Happy Valentines!

Love is about social connection, kindness, empathy and as we celebrate Valentines Day we reflect on how we can facilitate those things at school level and across the TSA.

Jointly written by Lisa Fathers- Director of Teaching School & Partnerships at the Alliance for Learning/BFET & National Trainer with @MHFA England and Patrick Ottley- O’ Connor Executive Principal with the Essa Foundation Academies Trust. Essa Foundation Academies Trust schools joined the TSA in 2016 and have become strong partners with a shared focus on wellbeing. Both organisations work very closely with Ambition School Leadership.

Schools are challenging, relentless, day after day teachers are giving 100% to the school they work in. Every class or form is different, different personalities, different behaviour, varied learning needs, individual targets, differentiated schemes of work and this is without even thinking about evening work load or that lesson observation that might be looming in the future…….

So, yes teachers have to be resilient but school leaders have to be sensible, supportive and place staff wellbeing at the heart of every decision. Teachers & Support Staff are without a doubt the best resource in school and we have to role model ‘putting our own oxygen mask on first’. The Alliance for Learning Teaching School has been supporting schools develop their wellbeing offer whilst providing quality CPD. Teachers do one of the most valuable jobs in our society –yet we know retention data in our profession is alarming. At the ‘Alliance for Learning SCITT’ ( School Centered Initial Teacher Training) we not only ensure all our trainees complete MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) but we actually go and deliver this at cost to lots of other ITT providers too because fundamentally we believe it is as crucial for our new teachers, as learning classroom management techniques.

Whole school approaches……It is essential that schools have a wellbeing strategy and that specialist CPD like ‘Mental Health First Aid’ and ‘Mindfulness’ fits into that. The Essa Academies in Bolton have been making full use of the teaching school offer whilst leading from the front with all sorts of wellbeing initiatives.

At Essa Academies in September 2016 a real drive on creating a culture of wellbeing across the family of schools was launched. Staff talk openly about & celebrate mental health and wellbeing every single week. This builds on the analogy of putting on our own oxygen masks on before helping others and has been instrumental in supporting the academies realise the values based vision where ‘All Will Succeed.’ Staff are encouraged to support all staff to see, own, solve and act on their own wellbeing, whatever that may look like. On a Friday there are ‘Wellbeing Stars of the Week’ (weekly nominations by staff for staff to recognise their support for each other’s mental health and wellbeing). In addition, there are regular #teacher5aday wellbeing activities, such as random & themed acts of kindness, strawberries & cream during Wimbledon, wellbeing bags, Crunchie Fridays & the ‘Wheel of Misfortune’; a Russian Roulette style prize-giving of lovely & cringe worthy surprises!

The wellbeing approach is not a soft option though and it allows staff and students to be their best. The Alliance for Learning & ESSA believe that children get one shot at school and it is vital that they receive the highest quality experiences & teaching to equip them for life and their next steps in education, training & employment. The ESSA schools have taken a hard look at things and made changes, including:

• reviewing of all policies considering wellbeing
• creating new classroom, staff bases & counselling spaces to address wellbeing issues
• significantly increasing the CPD budget, to facilitate coaching triads for all teachers, bespoke coaching for all leaders and Mental Health First Aid through the Alliance for Learning for staff
• increasing the use of developmental support plans, occupational health referrals and counselling for staff.
• increasing PPA to a minimum of 20% for all teachers & 50% for Core Middle Leaders.

This approach has seen some staff come back from many mental health difficulties to redefine their passion & ‘mojo’ to enjoy the profession once again. Of course like all health- mental health is a continuum and the support doesn’t end.

Collaborative working……..We are really excited that news of the impact of our joint working has spread and as a result Bolton SIG ( Bolton Supporting School Improvement Group) are facilitating every single secondary school in Bolton to access Mental Health First Aid Youth with the Alliance for Learning Teaching School and phase two will include MHFA Adult and a wellbeing audit to support schools improve in this area even further. This cluster approach follows the success the Alliance for Learning has had delivering mental health training across all Warrington secondary and primary schools and in Bury too. Creating wellbeing clusters and the dialogue across schools working together is an important aspect of sustaining the work and ensuring impact. Collaboration is at the heart of all we do. The Alliance for Learning is also delivering MHFA Lite to Future Leaders co-horts with @Ambition_SL 

Essentially, leaders lead well, teachers teach best and learners learn best when all feel supported and wanted within their school. Please do contact Lisa or Patrick for any further information @lisafathersAFL @ottleyoconnor and follow @HealthyToolkit for lots of other ideas! ON VALENTINES DAY WE URGE YOU TO CHOOSE LOVE AND LEAD WITH COMPASSION.



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