Five ways schools can commit to good staff mental health

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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As mental health awareness increases in the wake of the pandemic, Sophie Howells looks at five areas of school life where we can make our commitment to wellbeing evident for all staff

It is encouraging that the awareness of mental health issues is increasing across many of our workplaces. This is something we can all contribute to.

Around one in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year according to the charity Mind and most of us will know someone who has struggled.

The importance of maintaining and checking in on our mental health and wellbeing has never been more apparent. Many school leaders are tapping into this growing awareness and demonstrating a commitment to change. If more do this, a change in culture can begin.

Making mental health and wellbeing part of everyday conversations in schools, as natural as any discussion about the importance of physical health, is something that we may not have felt comfortable with in the past, but leaders can do more to encourage this.

As we emerge from the pandemic, think about what your school currently does to actively promote and integrate conversations about mental health and wellbeing. Is there room for improvement? Could you do more to embed it into school life?

From recruitment advertising, through to interviews, inductions, staff training and one-on-ones, there are key points at which schools can set out a commitment as an employer to making support for mental health and wellbeing a clear priority.

So to help you, here are five essential ways in which school leaders can communicate and demonstrate commitment

Recruitment: Include a statement of the school’s commitment to staff mental health and wellbeing in job adverts and the recruitment process wherever relevant. If you already are, it might be worth reviewing how the intention is stated and followed through and make it clear at interview. It will help you stand out to prospective candidates as an employer who values and respects its staff and is committed to a mentally healthy workplace.

Induction: Once new staff are on board, make it clear from day one what your approaches to wellbeing are. Discuss and signpost.You are not saying that you are the experts, but you are saying that it is a priority for your school and that staff can access support. Use the time to point to valuable sources for staff to be aware of, explain who they can turn to (or point others to) if specific issues arise. As well as support within school, use the induction process to remind colleagues that anyone in the profession can call the Education Support confidential Helpline with any concerns (not just when they are in crisis). There are also other useful sources of expertise and support about specific mental health conditions, including Mind and the NHS (see further information).

Action plans:Action plans are a practical way of making the promotion of good mental health and wellbeing part of the everyday at school.Aspects of your plan can be regularly reviewed in one-to-ones and relevant staff sessions. The key is to ensure it doesn’t get filed away but is used as a live tool. There are plenty of examples available, including an Education Support action plan (see further information).

One-to-one meetings: Make these meetings a regular point for staff to discuss wellbeing, part of creating a psychologically safe environment where individuals can feel comfortable sharing any problems or worries. It takes practice to be a skilled listener but you don’t need to be an expert to check-in with people during regular catch-ups. The NHS Every Mind Matterswebpages include top tips to support anyone with a mental health concern.

Staff meetings: At every level, including senior leadership teams and school boards, meetings should include a standing agenda item to check-in on staff wellbeing. How about using a one to 10 rating to gauge how staff are feeling?

Reviewing your practice?

Can you make it a priority this term and next to review if your school could be doing anything differently? Culture change takes time. The new Education Support websiteoffers a range of accessible resources, guides and articles including a guide on“bringing wellbeing into the everyday”.

  • Sophie Howells is from Education Support, a UK charity dedicated to improving the mental health and wellbeing of the education workforce. Read her previous articles for Headteacher Update via

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