Working in a school is rewarding yet challenging, and the past few months will likely have been some of the most difficult of many teachers and school staff’s careers.
Looking after school staff’s mental health and wellbeing should always be a priority for governors. But the pandemic has made this even more critical, as school staff have had to adapt to remote working, are feeling heightened concern for vulnerable children and teaching those children still in school, all while managing their own stress and anxiety.
The pandemic will have affected everyone differently, but many teachers and school staff have faced difficulties including:
Remote working at short notice, often while looking after their own families
Workload and maintaining a work/life balance, especially working remotely when lines between home and work can be blurred
The uncertainty and inability to plan ahead
The worry about vulnerable children and the long-lasting effects of the pandemic on children and young people
Anxiety about their own health and for some, grief over losing loved ones
Teacher workload has been a constant issue, and one that the Department for Education has tried to tackle. Some may feel that over the course of the pandemic, any progress made in this area has been lost. Headteachers have managed a high staff sickness rate, organised bubbles for classes, and had their breaks interrupted with plans for mass testing and the return to school. Teachers have rushed to implement effective remote working for children while schools remain open for some children. Once schools are open to all pupils again, there will be the inevitable need to catch up on work missed, and try to close the widening attainment gap. While reducing workload for school staff may be difficult, this is precisely why it could be an area to prioritise.
Managing the effects of COVID-19 on schools even after the pandemic is over will take a toll on school staff, particularly the senior leadership team (SLT). Governors should be aware of this and remember to support SLT navigating these challenges, even if it means easing admin to do so.
Governors can help make sure mental health and wellbeing is embedded into their school’s ethos and culture. Term 2 of our campaign Wellbeing Governors focuses on school staff mental health and wellbeing. As part of this, we’ve created resources so that governors can be confident the questions they’re asking and the support they’re providing is positively impacting wellbeing at their school.
Link governors for wellbeing can help make sure mental health and wellbeing stays on the agenda, for staff as well as pupils. Put your interest in mental health to good use and apply to become a governor. We’ll match your skills with a school in need. Governor meetings are currently taking place remotely, so you won’t be expected to go into a school.