Supporting the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Staff

What do you do to look after your own wellbeing? Do you speak to the senior leadership team, have supervision or are you currently struggling to manage your own wellbeing? In our recent webinar, we discussed supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff and DSLs with Luke Ramsden and Sue Bailey. This blog is a summary of that discussion.

Our recent safeguarding spotlight webinar was chaired by Vikkey Chaffe, Head of Community Relations at The Safeguarding Company, and featured...

  • Sue Bailey, Safeguarding Lead at Arthur Terry Learning Partnership
  • Luke Ramsden, Senior Deputy Headteacher and Safeguarding Lead for St Benedict’s Independent School   

Vikkey developed different mental health and wellbeing scenarios which Luke and Sue responded to. 

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Georgia Latief
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How do you support staff wellbeing?

Luke told us that the key thing is having an open culture where mental health and wellbeing are discussed and celebrated as well as providing staff with the opportunities to speak to people who may not be from the senior team, such as the mental health lead or a staff representative. This open culture will mean staff feel comfortable talking about their wellbeing.

In St Benedict’s school, there are a variety of wellbeing support systems in place offered to staff from high-level services from a counselling service, to a preventative system such as fitness clubs and yoga classes to help staff destress and socialise while supporting their mental health and wellbeing. Luke believes that recognition is a huge issue, this open culture will help others feel supported and heard if they start to struggle and need support.

Maintaining mental health and wellbeing over 19 schools is no easy feat; Sue tells us that at The Arthur Terry Learning Partnership there is a proactive HR team who are always there to support the staff. The open culture means staff feel comfortable talking about their issues and they also have access to a 24-hour helpline that they can use outside of work. Staff have got to feel confident coming forward and asking for help when they need it.

Across the schools, there is a focus on connecting with other members of staff through coffee and cake breaks in the staff room, to sending thank you cards to each other. Small gestures such as an early leaving day where everyone is asked to leave the premises by 4pm instead of staying late or evenings where people are asked not to check their emails after 5pm can make a big difference in a person’s wellbeing. This helps to build that sense of community and the culture that taking care of your wellbeing is important and that is it okay not to be okay. Sue stresses that this openness needs to come from the senior leadership team as well to show that it is practised throughout the organisation.

How do you support the wellbeing of the DSL’s in your school?

This question was directed at Luke who explained that at St Benedict’s there is a team of safeguarding leads who all work together to keep children safe, this is important because this sense of team helps to disperse the work and means they can offer one another support.

Luke also schedules regular weekly supervision sessions with the team of DSLs to talk through issues that have occurred, how it affects them as well as the students. Incorporating this into your schedule is key as people know that there will be a place and time for them every week to discuss safeguarding issues and seek advice and support. The investment of time from a senior leader within the organisation is precious for all DSL’s which is why the sessions have been so well received.

Luke’s last point is around safeguarding policies and procedures and the importance for all staff to be trained so everyone understands their roles and responsibilities as well as the procedures of reporting concerns. Clears lines of communication are also key so DSLs know they are not alone and will always have support for handling concerns and pastoral issues.

How do you manage wellbeing across a trust while supporting your own wellbeing?

The Arthur Terry Learning Trust Partnership is made up of 19 schools each with a lead DSL. Sue explains that each of these lead DSLs have experience in different sectors and issues that can be shared between the trust to help and support each other. No DSL is ever left alone in the school, the horizontal support within the trust is invaluable. This comes back to the importance of culture and sharing.

Sue agrees that supervision is key, where senior members of staff are available to talk with staff on managing workload as well as their mental health and wellbeing. This is vulnerable for staff as they feel invested in and that someone has understood their concerns and supported them.

Safeguarding reviews across the partnership with the different lead DSLs so everyone can share best practice and advice. This allows DSLs to review their own practices within the schools and ensures they are doing everything right. Sharing with like-minded individuals is invaluable which is why The Safeguarding Company have created The Safeguarding Community, a safe place for everyone involved ins safeguarding to connect, share resources and advice as well as seek support.

Audience Question: How much support do you get from the LADO or local Authority?

Sue finds that working across 3 different local authorities means each will have a slightly different system to support their schools; however, all 3 have an education support hotline that you can use to reach someone who has worked in education and understands the pain points you may be experiencing.

A lot of it is relationships and building contacts to have professional discussions with and to seek advice and support. Not just your LADO and local authorise but also community police officers, faith leaders and other important people within your community.

Luke stresses that relationships are vital, Luke recommends that as a new DSL you should get the contact details for your LADO or local authority and organise a meeting, it is always a good idea to speak to someone when it is not a crisis. Introduce yourself and create these good relationships so when a crisis does occur you feel secure within your relationship to reach out and be confident in the support offered.

Audience Question: What do you do when you share concern about struggling to meet deadlines, but you feel those concerns are not met due to the nature of deadlines?

Luke suggests if there are issues that you are not comfortable with how they have been dealt with to go to your designated governor or a different member of the senior team. Sometimes talking to your line manager can be difficult so it is important to have a different avenue to go to if your concerns are not being heard. 

Sue goes back to supervision and the questions around managing workloads and deadlines. Communication is key because if people do not know that you have these deadlines and workloads to work around then nothing can be changed. Supervision should not be with your direct line manager which also gives you another person to speak to about your concerns. 

Audience Question: As a staff member what do you do if a student is struggling with an issue that is triggering to you as a teacher?

It all comes back to an open culture within the school ensuring that everyone feels comfortable to reach out and get support if they need it. With larger teams, it is easy to hand over to other members of staff if the subject matter is triggering for the staff. If we have this open culture however it is a great opportunity for staff members to overcome some of their own issues as well as help those within their care. It is vital to have these discussions within your organisation to ensure everyone feels supported and connected.

Audience Question: Who has taken on the role of the senior mental health lead and how do they manage that workload?

This enormous role has found its way to the DSL, and it has become unmanageable for many people. The key thing is to ensure that whoever takes on the senior mental health lead is supported and their workload better balanced, so they are able to handle the responsibilities.

Mental health rules through all of safeguarding and it is important that the sense of the team approach is not lost within this new role. Working together as part of a team will always have better outcomes for everyone involved, not just the children and young people but also the staff.

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