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By: Rachel Batty

Wellbeing has never been so important; a paradigm shift has gradually taken root in many schools around the world. The concept of wellbeing has evolved from a farfetched ideal, misunderstood by many school leaders and dreamed about by overstretched teachers; to something that positively impacts on work-life balance; strengthens relationships and communication throughout a school community, and empowers pupils and staff to make lasting and meaningful changes in their lives.

Wellbeing isn’t about being happy all of the time. It isn’t about asking somebody in your school to take ownership of everybody else’s, and it certainly cannot be achieved through a one-size-fits-all approach… So, how might a school take meaningful steps towards improving the wellbeing of their whole community?

Mrs Rachel Batty, a wellbeing consultant and pastoral leader at The English School, Kuwait shares her top tips for growing an effective and long-lasting wellbeing initiative.

For any school that may not have considered embarking upon a wellbeing strategy, what would you advise as first steps to take?

It’s important that this is taken seriously at the grassroots level; the wellbeing of our school community is paramount and included in our school’s vision statement.

Don’t look at it as an add-on; make sure it fits within your school’s vision and ethos, and that it can be directly translated into actions that support your delivery.  You should have a strategy that ensures wellbeing is tightly woven into the fabric of your school: there is a myriad of opportunities to highlight wellbeing, many of which can be seen in what schools do as part of their everyday work.  Beginning with a simple audit to recognise where wellbeing is promoted well, is the easiest way to start.

What are the biggest challenges when initiating a wellbeing strategy throughout a school community?

Making sure it isn’t seen as something extra to do.  Staff are busy, and children can feel overwhelmed by work at times, especially now that some schools are working remotely.  Reminding community members that taking action towards wellbeing can simply be noticing what you do that helps, and what you do that doesn’t (and then finding ways to adapt your behaviour), which though apparently simple can be a powerful strategy.

Complete ‘buy-in’ and support from management in what they say and do is crucial.  Embarrassment or an apologetic tone around activities to do with wellbeing can send the wrong message and undermine all the great work that is going on. That said, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone will be comfortable talking about and promoting wellbeing, so make sure you have the right people acting as champions, whilst reassuring staff, that nobody will be coerced into anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Ensuring parents are on board through parent partnership projects and regular, effective use of social media, can also draw the school community even closer together with the aim of promoting what’s important.

Change never happens overnight, so have enough patience to see your wellbeing strategy take root and bloom slowly but surely.

What are the three essential resources to consider for an effective school wellbeing strategy?

  1. A committed wellbeing champion.  Someone who is passionate about wellbeing for all, has a positive attitude and whose enthusiasm is infectious! 
  2. A program that is simple and accessible by all members of the community, at the level they are comfortable with
  3. Communication channels that allow for the sharing of information, conversations, support and celebration

How do you ensure wellbeing for staff remains a priority in a fast-paced and busy environment?

Know your school’s calendar well and pinpoint particularly busy periods in advance. Where possible, cancel any unnecessary meetings and ensure a firm vision of striving towards achieving wellbeing is communicated at all levels of leadership within the school. At the same time, make sure it is clear that wellbeing is not something that is provided by management for staff. Simple reminders to staff to look out for each other, along with plans to check in with new staff several months after their induction, are small practical ways to ensure the focus remains strong. Overall, use your senses to listen, watch and feel what is going on.  Keep communication channels open. If somebody’s wellbeing is being negatively affected, ensure that supported is provided, and if necessary, assist in identifying steps to improve things. Though we have individual responsibilities, supporting each other to improve and make this message clear at all levels within the school, is important.

What are the most obvious benefits to growing a wellbeing strategy throughout a school community?

Improved learning outcomes, skills for life and a happier school community!  Who doesn’t want to wake up and look forward to the day ahead, knowing it will bring challenges, connection, satisfaction and fulfilment?

Please contact Mrs Rachel Batty at rbatty@tes.edu.kw if you would like further specific information regarding the wellbeing programme at TES, would like to visit us or would appreciate a chat about our journey so far.

Rachel Batty is an experienced educator and pastoral leader at TES. She has enjoyed working in a range of settings in the UK and internationally. She keeps the wellbeing of the child at the heart of what she does whether teaching music to infants, drama to KS3 or languages at A level. An innovative and passionate consultant, Rachel welcomes opportunities to help others fine-tune their wellbeing initiatives and invites you to get in touch.