World Mental Health Day: This time, I’m not here to make a case but to celebrate…..

It was September 2015, first day back INSET day, I was given the stage to explain to our staff WHY there was a need for my new role – to be Head of student mental health and wellbeing.

In 2015, this role hardly existed in schools and as you can imagine, the room was filled with pockets of staunch teacher scepticism.
But that morning, I was driven by my WHY

Why the need?

As I faced my colleagues to make a case, I held the faces of many students in my mind.
Those young people, over the years, who’d hung around my classroom door wanting to chat to me….some had sexual orientation challenges, others anxiety issues, a few were early stages of self-harming, some being bullied, others considerably lonely but I , like so many other teachers, had very limited time to listen to them and in those days, feeling helpless – the norm was to refer these children to an overburdened and understaffed SEN – when I knew and they knew – their struggle was not about learning needs.
Their struggle was Mental Health.
Our school was rapidly becoming a typical example of the mental health crisis being cited in Department of Education papers:

One in ten children and young people (5-16) have clinically diagnosed mental health disorders and approximately one in seven has less severe problems (cited in Department of Education: Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools, June 2014).

Two years later…
I have a new stage.
This time, I’m not here to make a case, but to celebrate!
To celebrate the infinite possibilities that exist for teachers and tens of thousands of students…..
To celebrate that it is possible – for every school to develop a robust proactive and pre-emptive mental health support program

Here is a quick overview of some of the measures we rolled out at The Magna Carta School in Staines-upon-Thames.

When it comes to rolling out your mental health and wellbeing  initiatives think 6-pronged approach:  Research; whole school values; physical resources; staff training and wellbeing; peer mentoring; parent and community engagement; PSHE and cross-curriculum resources.

Do your research.  School based research is vital. Every community is different as will their needs be. Conduct student and staff focus groups and surveys into the mental health and wellbeing barometer of your school. Don’t be afraid to hear the truth. The data will drive your initiatives and ensure you have grass roots ownership with all the changes.

Change the language of learning to ensure our mental health is seen as important as achieving good grades.
Destigmatize the topic ‘mental health.’  Our school wall murals, designed by artist Matt Lambert, publicly start the conversation about our mental health. They are given as much importance as our Growth Mind-set murals found elsewhere round the school

wb zone wall

Start at the top. Staff wellbeing is vital. Make sure you run a parallel program looking at staff wellbeing and run a ‘You said We did’ respons within the term of conducting your  survey. Make a concerted effort for leadership to model good working practice and life/work balance.

Re-evaluate the values you champion as a school. In the lead up to Christmas we roll out our #familyMH5aday campaign with years 7 and 8 and  champion the G.R.E.A.T values. These values encourage us to make small life style changes in the direction of life/work balance, bigger picture and positive mental health.
family mh5 a day 2

I was delighted to see one teacher encourage students to use this language when talking about exam preparation and devising their revision schedules. Placing emphasis on their wellbeing is vital to ensuring academic progress.

Separate Mental Health support from SEN support. Although sometimes they are inextricably linked; the interventions required are very different. Young people are more likely to self-refer or accept support for mental health if they feel that we recognize the difference between mental health and learning needs


Based on our research we knew we had to create spaces to ensure the young people knew where to go; when to go and who they could expect to speak to –  hence the wellbeing zone.  You don’t need to build new rooms you simply map your wellbeing zone with curriculum spaces. For example, by lesson time the rooms are Humanities and ICT but at lunchtimes the corridor comes alive as the wellbeing zone.

You don’t need to hire new staff – look at strengths within your own staff .  Our role as schools is not to diagnose  but instead to ensure we are proactive and pre-emptive. To make a start, You do not ‘have to have’ an in-house counselor or trained therapist. Yes, of course it would be ideal to have this professional resource and support in every school but realistically speaking, with budget cuts, this is just not possible at the moment.
What you do need are empathetic, caring compassionate peers and teachers who are properly trained in being able to spot the signs; have a conversation with the student and a robust internal referral and tracking system for intervention work. This is achievable.
Assign a senior member of staff to lead and a governing body member to have it as part of their portfolio. Free up 1 member of staff who is a non-teacher and not a TA to be your youth mental health student co-coordinator. Look at the extra curricular strengths and interests found in your staff body and tap into their expertise. One of our English teachers –  is also a qualified yoga teacher . As part of our intervention and support  she is timetabled to deliver hatha yoga and mindfulness as a weekly intervention for students suffering from increasing anxiety and panic attacks. She also offers a weekly yoga class for our staff to support their wellbeing.



