Case Study: St Lawrence Primary School
“We really have to make sure we look after ourselves and our staff to make sure that they can keep doing what they need to”
As a reasonably new school, St Lawrence had naturally been focused on building school culture and a sense of team and collegiality, up until this point the school had not specifically and strategically focused on improving staff wellbeing
Like many schools, it was not uncommon for the team at St Lawrence to incorporate team building or ‘feel good’ activities into certain meetings and times of the year. These were well received and boosted mood for the hour or so they lasted, but these one-off initiatives did not have any visible or measurable long term effect on wellbeing.
In 2015, Leaders at St Lawrence were keen to explore effective ways to address the following:
- School improvement survey scores had dipped in the area of staff morale
- It was not uncommon to hear staff talk about feeling ‘overwhelmed’, ‘not coping’, or ‘stressed’
- Incidents of high staff absence, particularly around report time and intense periods
- Staff members didn’t seem to be expressing how they were managing until their ability to cope was at a really crucial point
The leadership team were interested in defining:
- The role they played in staff wellbeing
- How to support people, empower them and help them to see their role in managing their own stress and wellbeing, whilst being careful not to ‘fix it’ for them
- Effective ways of addressing and improving staff wellbeing
REL Matthew Robb talks about take aways from the Workplace Wellbeing Professional Learning
‘It was so encouraging to know that at St Lawrence our wellbeing was important to the school and that they were there to help me take steps to change my feeling from surviving to thriving’ Sarah Mildner
Feeling Good and Functioning Well
Leadership were very clear about the purpose of undertaking this professional learning; they were not seeking to ‘fix it’ for staff but to give them the knowledge, tools and support to manage the everyday demands of their role.
A mixture of Professional Learning Days, PLT meetings,and team-coaching were planned with the purpose of:
- Deepening staff knowledge and understanding of the physical and mental health effects of stress, overwhelm and wellbeing
- Empowering staff to manage their own wellbeing during stressful times by providing practical strategies and frameworks for taking action and having a voice
- Remaining informed by current scientific research and evidence
- Collaborating with all staff members to build a whole school shared language and understandings around workplace wellbeing
Ophelia shares her take-aways from Feeling Good & Functioning Well
A deliberate approach to equipping staff with the knowledge, tools and support they need to respond to the pressure of their jobs has brought about a range of pleasing outcomes including:
School Improvement Survey Data
- Improvement in Individual Distress scores (i.e.less staff report feeling anxious, stressed, uneasy, depressed, tense)
- Significant increase in School Morale scores
- Increase in Individual Morale scores
- Empathy (including supportive leadership) and Engagement (including teamwork and empowerment) pillars showed strong growth
Anecdotal Data from School Leaders
- People are talking more openly about their wellbeing. They are feeling more comfortable about doing that.
- The talk we hear is different; it is empowered rather than helpless
- In the past people felt it was being ‘done to’ them. Now we know that we have a choice. We can identify busy times and put strategies into place. It helps to know we can take control of situations
- Our team is talking a common language. We can express what is happening and others know how to offer support for that
- As leaders we feel the shift in ourselves. We are more focused on our own wellbeing and modelling that for others.
- Now we naturally think: ‘What can I do about this? What choices do I have?’ Rather than feeling helpless or like it’s being done to us
- As an organisation we have built in structural changes that support individuals to be responsible for their own wellbeing. Once we might have seen this as a ‘waste of learning time’. Now we see how these simple changes flow outwards
Frances talks about how Feeling Good & Functioning Well helped her manage a sense of overwhelm.
‘I now have a better understanding about the way the human brain works – what is important to it, how it reacts to stress and so on.’ Elissa Gault
Why choose Feeling Good & Functioning Well?
- This is a whole school approach, allowing staff to build shared language and understandings.
- Katrina knows schools; she has worked in them for years as both classroom teacher and leader. She understands the demands, the culture, the language and the work of the school.
- The professional learning is tailored to the school’s needs and situation, it is not a one-size-fits-all formula or program.