An Expert Insight into the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter
In this blog, Anna Bateman, a mental health expert and former DfE advisor, explains what the education staff wellbeing charter is, its significance, recent updates, compliance requirements, and the steps that schools can take to enhance staff wellbeing.
Understanding the education staff wellbeing charter
In the ever-evolving landscape of education, there's a growing recognition that the wellbeing of education staff plays a pivotal role in the overall success of our schools and settings. With this understanding, the education staff wellbeing charter has emerged as a tool to ensure that those who educate our future generations are themselves supported and thriving. The charter was co-created by the education sector in 2021 to highlight staff wellbeing in schools and settings in England. Senior leadership members can choose to sign up to a set of principles and shared understanding on wellbeing.
The education staff wellbeing charter encompasses various aspects of wellbeing, including mental health, work-life balance, and staff voice. The charter is a response to the growing awareness that the quality of education provided to students is closely tied to the wellbeing of the staff who are delivering it.
The charter is designed as a long-term strategy that reduces stigma and prioritises staff mental health and a healthy culture. It emphasises continuing professional development, clear communications, staff voice, workload reduction, championing diversity, measuring staff wellbeing, and has a particular sub-strategy for senior leadership wellbeing.
The education staff wellbeing charter is important for several reasons:
- Improved staff morale: Staff who feel valued, supported, and cared for are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and enthusiastic about their roles. This, in turn, can have a positive impact on the school's overall culture and ethos.
- Enhanced job satisfaction: A strong emphasis on staff wellbeing can result in higher job satisfaction, leading to lower staff turnover rates. Retaining experienced educators is invaluable for the consistency and quality of education.
- Better student outcomes: When educators are physically and mentally well, they are better equipped to provide effective education and foster positive student-teacher relationships.
- Attraction of talent: Schools that prioritise staff wellbeing become more attractive to prospective educators. This can help schools attract and retain high-quality teaching professionals.
Recent updates on the guidance
The education staff wellbeing charter is subject to periodic updates to align with the changing needs of educators and staff. The most recent updates are linked to how schools can sign up to the charter. Considering the increasing awareness of mental health issues, schools and settings are expanding their provisions to offer employee assistance programmes, counselling services, and stress management programmes. The opportunity to work flexibly is something that staff value. Where schools can implement this, including the opportunity to attend one-off family events, it is welcomed.
Schools are encouraged to implement measures such as flexible working hours, remote work options, and clear boundaries. However, practically, this can be challenging. The needs of the smooth running of a school, safeguarding, and teaching and learning need to be prioritised.
Compliance requirements for schools
As the charter is something that a setting signs up for voluntarily, schools should take the following steps to ensure compliance:
- Awareness and training: School leadership must be aware of the charter's commitments and ensure that all staff members are trained and informed about their rights and the support available.
- Assessing needs: Surveys and assessments should be conducted to understand the specific wellbeing needs of staff. This can help in tailoring support programmes.
- Implementation of wellbeing initiatives: Schools should actively implement measures to support staff wellbeing, such as mental health programmes, professional development opportunities, and policies promoting work-life balance.
- Regular monitoring and feedback: The impact of wellbeing initiatives should be regularly evaluated through feedback from staff members. Programmes should then be adjusted and refined based on this feedback.
- Governors: A wellbeing link governor should be appointed who can support and oversee senior leadership wellbeing, as well as for all staff and progress against the charter’s standards.
Improving and meeting the guidance
The charter can be used to show staff that you take their wellbeing seriously and that the culture and ethos of the whole school is shaped to enhance psychological safety. That is not the absence of problems or pressure but a culture where staff are not resented or humiliated for asking for more information or speaking up.
An environment that meets human needs is an important part of the job. This could include freely available tea and coffee, a staff room where colleagues can meet and unwind if they choose to, and toilets with well-stocked products. These all play a part in showing care of basic needs.
An aspect of developing this culture is ensuring that there isn’t a badge of honour for overworking, working until 11pm every night, or working through a lunch break consistently. Sometimes cultures of overworking can be established as a positive. This is something that should be nipped in the bud, as it goes beyond a high performing environment and tips into a toxic working culture.
So, how do you develop a good working culture in an environment that is constantly stressful and pushing the boundaries? Culture is hard to change and pin down. In its article, ‘How To Build A Culture Of Employee Well-Being’, Forbes states the following:
“Cultures are embodied and reinforced by leadership styles, procedures and perceptions of what’s valued, rewarded and punished.”
The charter provides a helpful opportunity to reflect on those styles, procedures, and perceptions as well as align your setting to a culture that embodies wellbeing. It’s less about an ‘award’ and more about consenting to a set of standards, which principally could take years to develop.
What are the steps you could take?
- Create a wellbeing committee. Establish a committee dedicated to staff wellbeing. This committee can coordinate wellbeing initiatives, gather feedback, and ensure that the charter's requirements are met.
- Assess current wellbeing initiatives and culture. Evaluate your school's existing wellbeing culture, procedures, and perceptions. Identify areas where improvements are needed and determine how the charter can help address these deficiencies.
- Ensure that you have the necessary resources to commit to the charter's requirements. Discuss this with governors or trustees. Consider the potential need for additional staff, training, or budget allocation.
- Develop a clear and comprehensive implementation plan. This should outline the steps, timelines, and responsibilities for achieving the charter's goals. This plan should address specific actions, policies, and practices that will support staff wellbeing. This could be tailored to your current strategic mental health plan.
- Define key performance indicators and metrics. These will measure the success and impact of the charter. They’ll also help track progress and identify areas for improvement.
- Communicate the commitment. Inform your staff, parents, and the school community about your intention to sign up for the charter. Clearly communicate the importance of staff wellbeing and the benefits that it will bring to the school.
- Deliver the action plan. Ensure that all elements of the charter are put into practice. Continuously monitor progress and assess the impact of your initiatives on staff wellbeing.
Further support is available to help the effective implementation of these wellbeing goals, such as the DfE’s ‘School workload and reduction kit’, as well as the ‘Staff wellbeing audit’ and the 24-hour helpline from Education Support.
The education staff wellbeing charter is a vital tool in promoting the wellbeing of all staff. By recognising its importance, staying updated on the latest trends, and taking proactive steps to ensure compliance, schools can create a nurturing environment for the whole school.
Ultimately, the investment in staff wellbeing will lead to improved morale, job satisfaction, and better educational outcomes for students.
If you’re concerned about keeping up to date with the latest education policy, practice and research, consider a membership with The National College. Not only does it provide access to thousands of professional development resources for all staff, but also enables leaders to create training programmes precisely tailored to individual and collective needs, to help ensure compliance and drive up standards.