Train your students and staff properly. We used RELATE the charity to train our wellbeing student ambassadors and The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust offer superb resources for staff training. We are also looking forward to our Mental Health First Aid training coming up in a few weeks.

wellbeing ambassadors

Think out the box with your interventions.  We have in place opportunities for 1:1 and group work but sometimes – for numerous reasons-  the young person does not want to sit and talk. Finding time for intervention work during the school day is also difficult.

In response to this we have rolled out extra-curricular intervention support which may last a few weeks or a few days:

The Love Bread challenge: Students learnt all about the science of making their own bread and then they got to bake their own pizzas, focaccias and take a ‘mother’ sourdough starter home to feed and nurture.

The Chef’s Challenge: Students cooked a different 2 course meal each week, set up by chef Mark Lloyd, and then sat down to eat & chat celebrating each other’s efforts in cooking their evening dinner.
The Bicycle Challenge: Old bicycles have been donated and under the guidance of 2 enthusiastic bike engineer teachers, from the DT department, they are being taught how to remove worn bits and re-assemble with new parts so they can cycle away with it.

The Bush craft Challenge: Students got to explore Survival Bush craft skills: fire lighting, tracking, shelter building, Nature art, campfire cooking, outdoor trust games, 1 to1 sessions, personal development exercises and Mindfulness in nature

What was essential was:
The Staff used were ready to move out of their teaching roles and get on a level playing field with the young person and complete a creative task with them, engaging in discussions and listening with compassion and empathy.  Students feel deeply appreciative when they are simply understood – not evaluated, not judged, simply understood from their own point of view, not the teacher’s.

Track your interventions measuring impact. We have trialled out various systems including a software called Provision mapping so our SEN, Behavioural and Mental health interventions can all be tracked in one place ensuring we effectively triage before an intervention is rolled out; we don’t double up; are all joined up and get an overall picture of a student’s progress.

Engage your parents and local community. We have a parent wellbeing ambassadors network group who have advised on how we could conduct the #familyMH5aday campaign mentioned earlier and, together with a local charity East To West, hosted half termly  ‘parent headspace’ chat sessions.

Use your PSHE lessons to effectively deliver mental health awareness lessons and to teach positive mental health strategies. We are in our first year of  rolling out MINDUP which is a 15-week mindfulness and resilience program being delivered in PSHE to over 200 year 8 students.

Think cross-curricular and embrace the theme through your subjects. We got a class of mixed ability year 9 media students to build their own mental health and wellbeing app called My TeenMind. They built it with the  help of Gaia tech and the support of local charity Woking Mind. This app is now part of a 7 lesson PSHE scheme of work where the students are presented with  fictitious scenarios about a peer and they have to explore and  use the app to find the right  information to help signpost support.


Finally, there is no quick fix. Don’t think a 1 day or 6 -week intervention will ‘sort’ the problem out.

The key to a school based mental health program is about ensuring our staff and our young people are literate about their mental and emotional health; that they take ownership of it; that there is no shame in talking about it; and that there are spaces and people who are trained and have time to listen enabling us to make informed choices when we are faced with the inevitable struggles that life will throw at us.

Blog written to mark  2017 World Mental Health Day.


