• Ten tips to promote mental health and wellbeing in the education sector during COVID-19

    Published: November 25 2020

    Guest author Louise Brenlund from the Employment Law team at Brachers and Kent HR consultant Lily Toppo outline some top tips to improve staff health and wellbeing in the education sector. 

    Even before the pandemic, there were concerns regarding the health and wellbeing of staff in the education sector. The mental health of teachers has been in focus for some time, with workload considered the top cause for impacting mental health.

    In a 2019 survey carried out by The Root of It – an organisation that provides social, emotional and mental health solutions for employers in educational settings – 65.9 percent of schools did not feel confident in meeting the mental health needs of staff.

    There is no doubt that COVID-19 continues to have an enormous impact on schools and the way they are run. School leaders have had to adapt quickly and implement new measures to ensure the safety of pupils and staff. With intense demands and additional pressures, there are growing concerns about how these new ways of working may affect those in the education sector. It is important for school leaders to remain aware of the mental health and wellbeing of their staff during this uncertain time.

    We recommend that schools addressing mental health or wellbeing concerns should take a whole-school approach. This creates a more inclusive environment by creating a culture of wellbeing.

    We have put together some tips on how to promote good mental health and wellbeing for those in the education sector.

    1) Communicate clearly with staff

    • Where possible, maintain regular staff meetings to keep all staff up-to-date with the latest government guidance. This also helps to keep staff informed on what the school is doing to ensure the working environment is COVID-secure.
    • During staff meetings, invite and encourage suggestions and feedback.
    • Keep staff involved in any changes. Where possible, consult before changes are made and offer continued reassurance. This should help to maintain engagement among staff and minimise feelings of isolation that might lead to mental health issues.

    2) School-wide initiatives

    • Promote physical activity, not just among pupils but also staff members. Not only does moving more improve fitness, but it has also been proven to have a positive effect on mental health.
    • While it may be difficult with current ways of working, review how staff might be able to take time away from the class environment.
    • Provide training around mental health. through providers such as Mind or Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA).
    • Consider stress-reduction workshops, motivational speakers, or staff training on how to manage stress.
    • Consider mandatory wellbeing check-in meetings.

    3) Stress audit

    • You might want to carry out a stress audit to find the key causes of stress within your school.
    • This will ensure that any action taken is relevant. It will also directly address the pressures that teachers and other staff within your school are dealing with.

    4) Promote a work-life balance

    • It is important to remind staff to observe a healthy work life balance.
    • Particularly for teachers and school leaders, it may be challenging to ‘switch off’. You may want to consider clear policies or guidance around staff turning off their devices or stopping their marking at a certain time each day, to ensure they have sufficient breaks.
    • If you do not have a health and wellbeing policy in place, then consider developing one in conjunction with staff.
    • If there is one in place, then ensure that you regularly review it so that it is fit for purpose and complies with the latest COVID-19 guidance.

    5) Mental health first aiders or champions

    • It is useful to have trained mental health first aiders or a team of wellbeing champions. They can help raise awareness around mental health, promote the school’s vision and ethos, and provide a person delegated to assist with mental health issues.
    • This first aider should be able to give informed advice and support to employees dealing with mental health issues.
    • Encourage a culture of trust where staff feel valued and know how to access support and resources.

    6) Open door policy

    • It is a good idea to implement an open-door policy or provide drop-in sessions to encourage staff to come forward if they have any worries or issues.
    • This helps employees on an individual basis and ensures they are given the relevant support to hopefully improve their mental health and wellbeing so they are fit to carry out their role.

    7) Make adjustments where appropriate

    • Understandably, within schools it is hard to make adjustments such as flexible working due to the nature of the work. However, where staff are dealing with issues such as childcare, consider ways that you can accommodate and support staff.
    • This could include practical adjustments such as temporary reduced working hours.

    8) Provide positive feedback

    • Positive and constructive feedback will help boost your employees’ confidence and make them feel appreciated for the work they do.
    • Regular development meetings with staff is key in promoting growth within the school. It will also help create a more positive environment, not only for staff, but for pupils to learn in.

    9) Social events

    • Encourage wellbeing events outside of work to help create and maintain a positive team spirit.
    • Events such as virtual quizzes or physical challenges can help with team bonding and provide a network of support for your staff outside of the work environment.

    10) Work with trade union representatives

    • Consider suggestions from trade union representatives, particularly around health and safety, to see whether changes can be implemented to create a better working environment for your staff.
    • By doing this, you will demonstrate that you are willing to make adjustments to develop and improve on existing practices.

    Further support

    Visit our education page to find out how Kent HR can support schools and academies.

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