Workload and Wellbeing

This is my first blog of the new term and for our own staff, although they know that I keep myself busy, they may be wondering why the once prolific blogging has dried up somewhat. The truth is simple in that I have been trying to model what I preach about workload, wellbeing and the balancing act with life out of school hence spending my spare time on reading, [ok it’s often educational stuff but that’s my choice!] my sporting interests and family and personal issues. I was glad of the break on Friday and felt tired but throughout some of the quite emotionally and intellectually demanding aspects of the first half-term for a school leader-Open Evening, exam results, appraisal, Progress 8, the whole government pressure re MATs/our future etc., I have felt buoyant and on top of my game in the knowledge that I am both fit and healthy and can make myself put my feet up at night to watch TV if I need to and not do school work. After so many years teaching, I don’t find this easy and I do wake up many times thinking about troublesome issues at work. Of course, I can’t bring my anxiety into work with me. I have to protect colleagues from external tribulations and nonsense so that they can work with the students-they have enough pressure of their own! Whilst I have tried my best to look after myself, one of my major priorities does have to be the 2 W,s and looking after, caring for and valuing ALL of our staff and students.

I can’t possibly, as a historian, forget to mention the Hill/Laker study this week that found that heads who are historians make the best head teachers! They were labelled ‘architects’ and interestingly they focused on long term goals, working on relationships with the community, building a new vision, provision for under-performing students, redesigning and building and trying to improve the work/learning climate. If this doesn’t uncannily resemble what we have been working on, I’m not sure what does, and our new vision, ‘Inclusive Excellence for All’ cuts to the chase of much of what exceptional leadership should bring to schools AND workload and wellbeing is a vital ingredient.

The 2 W’s have become buzz words and any tweet or blog mentioning them whether it be the craze for ‘5 a day’ healthy ideas or tales of thank you cakes and the banning of emails after school time is well received whereas any SLT seen to be breaking W rules or not adhering to the DFE guidelines for marking/ CPD etc. is booed and hissed by twitter keyboard warriors! The reality is, that whilst individual acts of W generosity and innovation are to be applauded and will make short term gains and bring immediate benefit to recipients/participants, unless school leaders have a longer term plan to address and keep addressing the constant workload/wellbeing issues such as marking, data collection, behaviour management and appraisal/professional development, nothing will change. This has been said before of course and I’m sure that the weight of evidence is out there to suggest that as yet it isn’t happening everywhere. However, some schools are trying their best [and getting frustrated at the blanket criticism] to try to change and make a lasting difference to the culture and environment within their own school. I shared my early ideas, definitions of workload and wellbeing, and some of my actions and vision last year in these 2 posts.

http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=2307

http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=2576

This year I have shown that I mean absolute business by writing the plans into the school improvement plan and into my own appraisal objectives. The SIP is obviously shared with staff and governors but so is my appraisal! I take accountability seriously and my 3 personal targets are openly shared and asked for feedback on. By doing this, colleagues can see how important that anything on my appraisal is-I’m putting my mouth where my money is-if you see what I mean! I’m not playing to the populist gallery by choosing the W’s-by making myself accountable for them, everybody can see my clear intentions and as an ‘architect’ leader, they know that this is a long-term plan. I have focused on staff W’s as my deputy head will support student W’s in her area of the SIP and in her appraisal.

You will notice in both documents that I use a PICO question-these are explained in this post

http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=2590

and form the second research based objective in everyone’s appraisal.

The SIP question doesn’t have the detail of my appraisal target but this was my original priority. To further support the wellbeing of all students and staff and to always consider the impact of workload on staff effectiveness and wellbeing.

I raised this question-Will our emphasis of reducing workload and considering staff wellbeing [Supporting them to be more accountable for the WWs instead of SLT top down decisions] have a discernible impact on professional performance?

How & when will it be evaluated?

  • Wellbeing group was created in summer and has the opportunity to develop and offer whatever it feels is right.
  • SLT will continue to ask for only data that is important and impacts on learning and teaching-subject leader’s choice. E.g. Zoe’s inset session
  • The new look reviews will continue but will be reviewed in 2017
  • The focus of line-managers across school in 2016/17 is to encourage reflection on becoming more effective and supporting colleagues to prioritise on ‘the main thing’
  • SLT must continue to be open and honest in sharing national trends/DFE guidelines and encouraging colleagues to read/check/comment if we aren’t doing what we should be in terms of workload-current marking/CPD guidelines are examples.
  • Survey again in 2017 by wellbeing group with questions of their choice.

What will success look like?

  • NTEN CPD audit successfully achieved and school awarded gold!
  • Middle leaders develop their own agreed accountability measures-shared openly to drive the school forwards
  • Hopefully positive feedback on the portfolios/appraisal from teachers and on the whole staff survey
  • More colleagues come to see me when issues first arise rather than waiting or not wanting to cause concerns look like?