IN 2018/19 WHAT WILL BE YOUR PLEDGE FOR CHANGE? #womened #pledgeforchange #DGMeetweek

pledger for change

Nearing the end of the academic term I’m feeling a mixture of hope and frustrations


Hope because there are increasingly more leaders in education who are embracing the concept of staff and student mental wellbeing as being intrinsic to what we teach, how we teach and what we value as central to having a positive culture and education environment.
Hope because the organisation #WomenEd, which aims to Connect existing and aspiring women leaders in global education, has grown in numbers and countries in tackling gender equality; gender pay gap; gender and diversity representation in leadership; flexible working conditions and is empowering women to be 10% braver.
Hope because thanks to The DfE coaching pledge, inviting all current leaders to make a voluntary pledge to coach aspiring female leaders, I have been offered coaching sessions supporting me in my leadership role, through leadership development opportunities & sharing of great practice.


Frustrated because of the lack of Diversity on our school leadership boards . Great Britain is not an all white, all male society: Why am I predominantly seeing this on many of our school leadership boards? What message is this sending out to our young people and to our fellow colleagues?

Frustrated because some of my colleagues, around the country, are still micromanaged- their authentic styles and spirits muted due to a desire for control and cosmetic uniformity and the culture still exists that you should sacrifice your family by working at weekends and late on week nights meeting impossible deadlines and expectations.

Frustrated because I recently had a conversation with a senior female leader and we were discussing her leadership journey. Part of her reply was this: I had to work 10 x harder to be recognised. I had to be 10x better than the men to be legitimatised for the appointment.
This left me deflated as I felt this was still intrinsic to female leadership opportunities in the workplace

During the summer holidays I hope to spend a lot of time reading, swimming, cycling, camping and relaxing with friends and family. This period is a vital window for me as a teacher – allowing me to completely unwind and focus on my wellbeing, my relationships, my family.

But as August ends I will start to feel that familiar tightness in my stomach as I acknowledge the infinite list of things I must get through in the first academic term; The juggling act of work-parenting -being in a relationship; The difficulty of striving for balance so my own mental wellbeing is carefully monitored; feeling passionate and driven enough to do ‘another year’ because I feel like what I’m doing matters – has value – makes me feel valued.
I will also find myself dealing with the familiar self-doubts creeping in; questioning my career journey – the possibilities that might happen – and those deep frustrations echoed earlier with the status quo and the nation’s education system. I don’t want to have these same frustrations next year.

The conditions surrounding my working life cannot be on ’Repeat.’

It is important I harness these thoughts and frustrations and channel the energy into bringing about positive change.

To do this, I’m calling on the tribe #WomenEd to join me in writing a blog where we announce our Pledge for Change.


WHEN: Post a blog, anytime in the last week of August from Friday 24th August till Friday 31st August
WHERE: Post your blogs on social media platforms (Facebook or/and Twitter)

HOW: Use all three hashtags when posting #womened #pledgeforchange #DGMeetweek

WHO: Anyone who supports the #WomenEd values including #HeforShe supporters. You don’t need to let us know you will post a blog  – simply post a blog sometime in that week. 
OBJECTIVE: In the spirit of the WomenEd 8 x C values – To communicate and be heard; to find solidarity though our global connection ; To build relationships, collaborate and be forward and outward looking ; to challenge our thinking and the organisations in which we work; to read each other’s pledges and remind ourselves we are not alone but we are a powerful community ready and committed to supporting each other; to believe in ourselves and be 10% braver with our pledges, taking ourselves out of our comfort zone, and building confidence; to blog with clarity about the changes we want to see and what we will do to enable that change.

I hope the thousands of followers will join me in being 10% braver and reflect and pledge on how we can harness our thoughts/frustrations/energies into bringing about positive change for gender stereotyping in education; young girls still denied an education; female representation in education; gender pay gap; mothers working in education and our own career paths in education as we smash those glass ceilings. Always being driven by our values and desire for an inclusive culture that promotes equal opportunity in every aspect of education.


#stillmarching #100years


I’m still marching so that ONE DAY ……..

…no woman feels she has to cower in fear whilst a man physically, mentally and emotionally abuses her and their children and she remains silenced by his voice and force.

…..Domestic, rape and sexual abuse  is tackled through changing culture in our society  and not have to be tackled through law courts

….all women have the ‘Right to choose’ and backstreet abortions by desperate women and subsequent fatalities are prevented

….all institutions, in every workplace, ensure they are paying more than lip service to the principles of equality and diversity and are held to account to  create pathways inspiring all to lead; ensuring fair representation and leadership for all minority groups.

