While the overall health – mental and physical – of pupils absolutely must be a major priority, with a ‘new normal’ being created in schools ensuring that staff are happy, calm and coping well is also important for SBMs to focus on
Change often leads to feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and worry. Therefore, during a time of such unprecedented change, the mental health of staff cannot be overlooked. This is especially important in a school setting as, even pre-pandemic, stress levels were high, with 67% of teachers describing themselves as ‘stressed at work’.
When it comes to coping with their mental health 61% of teachers said they would turn to peer teachers for support, highlighting the strength and importance of the school community. Making sure that staff are aware of the signs of poor mental health will help create a community of care, and should help avoid staff burnout. Signs of burnout to look out for may include:
- High rates of absenteeism.
- Fatigue and sleep issues.
- Behavioural changes, such as withdrawn social interactions.
- Appearance changes, like drastic weight gain/loss, and a decline in grooming or hygiene.
As well as creating a culture of openness and support within your school, it is also important to be aware of support services available. Some organisations are creating funding packages, and sourcing additional services, to ensure added pressures are recognised and dealt with, so it’s a great time to remind staff of the help and support available to them.
For example, the Scottish government has announced a £1.5m package, which aims to help school staff manage additional pressures as a direct result of COVID-19, which includes mental health support. Barnardo’s Scotland, and mental health charity Place2Be, will also offer new mental health support for staff which will be available after the October break. “Supporting the health and wellbeing of teachers, and other staff, is of paramount importance,” says Scottish education secretary John Swinney. “This was true before COVID-19, but it is of crucial importance as school staff support our children and young people to recover from the pandemic. This additional package of measures will complement the excellent practice which is already taking place to support the wellbeing of staff in schools across Scotland.”
Buckinghamshire Council (BC) has compiled a list of resources to help support school staff inside and outside of their area. If you work in any BC-maintained school, or in an academy which has purchased the PAM Assist EAP package, you have access to all of the following support:
- 24/7 advice line. Call 0800 882 4102 anytime night or day if you have something on your mind. Trained advisors are on the other end of the line to listen and give advice on whatever life throws at you.
- Funded counselling. You can access up to four sessions of counselling between yourself and PAM Assist without being referred. Call the above number to discuss options with an advisor and to arrange a call with a triage nurse.
- 30 minute webinars. Join live webinars on a range of topics including how to maintain a positive mindset and being resilient during isolation. Recorded webinars will be available online to watch afterwards
- Online cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) support. Access a selection of CBT tools and worksheets to help you better able manage challenges.
- Online resources. Visit the PAM Assist website to browse a range of articles and information aimed at helping you through this tough period.
Everyone working in a school setting, regardless of whether a school has access to PAM Assist, can contact the Education Support charity and/or their educational psychology team for guidance and support.
- Oxford Health: Healthy Mind Bucks offers a range of free, NHS, tried and tested psychological therapies for anyone over 18 and follows a stepped care model. The self-referral telephone number is 01865 901 600 with telephone opening hours of Monday -Thursday 7am-5:30pm or Friday 7am-5pm, or through the online self-referral form.
- A new website has been designed to keep teachers across Bucks (and beyond) connected during this uniquely challenging period. The site has been designed by web designer, Richard Robinson, and the content developed by a team of teachers and educational psychologists from Aspire and Buckinghamshire Council, overseen by Debra Rutley, executive headteacher of Aspire. The site has been shaped by requests from educators and leaders across Bucks and will continue to be developed in the light of suggestions and ideas. https://www.connectingbucksschools.com/
- The Education Support charity helpline is 0800 056 2561, and all school staff can call for support. This phoneline operates 24/7 and is staffed by fully-trained counsellors. They support people working in any educational organisation and any phase or setting. You can download a poster communicating the helpline information to staff
- Also see Looking after each other and ourselves: A guide to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff at schools and colleges during periods of disruption Anna Freud Resources.
Support for school leaders
- The wellbeing support and advice line – 01296 383 219 – is a confidential helpline staffed by Buckinghamshire’s educational psychology team. The helpline is primarily intended to provide school leaders (including headteachers, deputy and assistant headteachers, SENCOs and other members of senior leadership teams) with a safe and confidential space in which they can talk through the challenges, stresses and frustrations of operating schools and settings during this unprecedented situation.
General useful online resources and apps
- Public Health England.
- Every Mind Matters.
- Sleepio – free access to a six week online sleep improvement programme.
- Action for Happiness.
- Coronavirus and your money.
- My Possible Self and Feeling Good (age 18+) are mental health apps which support people to develop skills to manage anxiety and stress and improve wellbeing. mypossibleself.com
- Calm Harm is an app supporting those concerned about self-harm to manage their emotions.
- Relax your body and mind with this series of NHS audio tracks designed to help build confidence, energy and a positive mindset.
- Checkout this mindfulness course which is available online for improved mental wellbeing (£30). bemindfulonline.com
- Thrive – this app uses games to track mood and teach methods to take control of stress.
- Calm – an app to help people meditate, sleep, relax.
- Headspace – another app for meditation, sleep and a healthy mind.
- Aura – a personalised meditation app.
There are also various links to guidance and resources for staff wellbeing here. The teaching mental wellbeing teacher training module from the DfE, and our frontline, which provides ‘phone and text support for key workers and wellbeing tips, are both worth a look.
The Anna Freud Centre has also put together some useful resources:
- Supporting schools and colleges: a guide to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and students during periods of disruption.
- Helping children and young people to manage anxiety: a practical guide to supporting pupils and students during periods of disruption.
- Video of Coronavirus Q&A on anxiety for school and college staff .
- Supporting schools and colleges through disruption.
Taking advantage of the resources which are already available means that you don’t need to spend time creating your own – which, in a time where every second valuable, is the best way to support your staff and your own wellbeing and mental health.