Thursday, 28 January 2016

Wellbeing - Comfortable, Healthy or Happy?

Watching Twitter I see discussions about teaching drift by. One week it might be a headteacher asking parents not to wear their pyjamas to school, another it might be a celebration of a busted Ousted myth. One that seems to come along frequently is wellbeing - how are we, as teachers, looking after the wellbeing of our pupils? The internet tells me that wellbeing is:

"the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy"

There's a load of synonyms too - welfare, profit, security, safety, success, protection...

I think we can all agree that these are things we want for our pupils, in fact they must be safe and protected at school. However, I recently saw one tweet that said without staff wellbeing there could be no pupil wellbeing and that got me to thinking:

How much does your school look after your wellbeing? Are you comfortable, healthy or happy?

I asked around for anecdotes and here are a couple of possible situations:

A member of staff had to go into hospital very suddenly for an operation. They were in hospital for several days and many weeks recovering at home.  On their third day home a huge bunch of flowers arrived from the school, sending love and best wishes.  When the member of staff returned to work they thanked the Head's PA for the beautiful flowers.  It turned out that the flowers had been chosen, ordered and paid for by the Head himself.

Imagine how valued that member of staff felt? Their workplace was thinking of them, not in terms of a policy to get them back to work, but of their wellbeing.

A Head of Department notices that their staff are starting to droop, it's a tough term and the pressure is on.  They bring expensive doughnuts to work one morning.  The staff feel valued and pleased that someone has noticed they are struggling.

I'm sure there are more examples but I worry that the latest box-ticking, no money culture in schools means that these possible situations might occur:

A member of staff was recently diagnosed with diabetes.  The school were aware of some ill health but did not ask the staff member what had happened and if could they help. The member of staff used an office to test their blood sugars.  The school decided to rearrange the teaching areas and the member of staff was left with no safe, private place to carry out the tests. Was it up to the member of staff to tell the school about their recent diagnosis at the time or is it likely they would think it has no bearing on them being able to do their job? Who should they tell anyway? The Head? Or does the school have a duty of care towards that member of staff? To form a trusting relationship? To check that they are ok, regularly, in passing?

A school has an electronic card system to scan in and out of the building and a member of staff went to leave school late one evening. The school doors were locked, so they were stuck inside. The member of staff had scanned in, but no-one had checked the logs.

Which reminds me.... how many hours a week do you work? I've heard of 55-60 being common. How does that fit with wellbeing? How clean is your school? Does the winter cold linger like a cloud?

I don't have any easy answers, I'm merely observing and reporting. It doesn't take a genius to realise that overtired staff, with their own medical issues, who aren't taken care of, are in no fit state to look after the wellbeing of children.

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