So, I have been asked by a few people to provide a further update to the ‘worklife balance’ issue. As many of you will now know, when I started my first headship (the one I’m currently in) just over two years ago, I started my first Inset day by telling staff that I wanted them to make time to leave at least twice a week by 4:15.
It hasn’t been an easy journey in the least as I’ve had lots of people question me, judge me and doubt me. But, I’ve stuck to it. It’s has been more difficult than I have imagined modelling what I expect when I have had so many external people criticising me for it. And here lies the problem.
In education we work in a world where people don’t understand the true realities of the pressures we have to work under. But, it is these people who constantly put pressure on schools, leaders and teachers to perform. Therefore, it is up to the leaders in these schools to balance this pressure and to ensure their staff’s wellbeing is a priority. Government and Ofsted won’t do this, they may talk about work-life balance, but circumstances won’t change overnight. It is up to leaders to make the change and to make it known to their teachers that they expect them to have a ‘life’ outside of school.
Yes, leaders will be questioned, especially if the previous ‘status quo’ was teachers working late into the evening and arriving as the sun was rising. Therefore, it is even more important for leaders to be resilient, fortiduous and to always lead by example. We knew our job wouldn’t be easy; we must always stand unwavering in our beliefs.
I know that when teachers enjoy coming to school and enjoy their job, their passion will exude in the classroom and inspire the children. Teachers who are well-rested are more efficient and effective. A teacher, who stumbles into the classroom after being up planning lessons and marking until the early hours of the morning, often may as well not be in school. Tired and worn-out teachers eventually lose their enthusiasm, lose their passion and this always affects the pupils.
Therefore, everything we have done in our school has focused on regaining our work-life balance. One of our mottos has been ‘work smarter not harder’ and we have been changing policy to reflect this. We have been rethinking the ‘purpose’ of everything we do and how things affect our children. As I always say, if children are at the heart of every decision, we can’t go far wrong.
In previous posts, I have detailed some of these things we have been changing and the journey over the past couple of years.
To prove a point, I had an external advisor come back in to do a Health and Wellbeing Survey of all members of staff in our school. We did it last year after I had been there for one full year and again this year. Before I divulge the results of just over two years of being in post, you must remember that I have put staff wellbeing as a priority. I made a point of coming in on my first day to address this. Also, we are a school of just over 200 pupils, a staff of about 36….just to put it in context.
Last year our results were pretty high, however this year, in all areas, they had improved. The advisor who completed and analysed our survey had been using our school as a case study, but regarding this year’s results she revealed that she hadn’t seen another school with such high levels. All key areas were well above the average of 3, which meant it was a very low risk. This was outstanding. Another excellent outcome was that 100% of people surveyed said they enjoyed their job, again a fantastic result.
I do strongly believe that as a result of such high staff morale, our children reap the benefits. Our school has excellent results, just featuring in November in the Sunday Times Top 200 Primary Schools (for those who want academic evidence). Our children are overwhelmingly happy and excited about learning, there really is a ‘buzz’ in school – everyone is passionate about learning.
If you asked our staff if they felt valued, I am confident they would say yes. We make a concerted effort to ensure everyone is treated fairly and that they are listened to. Everyone has a part to play. As they say, if you love your job you never work a day in your life, so we do what we can to help staff feel comfortable at school and to love being there. But, we also make sure that they take time to relax and enjoy their ‘life’ outside of school as well.
Success for everyone is truly all about this balance and being happy, fulfilled and connected to those around you…..wherever you might be.
If you are a leader, what changes can you make in 2016 to get the balance right for both you and your staff?
If you aren’t in a leadership position, what can you do to help change the culture in your school to get the balance right?
Make 2016 the year you really make a change……I guarantee everything in your life will benefit from it!