Last May I attended the Mental Health and Wellbeing #teachmeet at Magna Carta School, an inspiring event where I met Clare Erasmus for the first time. We stayed in touch and have become friends. Through our conversations, through tweets and blogs, via events we have both been at like the CWMT Mental Health Conference I hosted in November, I have learnt a lot. She is a trail blazer and is paving the way for the emerging role of MH&WB leaders in our schools, around the country. Visiting her provision and experiencing her vision in situ really helped me with my strategic vision of #wellbeing.
A year on, I have secured a Headship. A year on, I returned to facilitate a session. A year on, I am working on bringing my vision to reality. My session was intended as a crowd sourcing exercise, but ended up being me sharing my ideas and receiving verification I was on the right track and challenge for some of the ideas that needed developing, and/or thinking through for sustainability.
Here are the questions I asked the room and used to facilitate the discussion:
Q1. With a blank piece of paper where would you start in nurturing a school wellbeing culture where everyone can #growlearnflourish?
I know my team and I have the luxury of being able to create things from scratch and do things differently, rather than lead change, the whole staff body and the majority of the parent body are fully behind co-creating a wellbeing culture. A clean slate is exciting and means we can create new systems from day one.
Q2. How would you define a “Wellbeing Culture”?
I was asked this recently in a group coaching session. I was challenged on using my conditioned vision of wellbeing as the frame for my current wellbeing needs. I had not considered this before – that my parents had brought me up with their wellbeing vision and that my lifestyle is very different so I need to redefine my own interpretation. Growing up in Devon, my parents semi-retired to a farm and live the ‘goodlife’. I love walks on the beach but don’t really do mud! I would rather go to a spa for a weekend and have a massage to nourish my soul – ultimately I shouldn’t feel guilty about this. Equally leading a wellbeing vision and creating a wellbeing provision is about ensuring that a range of diverse opportunities are offered to cater for all staff needs .e.g staff sports or mindfulness are not for everyone!
Q3. What does ‘Growing, Learning and Flourishing, Together’ mean to you?
I asked everyone to complete these 3 sentences:
- Human beings grow best when… they have the right conditions including space and freedom.
- Human beings learn best when… they have some ownership over their direction and the time/energy to commit to it.
- Human beings flourish best when… they are loved, nurtured and trusted.
Q4. Does our system focus on student wellbeing at the expense of staff wellbeing?
I think this is true. My pledge is that if we look after our staff better, then our staff will look after our students. Not that they are not striving to do this already, but teachers are barely able to look after their own MH&WB with the pressures of our profession. Our staffing crisis, both recruitment and retention, is exasperated by the negative press about our profession. But there is no smoke without fire. Yes we need to talk up our profession, but we need get to the root cause and fix our system, rather than icing over the cracks.
Q5. How can we create a wellbeing culture where everyone can thrive and flourish?
For me we need to shift our focus. We need to focus on whole human beings, both staff and students, and not reduce them to statistics. We need focus on preventative strategies rather than reactive interventions.
Q6. What strategies would be on the Action Plan for creating a Wellbeing Culture? What would you establish as your short, medium, long term goals? What would you prioritise?
- How can we create it? We need to ensure it is embedded in our culture, vision and strategy from day 1.
- How can we model it? We need to ensure that all of our staff live our values.
- How can we nurture it? We need to ensure that all of our community are supported.
- How can we sustain it? We need to review it and regularly take staff voice.
- How can we audit it? We need to engage all stakeholders.
Q7. Reflections: How can we take our vision and create a #wellbeing provision?
Committed to ‘nurturing hearts and minds’ we are developing our holistic offer to include:
- Mindfulness programme – every morning
- Art Therapy room – in 8 week blocks
- Thrive Room – to nurture our vulnerable students through transition
- Sensory Room – to support our ASD students
- Martial Arts Academy – for all of our Year 7s
- Wellbeing Room – for all of our staff
- Coaching Culture – for all of our staff
- Family Dining Experience – for all of our community
- Community Reflection – for our students each night
- Half-day on Fridays – for our whole community
This is all a work in progress of course and I can’t wait to have the team started to drive this forward. Ask me a year how we are getting on!
Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher
Currently feeling hopeful about:
- Changing the language from #teachmeet to #edumeet to be more inclusive of the educators working outside of our classroom.
Currently reading and thinking about:
- Kay Price gave us a MH&WB toolkit of books to read that have shaped her wellbeing provision.
Currently feeling grateful for:
- Everyone who attended, facilitated and contributed to the discussions at the #MagnaMHTM17.