You can see that school accountability includes external and internal verification/audits/surveys-this has to be the case. I’ve read many blogs and heard head teachers speak about what happens in their school, only to visit or meet people from there and the illusion is sometimes shattered! Anyone can visit our school to check that what I’m saying [or colleagues are saying] is the truth and hopefully that others have followed my lead and that there is a whole school  acceptance and support for the initiative. Of more importance is the fact that  I have written this into my own appraisal, which is more detailed again and can be added to at my own mid termly checkpoints when other issues arise. I may have missed key points and the staff are invited to add corrections! I have taken the targets straight from the SIP  and it compliments my second appraisal target which is to embed our new school vision.

Objective 3 To further support the wellbeing of all students and staff and to always consider the impact of workload on staff effectiveness and wellbeing.

PICO question; Will our emphasis of reducing workload and considering staff wellbeing[Supporting them to be more accountable for the WWs instead of SLT top down decisions] have a discernible impact on professional performance?

Evidence/Success Criteria

  • The Wellbeing group continues to exist and plan activities
  • Concrete evidence is clearly visible of attempts to reduce workload
  • Internal and external surveys/audits show that the initiative is having a quantifiable impact.

Possible action points to be taken to achieve objective:

  • Wellbeing group was created in summer and has the opportunity to develop and offer whatever it feels is right-opportunities for social/fitness events and time provided
  • Constant evaluations of effective systems-this is key. Get rid of anything not effective-don’t replace 1 workload issue with another!
  • SLT will continue to ask for only data that is important and impacts on learning and teaching-subject leader’s choice. E.g. Zoe’s inset session
  • The new look reviews will continue but will be reviewed in 2017
  • The focus of line-managers across school in 2016/17 is to encourage reflection on becoming more effective and supporting colleagues to prioritise on ‘the main thing’
  • SLT must continue to be open and honest in sharing national trends/DFE guidelines/research and encouraging colleagues to read/check/comment if we aren’t doing what we should be in terms of workload-current marking/CPD guidelines are examples
  • Best practice re above continues to be shared and evaluated
  • Survey again in 2017 by wellbeing group with questions of their choice and constant opening of discussions for staff to contribute to
  • New roles/different roles to ease workload for some/provide job opportunities for others e.g. support staff taking MC detentions, more admin jobs, additional TAs, additional cover supervisors
  • Internal wellbeing audit in 2017 and external TDA CPD audit to provide evaluation
  • Various mental health initiatives evaluated and adapted for use if appropriate for both students and staff
  • Continuous offer of support for students/staff who may feel that they are struggling to cope
  • Rigorous following of legal guidelines re workload and wellbeing BUT a constructive dialogue with all trade unions and regard for suggested guidelines
  • As fair approach as possible to considering absence requests e.g. 2 family days
  • Appropriate professional development provided and support offered to both new staff and new in role staff-buddies available for both staff and students
  • Keep asking how can technology help workload e.g. SMH and evaluate
  • Effective and appropriate communication-no work demand after school/weekend etc.
  • Uphold new school vision and consider workload/wellbeing of ALL
  • Continue treats/thank you but nothing that is divisive e.g. Heroes Week, Random Acts Kindness-any celebrations should be for ALL in group/staff
  • Change the times of parent’s evenings to better suit both staff and parents/survey afterwards
  • Ensure BFL is supporting all staff equitably

I’m sure that colleagues from other schools may well have some other ideas and examples from their own establishments that I’d love to hear about and add to our own. If you have read our blogs you will probably know that we have been working hard to reduce our marking workload.

http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=2623

If you don’t know our school, then you won’t, as my own colleagues will verify, [I hope!] have realised that I haven’t included some of the key philosophy and vision that underpins our workload/wellbeing. We do set ourselves the highest professional expectations but within that there is much flexibility based on what is best for individual teachers and their subjects. Whole school policies are not straightjackets and collaboration and sharing of ideas and resources in expected and is the norm. We work really hard to reward and retain staff, within tight budgets, and we want our staff to feel valued and loved! If the staff are happy, safe and supported, small matters like Progress 8 will be fine and in any case, if we have a bad year, we believe in what we are doing and will simply roll up our sleeves, reflect and get on with it. Appraisals are guidelines too and provided that we have all tried our best to fulfil objectives, that’s fine too.

I would say things like this wouldn’t I-which head wouldn’t want their staff to want to stay, be happy and be passionate about working at their school. The impact of a valued staff whose workload and wellbeing matter on the effectiveness of their teaching and care for their students must be unbeatable. Don’t just talk about it though, make it happen and make yourself accountable for its success and measurable impact.

Have a great half-term.

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