Working at Thomas's Kensington
How do we promote and maintain wellbeing?
The term "wellbeing" covers several aspects of the way people feel about their lives, including their jobs, and their relationships with the people around them. Of course, a person's wellbeing is to do with their own character and home or social life along with the workplace, but research shows that employers can have an influence on an individual's sense of wellbeing in the way they run a workplace.
When it comes to looking after the pupils, schools bend over backwards to ensure policies, procedures and strategies are in place to achieve physical and mental wellbeing. Schools have a duty to promote children’s wellbeing and prepare them for adult life. Pupils with better health and wellbeing are also likely to achieve better academically. We all know and accept that the culture, ethos and environment of a school influences the health and wellbeing of pupils and their readiness to learn.
But what about staff? What about their wellbeing? How important is staff mental health to the mechanics of school life? Happy teachers usually means happy children and we are very aware at Thomas’s Kensington that we have a duty to ensure that all members of the community feel happy, respected and safe.
At Thomas’s Kensington, exactly the same principles apply to staff as they do to pupils. Teachers are notorious for having a poor work/life balance as their days are frequently extremely busy and can at times be challenging. A focus on staff wellbeing is a must, especially amid the welter of government initiatives and curriculum changes. Pedagogy is a moveable feast, with practitioners under constant pressure to keep up to date with current thinking.
A whole-school approach to wellbeing and mental health is everyone’s business within our school; we endeavour to ensure that our staff are happy and content with many opportunities to develop their well-being. Positive relationships are critical in promoting staff wellbeing and the sense of belonging to our team and community.
What we offer our staff at Thomas’s Kensington is time to socialise, time to exercise, time for intellectual stimulation and development and above all a time to talk – either to a professional counsellor or to each other.
At Thomas’s Kensington we acknowledge that one's mental health changes over time. Just as we all have ups and downs in our physical wellbeing, our mental health can change over time and is affected by a range of factors both inside and outside work.
We appreciate that stress at work can lead to poor mental health and ultimately time off work. Therefore, we strive to foster an environment of open and confidential conversations around mental health, with the school upholding the stance that any disclosure regarding mental health will lead to support, not discrimination.
Thomas’s Kensington makes a conscious and assertive effort to promote wellbeing amongst staff.
These are some of the things we do to try to ensure our staff maintain a work life balance:
- Cut down on unnecessary meetings
- Make staff meetings fun and relevant, with snacks and pertinent activities
- Invest in team-activities. (Staff always win the annual PTA quiz!)
- A weekly staff breakfast fry- up, where the whole staff gathers and mingles
- Fresh fruit and healthy snacks available in the staffroom at no cost
- Free tea, coffee and milk.
- Mindfulness training: professional courses have been offered to all staff
- Weekly Pilates or circuit training, plus a Monday football session
- A staff choir
- Empower staff through further training such as first aid, leadership development, counselling and a bespoke MA programme. Staff were encouraged to complete the Thomas’s Leading Practitioner programme.
- A school counsellor available to all staff
- Time outside of school, usually at the Builder’s Arms, to socialise and share time together eating, drinking, bowling, crazy golf, etc. Christmas parties take place at a chosen local venue at no cost to the staff.
- A mentoring and buddy scheme for all new staff. All form teachers have a buddy who shares the day to day workload.
- “Friday chocolate” celebrating successes in the week gone by
- All dietary needs catered for, with meals offered at no cost
We have a staff well-being policy and know it is our duty as an employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our employees. But practically we know that wellbeing in schools has to start with the staff as they are in the frontline. It is nigh on impossible to promote the emotional, social and physical wellbeing of others if you are not feeling strong yourself.
At Thomas’s we endeavour to offer a positive culture that values everyone and invests in their wellbeing, building trust with one another, so that everyone feels connected and is able to flourish.
It has been noted by visitors to our staffroom that there is a very apparent bond between colleagues, where humour and camaraderie are embedded within a professional and supportive working environment.
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