……. the school curriculum, in every school, delivers robust lessons every year, which raise the profile and empower young women to be part of the change and engendered bias is recognised

….. a woman’s hormonal cycle…her period and menopause is not ridiculed, mocked, ignored and in some cultures seen as shameful

…….my daughter’s ‘big dreams’ will be reached and that she embraces her inner power to lead, change and empower and thinks beyond the stereotypical roles limiting young girls in our society

…. All young men are given great #Heforshe role models and my son will grow up to be one of them

I’m still marching……



Involving parents and the wider school community #cultureofwellbeingDGInset

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Unless you tackle all 4 aspects simultaneously there will always be a ‘weak link’ which will prevent you from fully embedding your culture of wellbeing in your school.

Many schools have created a mental health and wellbeing advice list of what the parents should or should not be letting the children do. For example:  suggested use of screen time; the importance of sleep;  exercise; diet etc.

All very relevant. But what about the PARENTS?

• If parents spend much of their day with their faces buried in their ‘digital time’ how is this impacting on their ‘real time’ family relationships?
• If parents are constantly ‘working’ and have a poor work/life balance what subliminal message is this sending out about the value we attach to having a quality standard of Life?
• If parents have stopped reading, learning and trying new things what message is this sending out about the value of play, learning and having a growth mindset?
• If parents are prioritizing everything that is material and don’t ‘Give and volunteer’ time for others what is this saying about being aware of the needs of others?
• If parents have stopped relating and engaging in meaningful and sometimes difficult conversations with their children how can they expect the children, to have the confidence, to approach them when they need to talk or  develop and sustain mutually satisfying relationships?
• If parents are suffering from a Mental Health illness and are not talking about it or seeking help how is this reinforcing the stigma at home?
Many schools are throwing an enormous amount of energy into trying to provide a robust wellbeing program for our students. But we know in order for it to work we need to connect parents with the work we are doing in school; we need parents’ role-modelling from the top – pushing for an environment at home which nurtures positive Mental Wellbeing.

We need to encourage families to see Mental Health as the development of ‘Mental Wealth.’

Some suggestions on involving parents and raising their awareness could be:

– an online presence on your school website clearly articulating what is mental wellbeing; the need to destigmatise the conversation; why it is important for the whole school community and the signs for the parents to look out for.

– Suggested steps parents can take if they are concerned about their child

– sharing an annual letter or newsletter update at the start of the year on all the mental health and wellbeing strategies your school is planning inviting parents to get involved and ask their child about the projects.

– when year 6 and year 7 parents are invited to transition and open evenings ensure that along with the teaching and learning focus – your focus on wellbeing values is clearly profiled. Be specific about how you would like parents to support at home.

– Invite the students, teachers and parents to suggest their top 10 holistic values and then establish the top 10 shared values for the whole school community. Celebrate one of these values, each month, through cross-curricular and pastoral activities throughout the school. Become a values based school.

– Invite parents to volunteer and become Parent Wellbeing Ambassadors for the school. This role can be developed in a number of ways : as an online twitter handle or Facebook page where they post and share relevant articles and posts to the wider school community; they can offer to run small ‘parent tea and talk’ sessions in various centres at various times; to help run whole school wellbeing themed events ensuring it is correctly targeted at parents. The parent ambassadors will come up with many more suggestions.

– Arrange extra-curricular styled family intervention sessions. This helps develop positive communication between parent/child and the family and the school and is all about spending quality time together and building relationships. For example: it could be a series of family bake-off sessions where parent and child are invited to learn, together, how to bake something new. The emphasis is not so much on the baking but on the positive quality time spent together in school.

– running ‘resilient parenting’ workshops for different year groups. These should be largely subsidised by the school or the local council  encouraging parents to come on board with the language of what is mental wellbeing and the meaning behind ‘resilience’
– Running year group  #familyMH5aday campaigns where you give a list of activities for the family to complete embracing 5 lifestyle concepts  which promote positive mental health…. G-Give; R-Relate; E-Energise; A-Awareness; T-Try something new. The image below are a list of some of the activities they could do over a period of a few weeks.

