Returning to school after a long absence

Returning to school after you have been away for a long time can be a hard transition to make. How can you make sure that you can get back in the smoothest and most productive way possible?

There are many reasons why you may be absent from work for an extended period of time – for example, illness, pregnancy and bereavement. Whatever the reason may be, settling back into the role and working life again can be very difficult.

A thread on Twitter on this subject began after @LellyBurton tweeted: ‘#sbltwitter I have been asked to write a support plan for a return to work for a SBL who has been off work for a long period.  Has anyone any advice or anything they could share please?’

Many SBMs replied to the tweet offering their advice on how to deal with this situation. Here are some of the solutions they offered.

Use a timetable

@sbl365 ‘Is it a phased return or are they coming back full time? Either way, I’d do it as a timetable, very structured, with catch up meetings built in and shadowing time – one area each day so they’re not overwhelmed and regular reviews built in, daily at first, to see how they are coping.’

@SchoolsChoice ‘Have a clear, written framework (including timescales) that lays down expectations from both sides. Meet regularly with the employee to make sure progress is made and any improvements are sustained.’

Phase them in

@kscott_j ‘IMO, most people returning after a long time away, (1) feel apprehensive and need some reassurance so, just the fact that thought is going into it, is really positive, and (2) are no longer accustomed to the physical demands of going to work-so phased return essential.’

@HannahCleland24 ‘When I returned to work after having breast cancer, the hardest thing to cope with (apart from the member of staff who commented on how much weight I’d put on..) was the expectation that I would be straight back into ‘all singing, all dancing’ mode – not possible…So make sure SLT ensure awareness, and allow for a gradual build up to former ability. So very important for the SBL to be aware of limits and to stick within them, and don’t be afraid to say ‘No’.’

Not going back into the same routine

@rawnsley_sara ‘Make sure all the key elements that led to the long absence have been addressed first….because often they’re not.’

@Book_Junction ‘I was off for six weeks last year. Had my first ever return to work, phased return, colleagues showing empathy and running around after me. But I was my own worst enemy and tried to do things at home (budget etc.)’

Reply – @sbl365 ‘That’s the key  isn’t it? Not falling back into the same patterns of behaviour that caused the problem…’

Reply – @Book_Junction ‘Absolutely. But when you think you feel ok it’s difficult to work at half pace. Especially in this role.’

Support plan

@SBL_StAnnesWSM ‘You almost need a support plan or a shareable version of the SBM’s for other staff to read, be aware of, and follow to help them do their bit to help the SBM get back up to speed. Almost re-setting everyone’s expectations. Would love to hear how the plan shapes up.’

The Educator echoes many of these SBM’s nuggets of advice. It also emphasises that many people feel anxious when returning to work after a long absence and that a phased return to work is preferable. It suggests that a return to work meeting is crucial in order to discuss the structure of their return.

The Educator also advises that it is important the SBM has an update on everything that has changed whilst they have been away. Change occurs very quickly in schools and expecting the SBM to just fit straight back in, without knowing all of the changes that have happened, makes the transition even more challenging. It also agrees with the SBMs’ suggestion that regular meetings upon their return, to discuss their ongoing progress, is key.

Returning to work after an absence can be a tricky time for all of those involved, but using some of these tips could ease the situation and ensure the transition is as smooth and successful as possible.

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