Never has the theme of well-being been so much in vogue! And it’s really no surprise why. The presence and prevalence of the wellbeing ‘movement’ is growing fast among the teaching profession and beyond. As teachers, we have one of the most privileged and fulfilling roles – to nurture, engage, inspire, and motivate the children we teach. It’s a profession full of dedicated, talented people who commit so much of themselves striving to make a difference, to have an impact. The reality of the demands of this career, however, means that it is essential that we are mindful of our own well-being and take responsibility for it ourselves, striving to achieve a work-life balance that works for us. It is important to recognise the need to sustain ourselves to enable us to sustain others – this is the essence of the relationship between teacher and pupil well-being.
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 UKEd Magazine.
In my role as PSHE and well-being Lead, I have responsibility, working alongside SLT, for the planning and provision of teacher and pupil well-being. Although we are still very much at the start of our journey as a school, I could never have predicted how far we would have come within less than a year. We now have a well-being team in place, linking PE, PSHE and Healthy Schools, as well as the involvement of our School Council. Our sights are now firmly set on moving further forward on our journey, as we approach the new academic year. Well-being, for both staff and pupils, is a key priority on our School Improvement Plan and is supported strongly by our SLT and Governing Body. This support has been a key contributory factor to the success of our achievements to date.
So where did our journey begin?
A Treasure Box of CPD
Keen to develop my own understanding of well-being in the context of my new role, I attended my first Pedagoo Hampshire event at Eggar’s School in September last year. This was, in fact, more of a personalised CPD event, where you could choose from a great selection of workshops relevant to your own interests, each followed by a ‘learning conversation’. The well-being themed sessions, led by Abigail Mann and Julie Hunter, were particularly beneficial and left me buzzing with ideas and inspiration. This event was organised by Martyn Reah.
@MartynReah, who has championed the five dimensions of #teacher5aday – Notice, Learn, Volunteer, Connect and Exercise. Getting involved myself with some of the fabulous #teacher5aday initiatives got me hooked and inspired me to introduce ‘Teacher5aday’ as a key approach to promoting staff wellbeing at my own school. Staff have engaged brilliantly with this, generating lots of positive discussion and reflection about ways to achieve a better work-life balance, including making their own Well-being Pledges. The word is definitely spreading!
Our School Council, led by Jenna Lucas @JennaLucas81, have also introduced ‘Student5day’, a list of suggested extra-curricular well-being activities for pupils, using the five banners of ‘Teacher5aday’.
Creating opportunities to build and strengthen relationships within the school community is key to promoting a happy and cohesive team. This year, a team of staff and parents volunteered to take part in a fundraising Dragon Boat Race in support of the ‘Pink Champagne Breast Cancer Charity’ – a day of teamwork, laughter and making a splash in Caribbean colours! Organised events like this help to connect staff, governors and parents for a positive purpose and we have pledged to repeat this as an annual fundraiser. We are now looking for more ways to develop staff team building events in the coming year.
The introduction of ‘Feel Free Friday’, a termly after school ‘connect’ event, has been a great success. For our first event, themed ‘Fruity Flapjacks and Fizz’, staff enjoyed socialising in our school ‘Calm Garden’ with fruity treats and Prosecco! By popular demand, ‘FFF’ is now set to stay!
Opening doors to dialogue
In striving to develop and embed well-being as an ethos across the school, it is vital to consult and involve the whole school community in discussions as much as possible, so that everyone can feel involved and take ownership.
Conducting a staff well-being Survey was a really useful starting point as it opened the dialogue and its outcomes have since informed our Action Plan. We also now have both Staff and Pupil Well-being Policies in place. This year we introduced a Governor’s Subject Leader Evening and new Parent Forum group, which has enabled us to successfully extend this dialogue further and wider.
Promoting Pupil Mental ‘Wealth’
Pupil wellbeing is high on the agenda of our school Action Plan and will remain a priority. At the start of the year, all teaching staff were given training by Marilyn Tucknott, a Mental Health Consultant. She led several sessions for whole staff, developing our understanding of how to support and promote pupil mental ‘wealth’. She also introduced well-being journals, which have been trialled in Years 2 and 6. Feedback from children highlighted the value they attributed to being given time for reflection, in a dedicated private space, which the journal provided, as well as prompting conversations about their emotions, issues and worries. Regular dialogue like this is so vital in developing confidence, self-esteem and empathy for others.
I am delighted that Nina Jackson @musicmind will be visiting our school in September to lead pupil workshops on ‘Positive Mental Wealth’, linking in to the themes of ‘The Being Well Agenda’. We are really excited to be part of this new multi-disciplinary trial project in primary schools to promote pupil well-being.
Adding a rainbow
We are keen to maximize opportunities to enrich children’s learning beyond the curriculum, promoting the development of the whole child, hoping to add the colours of a rainbow to their experience of school life.
This year, we were excited to offer pupils across the whole school the opportunity to take part in Yoga sessions, led by an experienced children’s Yoga teacher. This proved a big hit across all ages! I’m still in my first year of Yoga and cannot recommend it highly enough! It is a unique form of exercise with the potential to offer profound benefits to health and well-being. Starting Yoga young is a superb platform for stimulating and disciplining the mind, building self-esteem, developing flexibility and strength, improving focus, as well as regulating emotions and stress. If you haven’t tried it yourself yet, why not give it a go? You’ll be amazed…
During our Sport and well-being Week, the children engaged in a range of sporting activities and chose from a menu of creative enrichment sessions including yoga, origami, dance, taste testing, still life painting, sewing, recycling superheroes and more! The week celebrated sharing talents, learning new skills and finding enjoyment in new experiences and challenges. I enjoyed working with our PE Leader, Dan King, to organise this themed week, which we are keen to develop further next year.
Exploring opportunities to take learning outside is another great way to promote pupil well-being and is an area we are keen to develop further as a school. Our Outdoor Learning Leader, Kathryn Chinchen @Teach_on_beach, has led several training sessions this year, inspiring staff to venture creatively into the outdoors with pupils. We are very fortunate as a school to be located within walking distance to the beach. The children have truly loved the simplicity of many of these outdoor learning experiences. Meaningful and memorable – and a sea of smiling faces always tells a story!
As a school, we recognise that there is still so much more we want to achieve but we are looking forward to the journey ahead. With a values-based ethos, a whole school team approach, clear goals and support within school and beyond, we are well on our way. Exciting times ahead!
Kerry Macfarlane is a Primary teacher and PSHE/Wellbeing Lead at Corpus Christi Primary School, Bournemouth. Find her on Twitter at @KAB21MAC