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staff wellbeing

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by wellard, Mar 5, 2011.

  1. Hi
    I am currently teaching in a school with a new head. Since they started the morale of the staff has hit rock bottom and some are off sick with stress related illnesses. I recently had a meeting with the head and explained that I was feeling very unhappy and the morale of many other staff was low. The response I got was 'We are here for the children.' I have spoken about this to this head several times and they just seem to turn a blind eye. I have also spoken to the Chair of Governors and they dont want to know either. There are now so many members of staff unhappy that they are all looking for new jobs and the behaviour of the children is also being affected. I do understand that schools are about the children but surely if the staff teaching them are unhappy then this will rub off on the children. It certainly seems to be happening in this case. My question really is does a headteacher have a duty of care to the members of staff in the school?
     
  2. Hi
    I am currently teaching in a school with a new head. Since they started the morale of the staff has hit rock bottom and some are off sick with stress related illnesses. I recently had a meeting with the head and explained that I was feeling very unhappy and the morale of many other staff was low. The response I got was 'We are here for the children.' I have spoken about this to this head several times and they just seem to turn a blind eye. I have also spoken to the Chair of Governors and they dont want to know either. There are now so many members of staff unhappy that they are all looking for new jobs and the behaviour of the children is also being affected. I do understand that schools are about the children but surely if the staff teaching them are unhappy then this will rub off on the children. It certainly seems to be happening in this case. My question really is does a headteacher have a duty of care to the members of staff in the school?
     
  3. becktonboy

    becktonboy New commenter

    Of course they do, problem is proving to those involved or a third party that the duty is not being met.
     
    stonerose likes this.
  4. It's a bit of a woolly concept except in extreme o straightf orward situations. It reminds me of work/life balance. Teachers should do x,y and z duties as required, but a reasonable work/life balance should be ensured. Mmm ... how long is a piece of string?
     
    stonerose likes this.
  5. Sorry about typos.
     
  6. I have had these arguements and discussions with staff in many schools I have benn in and it seems to be a taboo topic. Yes, its true that teachers are there for the kids and that their well being is of paramount importance. But what of the staff...?
    I know from experience that HTs and SMT will regularly ignore pleas from staff that morale is low or that staff mood is low for a variety of reasons. I am not saying that staff should "pull their socks up" and just get on with it but at the same time SMT and HTs should also recognise that we are also human beings with needs and wants....so in answer to your question, HTs and schools <u>DO</u> have a duty of care to ther staff, if not legally then certainly morally.
    Some HTs are great: supportive, encouraging and approachable. Some are a joke with no people skills or ability to see that disaffected staff does not mix well when teaching kids.When are HTs and schools going to realise that your best assets are the <u>staff </u>and without them you couldnt teach the kids. It never ceases to amaze me that whenever a child is unhappy the school will bend over backwards to help, yet when a teacher is crying out for some help (or just some words of encouragement) HTs and SMT think its not worth doing
     
    stonerose and TailwindTurner like this.
  7. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Lead commenter Forum guide

    Yes the head does (well, strictly it's the employer not the head) but that duty of care is principally about health and safety, ie your employer has a 'duty of care' to look after, as far as possible, your health, safety and welfare while you are at work. It isn't a duty to make everyone have good morale or be happy at work. Whether the employer has failed to do that if someone suffers from stress is an extremely complex area and needs specialist advice - employers aren't under an obligation to try to eliminate all potentially stressful situations from the workplace.
    Poor morale though, as you identify, is likely to have a negative effect on pupil behaviour and standards quite quickly.
    You can't expect the chair of governors to get involved unless you bring a formal grievance against the head. Governors aren't, generally speaking, allowed to get involved in the day to day management of staff and school organisation unless a staff member invokes formal grievance or complaints/whistleblowing procedures


     
  8. baitranger

    baitranger New commenter

    In such a situation, you could try to quantify the "low morale" with a survey organised by a union/unions jointly.
    If the results of such a survey show convicingly low morale, and can be presented to the head or even to governors it could have an effect or be a catalyst for change.
    You could also quantify staff turnover, although high unemployment may be preventing some staff from leaving although they want to.
    Of course selflessness is a quality generally expected of teachers, although rarely practised by those who preach it.
     
    stonerose likes this.
  9. mlousenco

    mlousenco New commenter

    I am a DHT and I am meeting with the HT tomorrow to look at ways we can raise morale and wellbeing amongst our staff. We have put aside a morning of an INSET day for it as we see it as a priority that needs addressing.
    In order to address work/life balance we are considering changing our marking policy - as this seems to be a cause of some of the problems.
    Can anyone suggest the best way to raise morale in a team of really hard working teachers?
     
