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  • Writer's pictureTom Hopkins-Burke

Five Things We Learned About... supporting mental health and wellbeing with Teach Well Toolkit

Wellbeing: we're all in it together - the Late Show with Tom Rogers, Hannah Wilson, Steve Waters and Suneta Bagri

In partnership with Teach Well Toolkit: enhance your staff and student mental health and wellbeing today with fully funded senior mental health lead training, interactive courses for primary and secondary school students, and a new handbook for headteachers on Heartfelt Leadership.

 

An NHS England report published in November revealed that one in five children and young people aged 8-25 now have a probable mental health condition - that's six children in every classroom. This has increased from one in six in 2020, and from one in nine in 2017.


The most commonly reported sources of help for parents of children aged 8-16 were:

  • Education services (31.9%)

  • Friends or family (19.2%)

  • Health services (15.9%)


When it comes to school attendance, children with a probable mental health condition were 7 times more likely to have missed more than 15 days of school in the autumn term of 2022.


It's not just the children - teacher wellbeing has hit a new five-year low. Education Support's 2023 teacher wellbeing index found that teacher wellbeing had declined compared to 2022 and was well below national average. An overall wellbeing score of 43.44 (compared to a national average of 51.40) means that teachers are considered "at high risk of psychological distress and increased risk of depression".


Meanwhile, 78 per cent of teachers and 95 per cent of headteachers are stressed. More than a third of teachers have experienced burnout, and one half had experienced insomnia or difficulty sleeping.


That's where Teach Well Toolkit comes in, with award-winning school support for mental health. Its fully funded, online DfE Senior Mental Health Lead training builds in action planning time, so participants complete the course knowing that they have something tangible in place for their schools rather than worrying about when they will find the time to put plans in place. For students, mental health and well-being ambassador training for primary and secondary school students helps to raise the profile of looking after your well-being among students.


We were privileged to welcome Steve Waters and Suneta Bagri from Teach Well Toolkit onto Teachers Talk Radio on Monday 8 April, in conversation with our hosts Tom Rogers and Hannah Wilson. Join the 4,000 people (and counting!) who have watched the show live or on demand, or read on to find out the five things we learned about supporting mental health and wellbeing with Teach Well Toolkit.



 

1. It's good to talk


Scrabble tiles spelling out 'mental health'

"It's very unusual to find an individual teacher who hasn't experienced mental ill-health themselves, or whose family hasn't experienced mental ill-health" Steve Waters, founder and director of Teach Well Toolkit

Our guests were frank about the challenges with mental ill-health they had faced as teachers. The following section contains potentially distressing content, including mentions of depression and suicide.


Steve Waters taught English and Drama for thirty years. Throughout his teaching career, he suffered from depressive episodes, and in 2008 he fell into a very deep depression and spent nearly three months in a psychiatric hospital. During that time, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and received excellent support. He has been taking medication since and will do so for the rest of his life. No wonder Steve wants to support teachers and schools - when he talks about it, other people want to share their own experiences.


Suneta Bagri managed her own mental health before becoming a teacher and school leader, but due to the shame and stigma she faced around mental health kept her stuck and fearful. Her mother never talked about her own struggles with mental health, and that meant she never got the support she needed. Suneta turned to self-help and personal development from her teenage years and built up a range of skills that helped her to become a better teacher. She believes we all have a sense of responsibility to look after ourselves - we enter teaching to make a difference to others, but we must never forget our own physical and mental health.


Both Steve and Suneta aim to remove the stigma surrounding mental health through Teach Well Toolkit, providing training for staff and students to build knowledge and skills around supporting mental health and wellbeing in schools.


 

2. Workplace burnout is caused by a variety of factors


A man with his head on the desk with a notepad, a laptop, paper and pens

"If you go to the staffroom and it's almost silent, there's a problem in that school" Steve Waters, founder and director of Teach Well Toolkit

With teachers and headteachers leaving the profession in numbers never seen before, it's vital to address the reasons linked to workload and wellbeing that see school staff looking to leave teaching. Steve talked us through Maslach's six factors that lead to workplace burnout:


  1. Work overload: going beyond workload, this refers to teachers lacking the time or resources (or both) to fulfil what is expected of them.

  2. Lack of control: professionals value being in control of their profession - they train, they have unique skills and they feel they should have the responsibility to do their job. Attempts to impose control from the outside mean schools are under the microscope, and with the high-stakes accountability faced by school leaders, teachers lose a sense of autonomy in their practice.

  3. Lack of reward: when was the last time at work that someone said you did a really good job? When you ask teachers, some might say they don't remember! Referring to someone's competence and ability costs nothing. We all benefit from affirmation.

  4. Lack of community: does an individual teacher in a school feel part of a larger whole, or isolated? If a teacher feels like they are not part of that community, they lose the shared experiences and exchanges that sustain professionals in their work.

  5. Lack of fairness: if someone is applying for a job with the requisite experience and skills, but isn't getting interviews or job offers on a consistent basis, it creates the impression of a lack of a level playing field. Perception and reality can be different, but from an individual perceptive, their perception is their reality. Teachers are very self-critical!

