Staff wellbeing: Defending the staffroom

When it comes to staff wellbeing, the staffroom plays a crucial role. Kate Sarginson, responsible for pupil and staff wellbeing and SENCO offers some ideas to give staff morale and wellbeing a boost in SecEd.

Conversation, camaraderie, complaints and caffeine – the staples of school staffrooms everywhere. A pupil-free zone, with its unspoken seating plan, kettle etiquette and possessive mug disorders. A haven for break and lunch time, where temporarily we are not just “sir” or “miss” – we can refer to one another with our actual first names and perhaps remember briefly that we are people.

This is not just about staffrooms – action is needed across the board of teacher wellbeing. But I would argue that the staffroom plays a crucial role at the heart of our wellbeing strategies. How this looks in practice will vary from school to school, taking into account where the specific fundamental issues are and where gains can be made.

Matters which cause real pressure, such as managing workload, pupil behaviour and line management, have to be addressed. Low morale can’t be glossed over. Sticking a fruit bowl in the staffroom and thinking job done probably isn’t going to cut it. Lasting improvements need to be made, where teacher wellbeing is embedded into the culture of a school. The first step is identifying the challenges to morale, wellbeing and mental health in your school.

Create a staff wellbeing survey that can be completed anonymously. Evaluate the findings, feedback to the staff and agree on action points. Repeat to track results and address where required. Consider the sample as well – should teacher responses be kept separate from other staff? 

Leaders shouldn’t fear that the tail might wag the dog – really listening to what teachers are saying can influence the vision and make it work in reality because staff know they have influenced and contributed to the direction the school is going.

Another key ingredient is that school leaders should communicate their appreciation of staff. It can be all too easy to allow the fast pace of school to get in the way and to miss the chance to simply say thank you. Staff should have the opportunities to have their voices heard and their views taken into account.

Simple changes to the physical environment can have an impact. Furniture can be arranged to encourage relationships, interaction and team-work. A creative approach to the presentation of the staffroom can recognise that the community within makes for a stronger team and a healthier, happier, workforce, which is, in turn, more effective for pupils:

  • As a minimum provide free tea, coffee, milk, biscuits (and, yes, a fruit bowl).
  • Provide non-educational information, e.g. things to do in the local area.
  • Have a staff wellbeing board and create displays that need a response and are changed regularly (for example, film recommendations, new year’s resolutions, strangest Christmas present ever received etc).

Removing the playground from children would be unheard of as we understand the importance of down time during each day for pupils’ development. Investing equally in staff wellbeing communicates that teachers are not there to serve the school only – they are recognised as people too.

Read the full article and find out more ways to improve staff wellbeing  Staff wellbeing: Defending the staffroom

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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