Encouraging school-wide wellbeing

Wellbeing isn’t just for staff, but for pupils, too, in order to create a truly healthy school

Wellbeing in schools starts from the top-down and affects everybody involved, from the headteacher to the pupils – and everybody in between. The school business manager role includes a particularly heavy and varied workload, and SBMs are often a sounding board for the rest of the school leadership team (SLT) on top of this, so how can they ensure their wellbeing – and that of their colleagues and pupils – is looked after?

An article by Mentally Healthy Schools describes wellbeing as being about ‘our holistic health, including the physical and emotional. When we have good levels of wellbeing we feel that life is in balance and that we can generally cope well. We feel motivated and engaged, we’re resilient and able to deal effectively with daily troubles, as well as ‘bounce back’ from life’s challenges’.

All of this is easier said than done, and a lack of balance can throw us off entirely.

How can schools support staff wellbeing?

The Mentally Health Schools article continues, ‘A school’s caring ethos and environment will have a major impact on the wellbeing of its staff and pupils. It’s important for leaders to define that culture, and vision, making it clear what behaviours, values and beliefs underpin it. It is important, too, for the school leadership team to build a culture of trust where school staff feel valued, can be open about their health and wellbeing and know how to access support if they need it’.

All of this requires the headteacher and SLT to develop – and abide by – a wellbeing strategy to create a whole-school culture. This may take time, and should include:

  • A clear framework, with policies and procedures in place.
  • Promotion of staff mindfulness and stress management.
  • Staff appraisals centring on recognition of work done well.
  • Encouragement of inter-staff support.
  • Clear communication in all directions.
  • Information for staff on how they can get additional support if needed.
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How can schools support pupil wellbeing?

Pupil wellbeing is more difficult both to implement and manage. The only way to get a clear idea of what children need is to ask them; last year, The Children’s Society released a report based on feedback from 65,000 children to find out how they felt about their lives. Their happiness levels had risen steadily between 1995 and 2010 but, as of 2018, it has dropped down to the level it was 20 years ago. Girls more unhappy with their lives, more likely to suffer from depression and twice as likely to self-harm as boys and children outside of the sexuality or gender binary have a lower sense of wellbeing, and higher rates of depression and self-harm, than others.

The Children’s Society’s evidence also shows that traditional gender stereotypes continue to affect children – particularly when it comes to pressure regarding how young girls look, which is at an all-time high. However, the report highlights that a major factor in children’s wellbeing lies with healthy interactions within school and with friends both inside and outside school, meaning that schools can play an enormous part in child wellbeing by putting in place behavioural and cultural policies that actively ensure all children feel included, cared for and supported by their schools.

How do you look after staff and pupil wellbeing at your school? Join in the conversation @edexec

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