In my previous blog I reproduced a post by Kevin McLaughlin who wrote very movingly about his experience. The issue of staff wellbeing is one that we, as governors, should keep very high on our agendas. After reading Kevin’s post I started to think of some questions we should be asking ourselves/our heads. The questions which I came up with are as below. In this post when I refer to staff I mean anyone who is working in schools, be they teaching or non-teaching staff members.
- Does your board foster a culture where everyone feels they can seek support without feeling that their position may be threatened?
- What would you say if I asked you about the culture of mutual trust, respect, transparency, and recognition in your school? This all feeds into wellbeing.
- Have you thought about doing anonymous staff surveys with questions on wellbeing, work/life balance and workload with results reported to the board?
- Do you question if you notice a high staff turnover?
- Do you do exit interviews? These may give you valuable information about the culture in the school and how staff are feeling.
- Do you get data about staff sickness and days off? Can you identify any trends?
- Do you know what support is put into place once staff return to work after illness?
- Do you have a wellbeing policy/governor? Do they report back to the board? How are their reports used to change/modify your practice?
- Are you aware of your duty of care as employers?
- Do you regularly review what you are doing to look after the head’s wellbeing? This is important for two reasons. Firstly because as governors we would want to ensure that we are looking after and supporting our heads. Secondly, a stressed head may result in rest of the staff becoming stressed too.
- Are staff are happy to talk to you and do they believe you have their interests at heart?
- Are you sure that the initiatives you/the school have introduced to address wellbeing are more than just a gesture/tick in the box?
- How do you prioritise raising awareness of Mental Health issues?
- Have you thought about adding something in your SDP about teacher workload?
- Do you ask about the effect on teacher workload when new initiatives/policy amendments are brought to the board?
- Do you ask school leaders to justify new initiatives they bring to you for approval?
- Do you ask what is being dropped to accommodate new initiatives?
- Are members of SLT/teachers with additional responsibilities given sufficient non-contact time/working at home days to facilitate their leadership & management responsibilities?
- Do you make sure you ask for information well in advance of when it’s needed? It can help to draft agendas for the whole year, in consultation with the head, so that the head and school know in advance what information is required at what time of the year. This will help with managing staff workload.
- Is there a communication policy? This should deal with communication between staff, between governors and staff and between parents and staff.
- Do you set an example yourself as a governor by ensuring that everyone, including your clerk, knows that you may be emailing at a time when it’s convenient to you but you do not expect an immediate reply?
- Do you think about the reports/data you are asking the school to provide? Are they necessary? Are you duplicating? Can you get the same information but with less data/ fewer reports?
- What would your clerk say if I asked them how your practice affected their workload? Do you, for example, send out the papers you need to on time? Do you respond to the clerk’s requests on time?
- What would your head/SLT say if you asked them if they can tell you how many extra hours are teachers putting in and why?
- Are your meetings held at mutually convenient times for governors and staff (including the caretakers who will be locking up the school if meetings are held in the evenings) who attend?
- Do your meetings run to time?
- Do you place items for which the responsible/presenting member of staff who doesn’t need to stay for the whole meeting, at the top of the agenda?
- How do you/your school leaders deal with requests to go part time?
Are there any other questions we should be asking or issues we should be thinking of? Please add these in the comments and I will incorporate them.
1. Workload and wellbeing by David Jones.
2. Leading on staff mental health by Patrick Ottley-O’Connor
3. The self-evident truths of staff wellbeing by Robin Macpherson