Rachael Gacs

Today, our #TrustLeaders Wellbeing Steering Group met online for its fourth session since the beginning of the COVID19 crisis. The group is a representative group of CEOs from across our National #TrustLeaders network, who help us to identify key trends around staff wellbeing, identify best practices, and share ongoing feedback with the DfE.

The session began with an outline of the recent feedback that Forum Strategy has received from trust CEOs around their experience of the ‘wider opening’ of schools. Most trusts consulted had opted for a phased re-opening between 8th and 15th June. Leaders generally felt that the messaging from the DfE and some LAs had not been particularly helpful, citing a lack of detail, and the timing of guidance (released, for example, on Sunday and a Bank holiday morning) as the main issues. However, despite this, feedback emphasised that most teachers were in good spirits, and the majority of MATs were enjoying the benefits of adopting a collaborative approach to problem solving amongst schools, headteachers and staff. Moving forward, leaders stressed the importance of receiving clear, timely and robust guidance and planning requirements from the DfE, in order to prepare for wider opening in September. Members were informed that the CEOs feedback has been shared with the National Schools Commissioner, Dominic Herrington.

Following this, Andy Mellor from Schools Advisory Service (SAS ) – Forum’s partner for wellbeing services – spoke to the group. Andy began by sharing an overview of the services (see footnote) that are on offer through the SAS. He then shared the following observations from the past couple of weeks:

  • Calls to the SAS nurse support service line have increased; these calls have been mainly from clients concerned about the return to work, either because they have an underlying health condition, or someone they live with does.
  • Requests for counselling and physio have also increased significantly, and as the lockdown eases, phone lines have become notably busier.

Andy also announced that a new project from the SAS, a ‘national wellbeing partnership’ was coming into effect from today (10 June), made up of 25 organisations and individuals interested in making a positive difference to wellbeing in schools and trusts. He noted that wellbeing offers are currently very disparate and fragmented across the country, and it is his hope that this new partnership will bring providers together, in one place, for the benefit of all schools. More information can be accessed at: https://schooladvice.co.uk/national-wellbeing-partnership/?filter=all

Paul Crittenden (executive coach and expert in organisational wellbeing strategy) joined the session to discuss how CEOs and organisations across the economy are currently approaching wellbeing. Paul explained that approaches to wellbeing are having to change significantly. This is because work/home separation is becoming more difficult in the modern world, as technology is increasingly connecting the two spheres. Added to this, a significant proportion of workers are juggling responsibility for young children and aging parents alongside work.

Paul explained that the position of wellbeing is shifting in organisations, from being HR led, largely initiative based, and largely reactive, to becoming increasingly strategic, led by the board and the CEO, and dealt with in an increasingly pro-active way. This pro-active approach includes developing resilience within teams, with the aim of avoiding problems wherever possible, rather than simply responding to them once they exist. Paul advocated a person-centric approach to wellbeing, as opposed to management centric, with a focus on caring about the individual’s wellbeing first and foremost, rather than seeing the recovery process as a tool to get the individual back in work.

Paul added that to successfully embed wellbeing within the culture of an organisation, there must be a significant boldness on the part of the CEO and their team, which encourages and trusts individuals to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, and to act accordingly. An attitude of prioritising wellbeing must also be led from the top, and Paul urged leaders to ‘walk the talk’ and embody their message, by demonstrating a personal commitment to prioritising their wellbeing needs- and encouraging their senior leaders to do likewise. He explained that the actions of leaders must be in line with the culture being promoted, or that culture will ultimately be undermined.

CEO members of the steering group then had the opportunity to speak with one another. The importance of the DfE’s wellbeing announcement- released on Sunday- was emphasised, however concerns were raised that it’s impact may be damaged by the timing of its release (which itself did not show sensitivity to wellbeing or work/life balance). Concerns were also raised about the negative impact media representations are currently having on the wellbeing of teachers and leaders, and members discussed ways in which this negative impact could be mitigated. It was noted that CEOs themselves may need to communicate with the local media and press about the positive work taking place, and the impact which trusts are having. However, it was agreed that the DfE also have a responsibility to give a clear message; that schools have been open throughout this crisis, and that teachers have been working extremely hard to do the very best by their pupils, and continue to do so.

The meeting concluded with the following feedback for the DfE:

  • The DfE need to be more proactive in conveying positive messages about the profession and celebrating the hard work of teachers during this time.
  • The timing of when guidance is released is incredibly important – avoid weekends and bank holidays. There was also a suggestion that CEOs and headteachers should see advice twenty four hours before the public in order to plan their response and avoid being overwhelmed by questions.
  • Our CEOs would appreciate more contact with the DfE, and would like to see greater engagement on wellbeing issues – including through this steering group.

Resources from our partners: Schools Advisory Service

Link re today’s launch of the National Wellbeing Partnership, as highlighted by Andy: https://schooladvice.co.uk/national-wellbeing-partnership/

SAS launch live weekly relaxation webinars for school staff

Schools Advisory Service (SAS) have this week (3 June) announced the launch of live, weekly relaxation room webinars hosted by SAS and mindfulness consultant June. Following the very popular initial Ask June webinars, SAS opted to provide this service out of hours in an effort to support even more school staff and provide a relaxation outlet help school staff start every weekend feeling calm and refreshed. During each session, June will cover topics related to mindfulness, meditation and guided relaxation exercises. Sessions will also be pre-recorded and made available as part of a podcast series for those unable to attend or those re-visiting the sessions. The Relaxation Room will be live every Friday evening at 8pm and start from Friday June 12.

Further information can be found: https://schooladvice.co.uk/sas-launch-live-weekly-relaxation-webinars-for-school-staff/ 

Schools Advisory Service to provide wellbeing hotline for our CEO #TrustLeaders members this Summer

Schools Advisory Services is our preferred partner for wellbeing and insurance. The health and wellbeing of our members is of enormous importance to us, not least at this very uncertain and stressful time, with many of our members involved in making very demanding decisions on behalf of their organisations.

As well as providing ongoing contributions and resources for our #TrustLeaders networks, SAS are providing a free wellbeing hotline for #TrustLeaders CEO members over the Summer (June, July and August). This is very timely following what has been a very challenging period for all of us.

The Wellbeing Hotline provides vital support from SAS’s NMC registered in-house nurses – as well as offering NHS approved Mindfulness Courses, nurses and counsellors are on hand to help.

The hotline can be accessed via Forum Strategy in the first instance, please contact us at admin@forumstrategy.org. We will then be able to refer you to SAS.

SAS COVID-19 Support Page

Schools Advisory Service – Forum’s preferred partner for school wellbeing support – have launched (21 May) a new COVID-19 support page, which brings a range of wellbeing resources together in one easily accessible area for the benefit of schools and academy trusts, including information on the following (source: Schools Advisory Service):

·        Support for your wellbeing

·        Support for school leadership

·        Upcoming wellbeing events

·        Additional support resources

Further information can be found: https://schooladvice.co.uk/sas-covid-19-support-page/