  6. Conflict of values: someone who joins the teaching profession has a set of values and aspirations about helping students. Senior leaders new to their role are helping staff. But when you get into a job and your personal values clash with the school's, this creates friction that can lead to burnout. That teacher needs to be told: have you tried another school?


Do these factors chime with you? Let us know in the comments below.


 

3. Senior mental health lead training is important - and fully funded by the DfE


Teach Well Toolkit's Senior Mental Health Lead Training - DfE fully funded

"You never know when these things stop, so get in there now!" Tom Rogers, Teachers Talk Radio

The DfE expects all schools to identify a senior mental health lead who can begin training by 31 March 2025. To support this, the DfE is offering fully funded senior mental health lead training to eligible schools and colleges in England.


Teach Well Toolkit's Senior Mental Health Lead Training comprises a two-day online course. Day 1 looks at whole-school strategies to support staff and students, with Day 2 featuring time for hands-on action planning for when delegates return back to school. This comes from Steve's experiences of going on a course, feeling enthusiastic about it but then finding no time to put anything in place!


There's also a special offer from Teach Well Toolkit: a second member of staff in the same school can access the training for free! Register your interest here.


 

4. Supporting student mental health and wellbeing is just as important as supporting staff


Mini Medics book front cover

"Young people need to normalise conversations [about mental health] and express their feelings" Suneta Bagri, Co-Founder of Teach Well Toolkit

Teach Well Toolkit is committed to supporting student mental health and wellbeing as well as that of staff. For a long time, people have campaigned in support of teaching young people about mental health, and this starts in schools. There is so much focus on physical health in schools; mental health deserves parity. So, how can we empower young people in the classrooms?


Teach Well Toolkit has a couple of initiatives that support students in primary and second schools. The first is Mini Medics: mental health training for students in Year 5. This 3-hour interactive course comes alongside 32-page Pupil Mental Health books and training notes for teachers. It features discussion with pupils throughout to centre their thoughts, emotions and experiences.


In addition, Teach Well Toolkit's Student Wellbeing and Mental Health Ambassador Training for Years 5-10 equips pupils as problem handlers, not problem solvers. The 4-hour interactive training includes pupil training logs and covers multiple areas, including duty of care and confidentiality. One school's ambassadors were paired with a Year 7 form in their first half-term at secondary school to have a positive effect on students at a notorious transition point in their education journey.


To find out more about Mini Medics or Ambassador Training, register your interest here.



 

5. Coming soon... Heartfelt Leadership


Front cover of Heartfelt Leadership: Headteacher's Handbook to Solving Staff Employment Issues

"When everyone understands the process, we take the caveats and complexity out of a situation" Suneta Bagri, Co-Founder of Teach Well Toolkit


The handbook from Teach Well Toolkit will be essential for any headteacher when it comes to solving staff employment issues and having difficult conversations, from the routine to the unusual. Sometimes issues of capability and conduct are unavoidable, and this handbook helps by providing clear processes that aim to eliminate any ambiguity and stop any further issues from arising.


Testimonial for Heartfelt Leadership from Nicola Taman: “We all know that in real life, you don't have an hour to perfectly plan a meeting with a member of staff. Quite often these meetings with employees have to happen quickly and urgently.   ‘Heartfelt Leadership: The Headteacher’s Handbook’ provides headteachers with 'off the shelf' step-by-step guidance on employee relations issues without the need to trawl through dozens of policies to find the answer. The guidance ranges from the informal to formal and is a tool every headteacher should have at their fingertips.”

Drawn from the Burgundy Book, union guidance and employment law, the handbook provides a step-by-step guide on issues such as harassment and bullying, grievances, staff absence, reasonable adjustments and suspension.


Testimonial for Heartfelt Leadership from Steve Hughes: “Having responsibility for managing in-house HR issues can be really time-consuming. The consequences of not following proper procedures and protocols can be significant. This adds considerably to workload and stresses for Heads and Senior Managers.   This guide provides comprehensive help and easy to follow guidance with checklists that help you to walk through the processes and steps required in a variety of situations. It is well designed and easy to follow. In my opinion, it is a must-have resource that is invaluable for school leaders.”

To register your interest in Heartfelt Leadership before it is published in September, let Steve and Suneta know here.


Testimonial for Heartfelt Leadership from Toni McCarroll: “As a new headteacher, I know this handbook will undoubtedly be an invaluable resource. It will save me a significant amount of time and provide me with clear and concise guidelines to navigate various staffing challenges. “The handbook has easy-to-follow procedure lists which make it effortless to find the information I need quickly. The inclusion of specific sections addressing issues such as illnesses, capability, and grievances is particularly helpful in managing these complex situations. The guide’s user-friendly design and practical recommendations make it an essential tool for effective staff management for me in my school.”

 

Want more guidance on support staff and student mental health and wellbeing? Listen back to the full episode here!




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