Building trust and relationships and encouraging positive communication and shared values between the family base and the school is central to truly developing a ‘flourishing’ culture of wellbeing in a school.

parent final



Teacher Mental Health by Professor Jonathan Glazzard

This blog is posted by cerasmusteach on behalf of Professor Jonathan Glazzard for #cultureofwellbeingDGInset

The Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in schools at Leeds Beckett University conducted a survey in December 2017 which was completed by more than 700 teachers. The data show that the majority of teachers have experienced a mental health need and that poor teacher mental health can have a detrimental affect on pupil mental health, pupil progress, the quality of teaching and the quality of the relationships that teachers establish with pupils and colleagues.
The research demonstrates that the causes of poor teacher mental health are multi-faceted and include factors such as: teacher workload; changing demands to the curriculum; changes to assessment approaches in school; excessive monitoring of teacher performance and excessive surveillance from other teachers.
Teachers who completed the survey stated that poor teacher mental health can detrimentally affect:
• their ability to plan lessons
• their creativity,
• the quality of their marking and feedback
• their behaviour management skills
• their ability to respond to the needs of learners, including those with mental health needs
• the progress of their pupils
• the quality of their explanations in class
This is the first research study that has specifically sought to establish the impact of poor teacher mental health on pupils. The latest research from the Education Support Partnership demonstrates that a significant proportion of teachers have experienced mental health issues including panic attacks, insomnia anxiety, depression and these factors have resulted in problems with teacher retention.
Literature consistently suggests that teacher workload is a contributory factor to poor teacher mental health. Whilst this argument has also evident in our research, teachers also emphasised in our study that lack of trust in teachers is a major contributory factor to poor teacher mental health. Teachers are willing to work hard, and they accept that when they enter the profession. However, our teacher participants identified that constant surveillance and panoptic styles of management also result in teachers being disempowered and that this can result in poor mental health for teachers.
Additionally, data from recent research by The Centre for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Education at Leeds Beckett University demonstrate that teachers who identify as LGBT are at risk of developing mental health needs. Some findings from this research are presented below:
Have your experiences as an LGBTQ+ teacher impacted negatively on your own mental health?

prof 1

Have your experiences as an LGBTQ+ school leader impacted negatively on your mental health?

prof 2

The problem of mental health in schools cannot be tackled by solely focusing on pupils. School leaders also need to consider how their policies and practices which they promote may contribute to poor mental health for teachers.

Pupil Mental Health
The Government’s determination to address mental health issues in children and young people is commendable and should be applauded. The proposals in the Green Paper represent a political commitment to a very important issue.
The Prime Minister is determined to correct, in her words, the ‘historic injustice’ of unfair discrimination and poor treatment of people with mental health needs. Support for children and young people in schools and colleges is inconsistent and waiting times to access specialist services are too long. One in ten young people have a diagnosable mental health condition and children with mental health problems face unequal life chances. Half of problems are established before the age of 14.
Key data from the latest research by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools at Leeds Beckett University are shown below:
Almost all of the 603 school leaders surveyed called for more funding to tackle the growing problem of pupils suffering mental health issues, and for Ofsted to inspect mental health provision.
The national ‘Pupil Mental Health Crisis?’ survey, conducted throughout November 2017 by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools at Leeds Beckett in collaboration with educational consultants Hub4Leaders, asked school leaders 10 questions regarding pupils’ mental health.
The research shows that most of the teachers surveyed felt that the mental health provision in their school was insufficient. Additionally, 61 per cent of teachers did not feel adequately trained to support pupils’ mental health needs and 76 per cent of schools faced challenges in accessing external mental health provision.
The key findings of the survey were:
Mental health problems in schools are growing
More than half of the school leaders agreed that there is insufficient mental health provision for pupils in their school and 97 per cent said more funding must be made available – 83 per cent said that mental health issues amongst pupils have increased in the past five years.
The promised training hasn’t been delivered
Two thirds of the school leaders surveyed said that there is still no dedicated staff member in their school who is trained in or given responsibility for pupils’ mental health, despite the Government’s pledge to provide mental health first aid training to schools.
Social media has an impact and parents must do more to help
Eighty-six per cent of respondents agreed that social media has directly impacted pupils’ mental health, with 89 per cent adding that parents should restrict the amount of time their child spends on the internet.
The Department for Education (DfE) need to provide more guidance.
Ninety-three per cent of the school leaders want the DfE to release more guidance on how to tackle the growing issue of pupils’ mental health.

