Wellbeing in schools: Reducing teacher and support staff stress and absence

According to the National Foundation for Educational Research, teachers suffer from higher levels of stress than other professionals with one in five reporting they feel anxious at work, all or most of the time. What’s more, in their recent report, Education Support Partnership found that 57% of teachers have considered leaving the profession in the last two years due to health pressures. It, therefore, comes as little surprise that teachers and support staff absence is on the rise.

For schools, it’s paramount to keep staff absence at a reasonable level. Working with our education supply chain, we’ve recognised the growing need for wellbeing initiatives that focus on stress prevention, and better cover for schools when it comes to managing staff absence.

We recently caught up with Education Mutual to get their advice about reducing work place stress and absence. Education Mutual provides a staff absence cover scheme which pools resources for the good of all. The organisation was founded by education professionals disillusioned with increasing premiums and a decreasing service. It is owned by its member-schools, colleges and nurseries with the sole purpose of keeping more money within the education sector. The company is dedicated to putting staff health and wellbeing at the very core of their service and they passionately believe that staff must feel fully supported when facing any kind of health problem.

When it comes to managing workplace absence, Education Mutual are the experts. Here are some tips from Louise Levy, chief operating officer for The Trinity Catholic Multi Academy Trust and Education Mutual director, about managing absence within your school:

  • Monitoring teacher and support staff absence – To tackle the problem head on, all schools need to monitor and record the level of absence and ascertain planned and unplanned absence rates. It’s best practice to have back-to-work interviews as standard, this will help you get to the cause of the problem and to discover where you can offer help and support. In doing this, the risk of prolonged absence in the future is far less as it creates an environment in which teachers feel supported.
  • Identifying the causes of stress – We know that education professionals face a lot of pressure. Workloads can be extremely demanding, upcoming exams create target pressure, changes in curriculum are time-consuming and challenging students can be difficult to cope with. By communicating with staff when they return from absence you can find out if any of these, or similar stress-related issues, were the cause of their absence and then you can work with them to reduce workload or support them with challenges.
  • Encourage teachers and support staff to seek support – Education is a busy and demanding job to work in. Often staff feel anxious to ask for help or to reduce their workload as they know it will be passed on to a colleague. It is essential to create a culture that tells staff that it is not only ok but encouraged, for them to seek help when they need it. They will not be viewed as a hassle but as a valued member of the team who needs some support.
  • Improving teacher and support staff wellbeing – When the wellbeing of teachers and support staff is prioritised, it has a monumental impact not just on the individuals themselves but the establishment they work in, the students they educate, and the staff members they work alongside. After all, a happy teacher means a happy classroom environment. It also means fewer absences. A wellbeing audit is a fantastic place to start.

Asking questions such as:

  • How happy are you at work?
  • What would you like help with?
  • Are you managing your workload ok?
  • Do you feel appreciated at work?
  • Do you feel able to seek help when you need it?

Audits such as this encourage staff who might otherwise ‘soldier on’ to signal that they may need support in certain areas that are causing them stress. An audit could be beneficial for your school at the end of every term.

Wellbeing also covers areas such as diet, exercise and relaxation, here are some ideas:

  • Contact local gyms to get discounted rates for staff
  • Establish a mentor system where staff are buddied up to support each other
  • Offer once weekly yoga or meditation
  • Offer discounts on school lunches to staff
  • Have team building exercises at least once a year
  • Remember staff birthdays

By creating an environment in which staff feel valued and looked after, you will be rewarded with reduced absence. The happier teachers and support staff are, the less likely they are to take unplanned time off.

At Bloom Procurement Services we support schools with the procurement of professional services, this can include sourcing providers across a range of service areas such as finance and business planning, behavioral programmes, staff absence protection or health and wellbeing initiatives to name but a few. Using our extensive expertise as procurement and education specialists we provide a fully managed end-to-end compliant procurement solution for all schools, academies and colleges to source the best value suppliers to suit their needs. Utilising our wide-ranging supply chain, schools and academies working with Bloom save an average of 11% to 19% against budget, allowing them to release significant cashable savings to support real educational outcomes.

Find out more

We are hosting a free webinar on 5 December 2019 for all education professionals.

The webinar will help you understand the current procurement landscape, how to achieve procurement best practice in the education sector and how your school or academy can generate cashable savings via our managed service solution. We will be discussing the types of services available such as staff absence cover and health and wellbeing initiatives, along with other subjects such as procurement regulations and how to ensure your school is compliant.

If you can’t make the webinar but would still like to find out more, get in touch we would love to discuss how we are opening up procurement for schools and academies..