Teacher Wellbeing: should independent schools adopt the new Education Staff Wellbeing Charter?

Updated: 7 hours ago

The Education Staff Wellbeing Charter is a recent government initiative, described as a declaration of support for, and set of commitments to, the wellbeing and mental health of everyone working in education.


The charter was developed by the Department for Education, in collaboration with a selection of schools, trusts, Ofsted, Unions, and the Mental Health Charity - Mind.


The charter is broadly based around 3 sets of commitments from the schools themselves, the DfE and Ofsted.


What does it actually mean?


The ambition, in both the signing of the charter and advertising of the above posters, is a public statement of commitment in validating the experience of education staff under considerable strain, and the inevitable impact this has on their wellbeing. It is also a broad, multi-level set of principles outlining possible opportunities to positively affect wellbeing.


Will this charter guarantee an improvement for teachers and their wellbeing? Of course not. The charter identifies that wellbeing means different things to different people and, in general, we all need different things to achieve our optimal emotional health.


Some may feel an understandable skepticism about the motivations for the development and application of this charter, and how it falls short of providing sufficient, protected funding. There is always more that could be done and education staff should continue to strive towards voicing that.


I remain optimistic about the possibilities of the charter and its impact on working practice. It offers opportunities without guarantees and will therefore inevitably lead to varying results. The accountability and commitment to the charter are going to be integral components of the success of this initiative.


Should independent schools develop their own staff wellbeing charter?


Whilst the charter is established for state schools, there is nothing stopping independent schools from borrowing the same or similar principles for their own charter and set of commitments. There’s the added opportunity for independent schools to be flexible and led by the specific circumstances, needs and voices within their school community, permitting them to tailor a charter to some degree. Anchoring this commitment to staff wellbeing with a set of publicly declared principles is a huge statement for any school, the education staff working there, and the families attending the school.


There can feel a pressure to get it right or unlock the key ingredients to wellbeing. However, if a magical, correct solution was apparent or possible, it would be clearer to all. A wellbeing charter, even one with imperfections, offers a starting point or an opportunity to reset the agenda around staff wellbeing, bring it into focus, and begin to think about what may help. Evaluate, reflect and refine to evolve the process and to further triangulate what is necessary.


My opinion is that yes, independent schools could develop an equivalent charter to suit their needs. However, things vary between schools and the question should really be:


What can be gained from the creation of a wellbeing charter and what’s stopping you?

This blog was written by Dr Bear, a clinical psychologist and Wellbeing Director for youHQ and Life on Time. He has worked in the NHS and private sector for 15 years in a variety of roles across the country.


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