This blog has raised some pertinent issues, but it is now time to seek solutions to some of these problems. There is a need for action. The solutions need to come from those in the profession who are facing the day-to-day challenges.

Professor Jonathan Glazzard


image from


Be You by Alison Kriel

posted by cerasmusteach on behalf of Alison Kriel for #cultureofwellbeingDGInset


I became an inner city teacher because I had dreams of making a difference. I wanted to be the teacher I never had. To be there for the ‘good’ girls, quiet and invisible – overshadowed by the boisterous boys; the naughty boys whose behaviour overshadowed their hidden talents; the children for whom there were limited opportunities. I was born in South Africa. My birth certificate labelled me as ‘Cape Coloured’. It was there to define what I could and could not be in society, where I could and could not go. It was set to limit my aspirations. I did not belong to the superior group – the whites. We moved from country to country. I recall mimicking the accents of the children so that I didn’t stand out as being too different. More often than not, I was the only black child in the class, sometimes the school. Being quiet, shy and black was not the cool thing to be. I tried to break out of it, to fit in, but that just added to my awkwardness – my sense of not belonging. My parents told me that I must never allow myself to be defined by the labels put on me by others, to fight oppression and to be who I wanted to be. I simply did not want to cause ripples.
I was fortunate throughout my teaching career in having strong leaders who believed in me, valued my opinion and gave me opportunities to grow. As I stepped into leadership, education policy changed and a culture of fear of Ofsted and league tables became the driver in many schools. I had a successful first headship and was asked by my local authority to support a failing school. Everyone wanted the school to change but improvement was slow as no one wanted to change the way in which they worked and tensions were beginning to reach boiling point. I was just putting out fires, making the cosmetic changes that my Local Authority wanted to see as I was under heavy pressure to turn around the school. I found myself really implementing their vision rather than my own. Leadership was also at its most stressful and difficult, as I had allowed myself to doubt what I believed needed to be done rather than trusting in myself. I eventually ‘hit the wall’ and stress stood between me and my dreams of making a difference. I had become a victim of the system. I was reliable, a hard worker, ambitious, I delivered good statistical data. I was a thinker for the state rather than a thinker for myself. I was behaving as that little girl again, fearful of causing ripples.
It is very easy to lose our way in our education system, to follow a pattern, and eventually realise that we are surviving, and feel like we are barely making a difference rather than following our own visions.
What is your passion? Are you following your aims and ideals? Are you teaching from the soul? Is your job taking more from you than it is giving you? Has the fear of missing out become a guiding factor? Imagine how liberating it would feel if you give yourself permission to expect more. What will it do for your sense of self? What will it do for your wellbeing?
I had to learn the hard way to work differently, to find joy in my work. It meant finding the courage to lead authentically and to take up my authority to put my own vision in place. As soon as I started doing that, my wellbeing improved and I found a renewed passion for education. It took all of my courage to stand up against local policy but I became a stronger leader and my school went from strength to strength. I learned that headship can be managed and success can only be achieved by being authentic, believing in yourself and remaining true to your vision. Following the vision of others does not bring the success I enjoy. It takes courage and we have to give ourselves permission to lead authentically. When we are true to our vision it brings happiness and joy in what we do and it brings security to those around us.

“I believe that at the very root of our humanity is a passion to create value with heart, to work alongside others who care, and to make a difference. I believe that each of us has something of value to offer — all 7.5 billion of us. While not everyone will, anyone can.” ― Nilofer Merchant, The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World
This is the very reason why many of us choose to teach. Are you waiting for that perfect moment to put your own vision into place? Now is the perfect time to set your own limits and be the person you really are. Yes it’s scary – but it’s hugely fulfilling and liberating. Do it for you, your peace of mind, and your wellbeing. Dare to be different. Dare to be you.

