your perceived resources you have to cope with the demands. Too much stress for individuals in a job can lead to burnout, lack of performance, lack of enjoyment and illness. For organisations this can conjure up all sorts of problems such as high levels of absenteeism, presenteeism, high levels of staff turnover and difficulty recruiting staff, difficulty holding onto talented staff and lack of performance across the staff body.
So, what can organisations and individuals do to combat the above problems?
Organisations can make well-being a priority, by ensuring staff and pupil well-being is a core pillar of strategy. A proactive strategy must be adopted towards interventions and training so that individuals and teams can start to thrive and not just survive.
To do this organisations must be serious about well-being:
What this does not look like:
- One off wellbeing training sessions for staff at an INSET
- Working individuals until they are burnt out and then giving them time off.
- Loading staff with work which they do not have the resources to cope with.
- Unreasonable expectations
This does look like:
- Having a clear strategy and plan aimed at different levels of the business. (Organisation, Leaders, Teams, Individuals).
- Recognising the direct link between well-being, performance, and business objectives.
- Moving beyond mental health awareness and into mental health action
- Providing individuals and teams with programmes and interventions that support behaviour change and positive health & wellbeing
- Addressing and stamping out toxic behaviours that damage wellbeing
- Providing access to applied, practical and bite sized resources to enhance learning & wellbeing
- Building time into the day for teams and individuals to talk and look after their well-being.
- Keeping well-being alive in all meetings and conversations, give it a place on your agenda.
Should aim to get their brilliant basics right.
- Sleep, exercise, nutrition, and hydration are all areas that we can take control of.
- Practice mindfulness and resilience, take time to build this into your daily routine.
- Talk openly about mental health and well-being.
So, I leave you with a couple of questions:
Is well-being embedded into your workplace behaviours and habits each day?
If you are a leader reading this, what rings true to you. Does your organisation take well-being seriously OR is it a tick box exercise to pass an inspection or report back to your governors?
We can only move awareness into action if those who have the power to implement practice and policy are willing to understand the link between well-being, performance and business goals.