  10. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    decrease their workload
     
  11. NewToTeachingOldToMaths

    NewToTeachingOldToMaths Lead commenter

    The best way to raise morale is not to be looking as if you are "trying to raise morale". That will look insincere, and as if you are just going through the motions.

    If morale is low, then there is a REASON (or, more likely, more than one reason) why it is low. You and your fellow SLT members are being paid for, amongst other things, your ability to ascertain WHY morale is low; and to address the causes.

    You will not address the causes effectively if you look as if you are simply trying to paper over the cracks ... you've got to show that you really and sincerely care about the fact that your staff are unhappy, and that you want to get right down to underpinning the foundations. You've got to show them that you can be trusted enough for them to take you into their confidence, and to tell you their real issues with you.

    If you succeed in that, then there will probably be a fair amount of painful and unpleasant feedback for you to receive. You may not agree with all of it. You will certainly not like much of it. But you must not fight back against it. And above all YOU MUST NOT SHOOT THE MESSENGER.

    Once you have the feedback, go on an awayday together and have a really deep discussion about it all. Look at what the drivers of discontent are, and discuss ways in which you can address them. Formulate an action plan. Then come back and share that action plan with your staff AND INVITE CRITICAL COMMENT. Then listen again. Revise the plan if needs be.

    Results will not be instant. But if you start to show your staff that you recognise that they are intelligent, articulate professionals; that you want their honest and open feedback, and that you are willing to act on the messages received to try to put right the things that have gone wrong that are causing disaffection and demotivation, then you should start to see some improvements.

    (I've been saying something similar to the senior managers I negotiate with throughout the 15 years or so that I have been a trade union activist; and it never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to get promoted to senior leadership positions without having that basic leadership skill of listening to their staff and acting on what they hear ... but I'll happily keep repeating this message for as long as it takes.)
     
  12. Billie73

    Billie73 Occasional commenter

    Never beat your staff around the head with the phrase 'it's for the children'. Preferably, don't say it at all.
     
  13. Robfreeman

    Robfreeman New commenter

    I apologise if this seems dumb but a couple of points
    1. Let the staff moan, being able to vent is the most important thing sometimes you need to let staff talk to each other you may not think it's a good idea for staff to talk in the staff room but teachers are very critical of themselves and sometimes this moaning does convince them that they may not be having the same problem
    2. Let staff share their opinions if you are bringing in a new policy let staff talk about it and share their opinion. It's really demoralising being told to do xyz when as a class teacher and not a dht which the kids fear you know may not work or need changing.
    3. Remember teachers are professional and treat then let them make a decision and back them up don't hold an autopsy afterwards.

    I'm not saying you don't do this already but it's just a few suggestion
     
    stonerose likes this.
  14. Mrsmumbles

    Mrsmumbles Star commenter

    Unless of course, you have the developing brain of a needy child wrapped up inside a Tesco suit. Oh, hang on....
     
    stonerose likes this.
  15. Robfreeman

    Robfreeman New commenter

    4. Never use the children as a reason to do things you know the staff won't agree with
     
  16. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    And we can work better if morale is good and people aren't sick, stressed and overworked!
     
  17. meggyd

    meggyd Occasional commenter

    Why is it that we classroom practitioners are expected to adjust our practice in lessons when things are not working yet those managing us do not do this ? We can not blame the kids for being lazy or negative even when it is possibly true yet slt will regularly deflect any kind of criticism.
     
  18. nervousned

    nervousned Occasional commenter

    Don't know what applies to your workplace but in general (not an exhaustive list):

    Reasonable workload with as few 'just for Ofsted' tasks as possible
    No mandated 'one way' to teach - allow experienced teachers reasonable autonomy in the classroom, support new teachers to find a way that works for them, appreciate that different subjects taught by different people are taught differently
    Support staff with behavioural issues - make the policy easy to follow, consistent and effective, no punishments for applying it
    Give extra time to deal with changing specifications/qualifications
    Arrange some social events - show you value your staff
    Let the pressure ease - no tasks set Wednesday due Friday, no system that allows teachers to be put on capability after just one observation, in fact remove lesson observation grades and just give supportive feedback
     
  19. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    absolutely, its a lie in any case. Whenever you hear this, we are being asked to do it for ofsted, not for the children, and the needs of the two parties are frequently diametrically opposed
     
    stonerose likes this.
  20. meggyd

    meggyd Occasional commenter

    Also no last minute requests as in emails sent late at night requiring action before the beginning of school the next day
     
    pineapplehead and stonerose like this.

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