It’s 2018………Begin

Alison Kriel
7th January 2018

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Classroom wellbeing and positive education by Dr Helen O’Connor

posted by cerasmusteach on behalf of Dr Helen O’Connor for 2018 #cultureofwellbeingDGInset

I became interested in positive education when I attended a conference in London hosted by a member of the Geelong Grammar school in Australia, whose contribution to Positive education has been phenomenal. I was initially sceptical about whether a model of positivity and promoting good mental health could be applied in schools. Surely what schools commonly teach is academic subjects so how could there be any room for considering well-being in the curriculum? However, Geelong Grammar school have found a way of incorporating positive psychology into their education system in order to decrease depression in young people and enhance well-being and happiness, and their results are astounding. They suggest that schools wanting to replicate the model adapt it accordingly to their school and take aspects of it whilst respecting the framework and adapting to their schools.

There are many types of Positive education programs which usually define positive character as ‘core character strengths’ and the end goal is to help young people reveal these strengths and enhance their ability to engage in these strengths to develop a range of abilities.
There is an understanding amongst positive psychologists that a strength based intervention in education can be largely powerful and relatively simple to introduce. Geelong grammar School’s method of teaching and embedding positive psychology into the school has several different aspects and levels. Simply the model applies to the entire school. All the staff including teachers, administration, catering; everyone participates in the training programs to learn about positive education and how to apply it to their work, but also importantly how they may use it in the personal lives. For pupil’s positive education is taught in each aspect of the curriculum and there are regular timetabled lessons on positive education just as there would be for other subjects like math’s and geography.
Some simple ways of introducing positive education into schools are listed below and have been trialled in my own school where I am the resident psychologist with promising effect from staff and pupils. These are ideas and not a full programme but may all help promote the idea of introducing positive education as a comprehensive model:
• Feedback from teachers to pupils should be specific about the strength the pupil has been noticed using. For example, rather than saying they have done a good job a teacher
may wish to comment on the fact that they saw the pupil had persevered despite difficulties in understanding or grasping the concepts.

• Teach aspects of positive education across year groups to encourage a school wide approach to kindness and forgiveness. For example, suggest classes start a kindness ripple throughout the school, whereby pupils look out for others in aspects of their daily life and how they may help people. They can leave kindness calling cards to assist people in knowing that they have achieved a random act.

• Use tools (such as the at my strength online tool) to identify pupils and teachers character strengths. Once identified pupils can complete a number of tasks which identify how they have used character strengths, which they could use more, and those which they can develop further through activities. Character strengths allows pupils and teachers to not only focus on academics but also consider aspects of their trait performance in class which can lead to higher levels of happiness and productivity.

• A form book or class book in which pupils record what is “awesome” about their school on a week by week basis. Pupils can then reflect back on what other people have observed in moments when they may be struggling to help turn their negative thought patterns.

• Help pupils identify the range of emotions that we feel focusing on positive emotions and the benefits of these. Talk through the evolutionary purpose of the negative emotions but the lack of historical evidence to want to experience positive emotions. Explaining through tasks however the positive benefits of positive emotions on our well- being, citing research can be very powerful.

Research is clear the effects of Positive Education are both encouraging and optimistic. Positive education has been found to have a number of effects including: Promoting human development (making students more successful and having a lasting impact and change on student behaviour); Decreases depression (studies have shown that positive psychology interventions do increase happiness and decrease depressive symptoms significantly, Sin and Lyubomirksy, 2009); promotes positive teacher wellbeing (by creating a school culture that is kind, trusting, and it decreases difficult behaviours). Whilst promising results in research more is clearly needed to determine the effects on adolescents and the sustained approach to increasing happiness.

