Those working in the education sector were uniquely challenged during the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by the NASUWT – The Teacher’s Union, in the last 12 months :
- 87% of teachers have experienced anxiety because of work
- 79% have suffered from a loss of sleep
- 30% have increased their use of alcohol
The Government has provided funding to schools and staff for Covid-19 recovery, including a new £95,000 pilot project in partnership with the Education Support Partnership. This project focuses on teachers’ and leaders’ mental health, providing online peer-support and telephone supervision from experts to around 250 school leaders .
Additionally, more than £9 million has been invested in mental health charities to help them expand and reach those most in need. In May 2021, the Department for Education announced a £17 million fund to help schools and colleges provide better support and expert advice on mental health issues .
Schools that receive funding must find ways of effectively implementing a cost-effective mental health strategy within their institutions.
Bishop Young School
4 years ago, the Bishop Young Church of England Academy was established as a take-over academy as part of the Abbey Multi Academy Trust in Leeds.
Student and staff wellbeing and an inclusive culture were prioritised by the new academy. The school recognised that to achieve better wellbeing in their community, they had to:
Make sure that communication between all staff was streamlined
Be explicit about wellbeing strategies when communicating with staff and students
Harness the power of staff voice
Create a framework to support consistency
Establish quick wins for long term gains
Get to know the staff as well as they know the students
The Carnegie Mental Health Award
The academy has embedded staff mental health into its ethos. They made the decision to make wellbeing their key priority by utilising the framework of the Carnegie Mental Health Award – Gold Status .
The Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools has been established to strengthen the mental health of the next generation, by supporting schools to make a positive change at all levels of the UK’s education system, thereby improving outcomes and life chances.
The award ensures that schools are using evidence-based approaches that align with professional and government guidance. The framework allows schools to evaluate current mental health practices, identify gaps, develop, and strengthen these and work towards building an emotionally healthier environment.
The award covers 8 key areas:
- Leadership and strategy
- Organisational structure and culture – staff
- Organisational structure and culture – pupils
- Support for staff
- Support for pupils
- Staff professional development and learning
- Working with parents and carers
- Working with external services
Bishop Young Academy used the framework to increase staff retention rates and attract high calibre staff. The cost of the award is £395 and lasts for three years, after which you can apply for reassessment to maintain the level or to strive for higher quality standards.
The academy sees this as a cost-effective and worthwhile method of working towards becoming a mentally healthy school. The award allows them to support other schools in the multi-academy trust to achieve their own wellbeing goals, by acting as a role model and a reference point.
Promoting Colleague Wellbeing
Bishop Young Academy believes that well-being should be linked to all aspects of school life. Well-being strategies are embedded into the day-to-day culture of the academy and don’t cost a penny.
The academy has implemented a preventative curriculum in which staff must regularly speak to their students about wellbeing and mental health. When staff have these conversations with students, it gives them an opportunity to reflect on their own mental health.
Leaders work hard to make time to build relationships with and to get to know all colleagues within the school. Taking the time to acknowledge everyone in the school created positive role models in the school community, and staff feel noticed and heard.
School leaders are careful to ensure that they themselves are good wellbeing role models by making sure that they don’t work late, they display an open and honest approach to discussing mental health and making sure every corner of the school community feels noticed.
In meetings led by line managers, wellbeing is always addressed. Conversations around wellbeing triggers are encouraged and meetings are an open space for staff to speak out about anxieties and issues. The school have also worked to ensure that wellbeing is integrated into informal discussions by encouraging a culture of “How are you?”.
A Buddy Up system has been introduced so that new members of staff feel that they always have somebody to reach out to with questions and concerns as they adapt to life in their new workplace.
The Academy see the importance of effective communication within the school community. Every half term school leaders gather feedback from the staff so that they are fully up to date with what is going on in the academy.
This feedback covers staff satisfaction, whether they feel that their concerns have been heard and acted upon, as well as asking what can promote their wellbeing going forward.
The academy has invested in training staff to become Mental Health First Aiders as they see that this is just as much a priority as having trained Medical First Aiders. Mental Health First Aid means that those suffering can seek support before they get to crisis point.
The academic calendar is set ahead of time and communicated to all staff so that everyone can mentally prepare for the oncoming year, whilst having more time and space to organise themselves.
Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS)
Bishop Young Academy uses the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale . This is a tool developed by Warwick Medical School which measures the mental wellbeing in populations.
The 14-item scale has 5 response categories, summed to provide a single score. The items are all worded positively to cover both feeling and functioning aspects of mental wellbeing.
Every member of staff was given a Covid-19 recovery plan and filling out the WEMWBS survey was part of this. This was to ensure that leaders really understood the impact of the pandemic on the workforce and the differences in staff wellbeing.
On analysing the findings of the survey, school leaders could ensure timely and targeted signposting to relevant resources and distribute support to those members of staff who needed it.
The WEMWBS scale is redistributed regularly to track whether improvements have been made to staff wellbeing following the work done after the previous survey.
Another key part of Bishop Young’s ethos is to champion collaboration. Not only within the school but with the wider community.
The academy work with the local community and key charities to embed rewards and incentives into the working life of their staff. They have 6 Wellbeing Weeks in the annual calendar in which the wellbeing of staff is at the centre of leisure activities, and peppered into teaching time throughout the week.
This is an example of a Wellbeing Week timetable that has been developed in collaboration with Mind, Samaritans, and Education Support.
The academy works with companies such as Greggs and Neal’s Yard during this week to provide staff with things to look forward to.
The academy has become adept at seeking out free resources and services to manage costs such as those provided by Mind, Education Support, and the NHS. They see the value in thinking creatively to cut costs by taking free donations from the wider community such as free pamper sessions from Neal’s Yard.
Since Bishop Young started applying their wellbeing strategies they have achieved:
- Reductions in staff absences
- 97% of staff now report that they enjoy work
- An increase in staff retention
- A more positive ethos and culture
- Local and national recognition with an appearance on BBC Breakfast
- A Gold Carnegie Mental Health Award
The Bishop Young Academy has worked hard to embed an ethos of effective communication and care in their community. They have done this in a cost-effective way by building on existing staff hobbies and concerns, thinking creatively, and using existing methods such as the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale.
 NASUWT, The Teacher’s Union. 2021. Covid impacts on teacher mental health exposed
 GOV.UK. 2020. Extra Mental Health Support for Pupils and Teachers
 Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools
 Warwick Medical School. 2005. Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale
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