Talking Teacher Wellbeing

14th May 2018 By: Dr Peter Fonagy

Over the last few years the world has woken up to a simple fact: the best correlate of adult life satisfaction is not income, but physical and mental health.

Early intervention focused on child emotional wellbeing is probably the most significant social investment any society could make, both from economic and moral perspectives. The current political and media emphasis on promoting child mental health in schools is a welcome move to help us realise this ambition, and one that the teaching profession has consistently advocated.

But the emphasis on mental health and wellbeing raises a key issue. Teaching is a tough job. It can be immensely rewarding but also both physically and emotionally draining. Children’s behavioural and social-emotional problems appear to be on the rise and teachers are increasingly and inevitably burdened by safeguarding and mental health issues of growing complexity. If we do not couple support for school staff to the ambitions we have for children’s wellbeing we will not only be letting down school staff, we will be letting down the children.

Let me be absolutely clear: if we want our school staff to do what’s asked of them in relation the children’s mental health, then we first need to make sure that their mental health and wellbeing is effectively supported.

Over the next week we will be asking those working in schools about their experiences of both stress and wellbeing at work and we are asking them – you – to share best practice and to highlight areas where wellbeing is effectively focused and also where it could be better supported. We would like to concentrate on ‘salutogenic’ practice (that which keeps you healthy, not that which makes you ill).  

Even more important, our interest is pragmatic, what can be implemented to improve wellbeing. Although it is clear that stretched resources and overwork have a very significant impact on people’s wellbeing these are not inevitable. Wellbeing also depends on the way work is organized, how a school is led, how colleagues interact, and so on. We want to look at how schools, rather than Governments, could and perhaps should support the wellbeing for their staff.

We will be hosting a series of blogs by school staff who have experienced stress at work, or who have found ways of improving wellbeing, to prompt your thoughts and to encourage you to share your experiences. Could we do more to support each other? To help ourselves? To help others to support us? What can we do to make schools into healthy workplaces for staff as part of creating mentally healthy schools? Employers in many workplaces have recognised that it is in their commercial as well as humanitarian interest to identify and address the issue of wellbeing in the workplace. What can/should schools do?

We will collate your responses in a report which we will distribute to members of our Schools in Mind network. If you would like a copy of our final report please join our network here. We will use our report to inform our work to promote wellbeing in schools.

Please do join us and contribute your thoughts.

Access the survey here.

In July we will be running a series of workshops on school staff wellbeing to continue our conversation about teacher wellbeing. Booking is now open for Norfolk (2 July)Liverpool (5 July)Southampton (10 July) and London (11 July)