By Dr Helen O’Connor for #cultureofwellbeingDGInset

Own Your Wellbeing by Patrick Ottley-O’Connor

posted by cerasmusteach on behalf of a blog written by Patrick Ottley-O’Connor to mark  2018 #cultureofwellbeingDGInset

“Look after yourself before looking after others, so that together we can make a difference for all learners”.

This call to action to own your own wellbeing, was on the first slide that I shared with all staff on my first day as Interim Principal at Essa Academy in September 2016. Now as Executive Principal with the Essa Foundation Academies Trust we have created a culture of wellbeing across our family of schools to support staff mental health and wellbeing. We talk openly about & celebrate mental health and wellbeing every single week. This builds on the analogy of putting on our own oxygen masks on before helping others which has been instrumental in supporting us realise our values based vision where ‘All Will Succeed.’

We encourage & support all staff to see, own, solve and act on their own wellbeing, whatever that may look like. After all, one persons pleasurable wellbeing activity may be another person’s nightmare!

We talk about and celebrate wellbeing with our ‘Wellbeing Stars of the Week’ (weekly nominations by staff for staff to recognise their support for each others mental health and wellbeing). In addition, we facilitate regular #teacher5aday wellbeing activities, such as random & themed acts of kindness, strawberries & cream during Wimbledon, wellbeing bags, Crunchie Fridays & our ‘Wheel of Misfortune’; a Russian Roulette style prize-giving of lovely & cringe worthy surprises!

However, our wellbeing approach is not a soft option! The very reason I prioritise staff wellbeing is to maximize their performance in supporting students to achieve. Children get one shot at school and it is vital that they receive the highest quality experiences & teaching to equip them for life and their next steps in education, training & employment. Difficult decisions were needed to overcome challenges and create opportunities to focus on how colleagues could support each other’s wellbeing, including:
• making changes to school systems & structures to support wellbeing
• reviewing of all policies considering wellbeing
• creation of learning spaces to address wellbeing issues
• increasing the CPD budget by £55k, to facilitate coaching triads for all teachers, bespoke coaching for all leaders and Mental Health First Aid for staff
• increased use of developmental support plans, occupational health referrals and counselling for staff.
• we are planning to increase PPA in September to 20% for all teachers & 50% for Core Middle Leaders.

Our approach has seen some staff come back from the brink of mental health issues to redefine their passion & ‘mojo’ to enjoy the profession once again.

I have high expectations of staff, with a no excuses, no exceptions approach to teaching. After all we must ensure that all children succeed. On its own, this approach can lead to staff isolation & to pressurised high-stakes accountability. However, when the same approach is applied with equal rigor to staff, with the high expectation that staff mental health & wellbeing are prioritised without excuse or exception, it can support all staff to succeed and ultimately help us make the biggest difference to the lives of our learners.

I strongly believe that this approach is impactful, replicable and sustainable. The same approach was applied at The Hereford Academy in September 2015, when I was greeted as Principal with the challenging context of leadership instability & performance issues and where staff described real frustration with workload, initiative overload and a toxic culture of accountability and low morale. Later that year we came out of Special Measures, with the Ofsted report stating, “…leaders said they had been liberated from bureaucratic tasks and teachers had been freed to teach.” Staff spoke openly about how they were enthused, engaged and empowered to own their own wellbeing and prioritise their own mental health.

As a leader in 2018, I pledge:
• to continue to place my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others at the heart of school improvement.
• To be a wellbeing ‘super model’ by living my balance everyday & talking openly with colleagues about my journey

I am convinced that a sharp & sustained focus on staff wellbeing should be central to all we do in schools to ensure that we are fit & healthy to make a difference for our learners.

To conclude this blog and kick start #cultureofwellbeingDGinset, I would like you to reflect on the following questions:

• Do you see your own wellbeing issues?

o What works or doesn’t work for you?

• Do you own your own wellbeing?

o What are you doing about it?

• Have you solved your own wellbeing issues to achieve balance?

o What have you decided to do?

• Are you acting on your solutions & living the wellbeing change that you want to see?

o What have you actually done to improve your wellbeing?

So, whoever you are and whatever role/position you hold, what will be your wellbeing pledge to yourself & towards others for 2018?

Patrick Ottley-O’Connor