‘Teachers are playing a key role not only in helping keyworkers to provide frontline services but also ensuring children and young people remain engaged and learning in the most challenging of circumstances. For this it is important to recognise the essential contribution made by teachers during this time.
Teachers are responsible for creating environments that foster successful learning and teaching, but this can sap their energy and test their patience. In the current circumstances, teachers are working at pace to develop new learning and teaching environments and may well be working alone and/or managing specific family circumstances.
It is important that throughout this time all education professionals care for their mental health and wellbeing. Pressures and worries can build up to a point where they have a detrimental effect on wellbeing, which in turn impacts teachers’ ability to do their job. In the current circumstances, it can be challenging to balance wellbeing with managing uncertainty and changing expectations’
- GTC Scotland
As teachers, we are on the ‘front line’ in terms of the national effort. It is important that all educational professionals, parents and carers look after their mental health and well being so that they may effectively continue to support children and young people though these uncertain times.
All Heads recognise that leadership in schools, against the backdrop of constant change and with increasingly limited resource, can be very demanding, challenging and at times isolating. This can affect us all and at times has a more profound effect, given the professional context and our personal circumstances.
“There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.”
Homer, The Odyssey
In writing this piece I am mindful that I am speaking to our community of Heads who are living their core purpose every day; a core purpose that places children and young people at the heart of every decision, every conversation and every action they lead. They usually model endless positivity, determination and resilience
Yet, despite the best of will, the demands of our current day to day are exhausting. My personal observations from working with our leaders include:
This may read as defeatist, and that is certainly not the intention. The aim of this piece is to acknowledge these issues. To say them ‘out loud’, and to make it safer for our school leaders to speak about and share the challenges they face in an appropriate environment.
The reality of the moment means that however we dress it up, the life of a Headteacher (and all teachers and other educational professionals) is even tougher than usual. One of our secondary Heads was recently asked about his well-being by visiting Ofsted inspectors. His response included the word ‘relentless’. It describes the environment perfectly.
‘Well-being’ is a phrase that can lead to raised eyebrows. It is not unusual for Headteachers to smile at the mention of well-being as if to say, “if you think I have time for that, you don’t understand my job!” Again, in the spirit of saying it out loud, there is an even greater imperative to prioritise well-being at this time.
At SAfE we are looking forward to re-starting our ‘Heads-up’ network later in the Autumn term. Heads-up provides an opportunity for Surrey Headteachers to meet for facilitated discussion around a current and relevant topic. We will communicate with you in due course to share the details of the next Heads-up event.
Don’t underestimate the value of your WhatsApp (and other) networks to check in with each other, or exchange ideas and perhaps share the burden. Talking really does help!
In the meantime, we encourage you to ‘take stock’ and check in with your well-being. You might find the wheel of life a useful tool to use. Accept that in these extraordinary times, you are doing an extraordinary job, but it is inevitably at some cost, however small, to you.
We are immensely proud of our Headteachers and how they continue to lead their communities. You are doing a phenomenal job in so many ways.
The Education Support website has published a range of excellent factsheets that could be of interest for Headteachers as they try to prioritise well-being.
Also, the Anna Freud National Centre for children and Families also has some great resources for supporting staff well-being through coronavirus.
There are, of course, a vast range of other resources that you may find useful – if you have something that is really effective, do share it with the Heads you are in touch with, and with us!
Schools Alliance for Excellence
Working in partnership with SAfE, Phase Councils provide well-being support and guidance to Headteachers. For further information about the services that are available from each Council, please contact the following;
Jo Jones – Primary: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cassia Steinbarth – Secondary: email@example.com
Di Hodson – Special: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue Lewis – EYFS: email@example.com
Brian Phelps, School Counsellor at Hinchley Wood School, has developed a series of short Self Care and CPD videos to support staff during this time.
You can view an introduction to these videos here.
Video 1: Managing Shock
Video 2: Adjusting To Home Working
Video 3: Working from Home
Video 4: Bereavement
Video 5: Self Care
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