Julian Stanley is the CEO at the charity Education Support Partnership. Education Support Partnership is the UK’s only wellbeing and mental health charity for everyone working in education.
He writes in the TES:
Last year, 3,750 teachers were signed off on long-term sick leave due to stress; as the Health and Safety Executive moved teaching to number four in the list of the UK’s most stressful jobs. This was compounded by the latest Teacher Wellbeing Index findings, which reported rising levels of anxiety, depression and irritability amongst the profession.
As a result, there’s been widespread acknowledgement about the need to make staff wellbeing a priority, which is a crucial first step for the sector. Nevertheless, despite common agreement about its importance, the lack of clarity and consistency around what the term actually means risks limiting the progress that needs to take place.
Within schools themselves, we hear regularly about a range of initiatives – from yoga to fruit bowls to gym subscriptions – introduced by leaders with a genuine commitment to wellbeing. Their passion, care and proactivity should be commended and certainly not undermined (nor should the positive impact of the examples outlined in some individuals).
The new Ofsted Inspection Framework provides a potentially transformational opportunity to reconsider how we measure staff wellbeing in schools; moving towards how staff are listened to, engaged and respected within in an institution rather than the number of initiatives on offer.
Wellbeing is about achieving balance. It’s about an individual’s ability to balance the psychological, social and physical resources they possess against the challenges they come up against. The balance point will be dependent on a range of external factors. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that an individual’s emotional intelligence, resilience and psychological state are all things that can be managed and developed.
The size of this challenge should not be underestimated. However, at the start of 2019, I’m feeling extremely positive. Last year, the appetite for change across the sector was at the highest level since I started this role over a decade ago; there’s a realisation that now is the time to act. Only with a concerted effort at every level, though, can this be achieved. But, first and foremost, we need a definition we can agree on.