How will you support staff this year?

At IVC we have a well-being directory – this is a range of activities and support events to encourage the well-being and mental health of all staff and students at the college.  As part of this, I was lucky to be able to offer staff a one-hour counselling session last term.  I had wanted to offer counselling before but I was concerned with the outcomes.  One session would never be enough for those who needed further support and we as a college could certainly not afford to commit to supporting staff to undertake a series of counselling meetings.  However, I knew through my own experience, that being brave enough to seek a counsellor and meet with them for the first time is often the hardest thing to do – I was optimistic that if I could support staff to meet with a counsellor for the first time then we could encourage them to self-refer and seek help through the NHS.  On balance I thought it was better to enable that initial meeting to take place and work to support afterwards rather than be put off the initial session for fear of what it would unlock.

What came back was really surprising and has caused me to tweak our systems for the start of the new term.

I offered the sessions to all staff and 13 requests came back.  These were a mixture of associate staff and teaching staff.  I arranged these one-hour sessions over a couple of afternoons and made sure that the location for the sessions was very private and would not be disturbed.  I met with the counsellor after the sessions for some feedback – clearly no individual specific information was shared, what I was presented with was general thoughts and observations.

  1.  The average age of the 13 staff was young – the counsellor was struck by how many were young teachers in their first or second year in teaching
  2.  The main presenting issues from the young staff was that they had been very successful in their academic studies but yet their first year of teaching had been very challenging and some of the staff were comparing their practice to far more experienced colleagues and feeling very inadequate – even though, of the teachers who had sought appointments, none were through to be struggling in their teaching
  3.  The vast majority of staff had had no counselling prior to this meeting
  4.  More than 10 staff were encouraged to see their GP or self-refer to the counselling services for the area

The feedback regarding the new and younger teachers really shocked me but it seemed to fit with the material I had been reading recently regarding retention rates for new teachers to the profession.  The recent report from the Department for Education in their newly published Workload Toolkit mentions the 30% of new teachers who do not make it to 5 years in the profession – and one of the main areas highlighted by staff leaving the profession is workload and the personal opinion they have that they are not cutting it in the classroom.

We have a number of NQT’s and new staff joining us again this year and, despite an excellent induction programme, we are keen to do more to support our new teachers – ultimately, the challenge of all schools regarding recruitment can be improved if we can better look after the staff we have and train them.  So, we have enlisted the support of a number of experienced staff to act as mentors, but focussing on their well-being and how they are settling into the college, not just their teaching expertise – this will be supported with faculty mentors. These well-being mentors will be able to support new staff outside of the traditional line management (as some new staff indicated they were not confident to share concerns for fear of it not reflecting well on them).

For our part as a leadership team – we will continue to make sure that mental health and well-being is talked about positively so that staff can confidently believe that there is no stigma in raising a flag of concern at IVC.  We will continue with our well-being directory which has been very positively received by staff over the past year and we will offer a new round of counselling sessions for all new staff in the run-up to Christmas – at around £400 it will surely prove to be very effective staff support indeed.

If you would like to know more about the well-being support we have at IVC or more about the culture changes we have made then please contact me via this site or on twitter @simon_warburton.  I will also be presenting at Pedagoo Hampshire 2018 so if you are in the area and don’t have a ticket yet please make sure you sign up 🙂

From September I will be a specialist leader in education specifically on mental health and wellbeing so will be able to offer support and guidance and will be happy to help where I can.

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