In this guest blog, Tim Small from Integrity Coaching outlines some questions and prompts to guide governors’ thinking and action when it comes to headteacher wellbeing.
As a school governor, responsible for the strategic direction and educational and financial health of your school, how much value do you place on your Headteacher or Principal? How dependent would you say the school is on this person’s capacity to show up every day, take in information, think and articulate clearly, perform at a high level, stay calm and stay sane?
Here’s another, more scary way of putting the same question; do you know what it costs a school when a Head or Principal is unable to sustain the role due to stress-related sickness?
Thirdly, then, do you take as much care of your Headteacher’s wellbeing as you do of the school’s finances? If not, why not? And how might you do so?
Here’s a proposal to kickstart your Governing Body discussion of this agenda item: How do we take care of our Headteacher’s wellbeing?
First of all, agree a four-stage plan based on these principles:
- Principle 1: Assign responsibility (i.e. appoint a link governor to oversee the process)
- Principle 2: Audit the current situation and monitor the future, as it develops
- Principle 3: Convert information into appropriate action (i.e. agree an action plan based on your findings)
- Principle 4: Invest to save (i.e. allocate a budget line to ensure it happens)
What might an audit look like?
This would need to be checked out with the person concerned, but here’s a suggestion:
Two key questions need to be asked. With the Head’s agreement, they could either be directed simply to the person themselves or, in a spirit of openness and modelling good practice, given to the rest of the Leadership Team as well, to answer in relation (i) to the Head and (ii) to themselves and the team.
- Question 1: What impacts most positively on your wellbeing? (i.e. what could we try to have more of?)
- Question 2: What impacts most negatively on your wellbeing? (i.e. what could we try to have less of?)
To simplify the process and make it easier to quantify the information you get back, you could create a survey along the following lines, inviting the respondents to refine it from their perspective it before it’s finalised.
What could you do with the results?
As long as the relationships are trusting enough that such a survey is answered frankly and honestly, this will be a mine of valuable information to inform your action plan.
Here are some prompts to stimulate your thinking about possible next steps (you and your Head might think of others):
- What can be done to introduce or increase the positive factors?
- What can be done to mitigate or reduce the negative factors?
- Could you give each a SMART target and can you MAKE IT HAPPEN?
- Will you produce, agree and jointly sign off an action plan?
- Will you calendar and publish the actions over the course of a year?
- Will you re-audit wellbeing at least annually, using the same scoring system to ensure the trend is positive and renew and re-contract the action plan?
- If it works well, why wouldn’t you extend it to the whole staff?
Our education system is often accused, with good reason, of only valuing what can be easily measured, rather than measuring what we really value. The last thing I’d want to promote is an even more data-driven approach, but if we accept the necessity of some kind of accountability system, why shouldn’t we design one to enhance what we care about most? If we look after our school leaders systematically, recognising the impact of their wellbeing and sustainability on everything schools are here to achieve, we have the power to create a virtuous, upward spiral that can only enhance and improve the school’s performance as well as the human flourishing we all aspire to.