Don’t worry, be happy: Benefits of a happy and healthy school staff

The Education Support Partnership is a UK charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the entire education workforce – we delve into the importance of happiness and how you can help it thrive

Happy, thriving schools depend, in the first instance, on the wellbeing and success of their leaders. Their ability to lead by example and recognise and support their staff and children’s wellbeing are essential to building resilience and success in education settings.

The prime minister recently gave public recognition and commitment to delivering better mental health services; this was welcome, if long overdue. Our experience at Education Support Partnership tells us that school leaders need the time and space to sustain their own resilience, as well as their personal and professional effectiveness, so that they can adequately meet the constant demands of the job and deliver excellent leadership. Creating a culture of wellbeing in any education setting requires an ‘oxygen mask’ approach.

44% of those surveyed said better support for personal wellbeing in the workplace could positively influence them to stay in the sector

The results are in

Damage to wellbeing continues to lead to high rates of sickness absence and the consequent cost of supply cover, reduced productivity and staff choosing to leave the profession. In our charity’s last annual health report, based on the responses of more than 2,000 education professionals, 84% told us that they had suffered from some form of mental health problem in the last two years and over half (53%) felt that their ill health had impacted on pupils’ studies.

Indeed, at a time when retention is such a major challenge in education, recently published results of a YouGov ‘TeacherTrack’ survey – part of our ‘NotQuittingTeaching’ campaign – revealed that 44% of those surveyed said better support for personal wellbeing in the workplace could positively influence them to stay in the sector.

Addressing wellbeing is a lot simpler that it may at first seem, can quickly deliver positive results

Creating a happy environment

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What should heads and leadership teams look at? Past research has identified six aspects of work which, if managed well, can create happy environment. Managed poorly, they can create stress in the workplace:

  • Demands: such as workload and the work itself
  • Control: a person’s own influence over how their job is carried out
  • Support: from colleagues, line manager and organisation
  • Relationships: reducing conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour
  • Role: understanding expectations
  • Change: and how it is managed in an organisation.

Checking and measuring staff wellbeing on a regular basis are good practice. No head can afford to be complacent and a workplace survey can be a good place to start if you haven’t done it before – either paid for or your own. Many heads have told us that starting such a process, and making it part of the fabric of what they do, has been the best investment they have made for their school and for their own wellbeing. A teacher and team with high job satisfaction, positive morale and good health is more likely to teach lessons which are more creative, challenging and effective, resulting in better pupil performance.

Addressing wellbeing is a lot simpler that it may at first seem, can quickly deliver positive results and, in the longer term, makes for a healthier, stronger school.

Visit the Education Support Partnership to find out more about how the charity can help you.

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