Why your school needs to sign the staff wellbeing charter

Last year, the UK government published its staff wellbeing charter for the education sector to combat increasing stress.

A tool for state education providers, the charter provides clear guidance on ways to help raise awareness around mental health issues and promote wellbeing among full-time and part-time staff.

The charter is a collective effort, the brainchild of multiple education sector specialists including several UK schools and colleges, and unions NASUWT, NEU, ASCL, NAHT, Voice Community and Unison. Leading mental health organisation MIND also contributed to its design and development.

First published in May 2021, with updates released in November of the same year, all state schools in the UK can sign up with no deadline by which to do so. While entirely voluntary, schools are encouraged to participate – first, to show their commitment to their staff and also, to demonstrate publicly they are supporting initiatives relating to mental health, something parents and education bodies such as Ofsted are keen to see.

Read more about the staff wellbeing charter at the UK government webpage.

Ongoing challenges for staff wellbeing in education

The charter is timely, with mental health issues reportedly rising across society as a whole – and indeed, within education.

For a long time, staff in the sector have talked about the negative impact low morale has on their mental health. Mixed reasons such as poor pay and working conditions and increasing expectations beyond the classroom make it difficult to retain or attract people to the profession. And all of this before Covid emerged, bringing added challenges through social distancing and the constant switching to and from class-based and online learning.

Benefits of the staff wellbeing charter

The charter provides multiple benefits to the staff body and your entire school.

Immediately, your staff will feel supported, resulting in greater performance. In turn, this lifts the morale across your facility and leads to improved staff productivity from the ground up. With a happier workforce, you’ll have fewer issues to face on a day-to-day basis and less staff taking time away from work due to stress-related illness. You are also more likely to retain staff since they can see clearly how their wellbeing is your priority.

Your commitment as a school

By signing the charter, your school sends an immediate message to staff that you care. Of course, a set of actions needs to follow to show you fully support staff wellbeing and are not simply paying lip service to the charter. There are several ways you can do so:

  • Educate staff about the tools available and how to access them; and make sure departmental managers are aware of these supporting tools
  • Promote flexible working wherever you can
  • Implement process efficiency across the school to drive down unnecessary tasks
  • Have open conversations about out-of-hours working and ways to minimise it
  • Demonstrate how you are giving mental health equal footing to physical health
  • Provide a forum for staff to feedback regularly about wellbeing and feelings of stress

Will the wellbeing charter cause more work for your school?

In short, no. Both the DfE and Ofsted are committed to helping schools integrate the charter with minimal effort through a number of initiatives, including:

  • Reducing unnecessary workload – a common factor among teachers dealing with stress
  • Embedding mental health into CPD and teacher training to raise awareness
  • Improving the mental health and wellbeing resources available to schools

Further, Ofsted has agreed to consider staff wellbeing when assessing a school and has clarified that they require no extra documentation as part of their inspection.

How to sign up to the wellbeing charter

There is no mandate to join the charter, and sign up is voluntary. However, joining the wellbeing charter means you can expect more positive outcomes for everyone.

When you are ready to sign up, email wellbeing.charter@education.gov.uk  with the following information:

  • Your school or college Unique Reference Number (URN)
  • Establishment name and postcode

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

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1 in 3 Teachers Planning To Quit Their Profession

A recent poll run by the National Education Union has uncovered that 1 in every 3 teachers in the UK plans to quit the profession within the next five years.

It’s likely of little surprise to many, with the survey – conducted in April 2021 – coming after over a year’s worth of disruption to the UK’s education system caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with challenges including safety at work and the constant switching between in-person and online lessons damaging to teachers’ wellbeing.

From the 10,000 teachers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland who participated in the poll, it was clear how exhausted the majority currently feels toward teaching with the stats speaking loudly as to the intentions of many:

  • 35% stated they would “definitely not” be working within the profession by 2026
  • 66% agreed the status of the profession had diminished and blamed the government for failing to listen to their ongoing issues
  • 70% blamed an increased workload as a major reason to leave
  • 55% feel their work-life balance has become worse since before the pandemic began

After what has been a tough few months for everyone – teachers being no exception – unions have now called for a 7% increase to their salaries with the hope this will support many toward rethinking their plans to leave a sector already under pressure thanks to outdated testing systems and funding cuts.

Yet with 95% of respondents admitting they have concerns for their wellbeing, it is likely an increase to their pay alone is insufficient in turning the tide.

Mel Stead, Managing Director of Optimal says “During the pandemic, schools and academies had to adapt very quickly to delivering both classroom based teaching for keyworker and vulnerable children, as well as remote learning for all other students, this was on top of trying to manage their own caring responsibilities and other family commitments.  Employees are exhausted and their mental health has suffered as a result of this.  The introduction of our well-being reviews has been a huge success in some schools and academies and it has enabled us to signpost individuals to organisations who can provide appropriate support swiftly and prevent more serious long term issues. We cannot afford to lose such talent from this sector.”

Would you like to introduce well-being reviews into your School or Academy? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR team at any time.

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Teachers reject proposal to extend classroom hours and reduce holidays

In March 2020, the pandemic forced children away from their classrooms and into a home education programme nobody was prepared for – pupils, parents or teachers. Since then, young people in secondary and primary education have endured ongoing disruption thanks to national and localised lockdowns, in-school Covid-19 outbreaks diminishing year group bubbles and periods in self-isolation from catching or coming into close contact with the virus.

This absence has led to a lack of education provided to students of all ages and a further widening of a gap already in play within the UK system where many are already at a disadvantage. It’s no wonder, then, the Government has been left contemplating how it might deliver parts of a curriculum many of our country’s young people are still to receive, recently proposing a catch-up system including longer school days and shorter holiday breaks as an effective means to retrieve lost learning time.

While it’s something parents might feel worthwhile, the proposition went out to teachers last month to have their say. One of the sector’s largest unions, the National Education Union (NEU), ran a survey during March asking for feedback from some 10,000 members on and the results gave an extremely clear picture of their feelings towards the notion with 98% saying they disagreed on taking this course of action.

Asides from an almost unanimous rejection to increase the hours per school day and reduce those across the school holidays were other key insights as to how teachers are feeling towards the education system, as follows:

  • On delivering the standard curriculum, 82% felt more flexibility was required to deliver learning missed during lockdowns.
  • 68% said more opportunities for sport and exercise were necessary while 66% suggested an increase to practical learning.
  • On the topic of mental health and wellbeing, 80% felt the Government should increase its focus to support students with 68% saying more should be tackle child poverty.
  • Regarding technology, teachers felt positive towards its use in education during periods of lockdown and 57% appreciated its use to facilitate online parents’ evenings.

With £1.7bn spent on supporting the schools most in need after the pandemic, the Government stated that it will continue working with schools and parents to achieve the best outcomes.  The NEU insists this can only come through their listening to the views provided in its survey and responding accordingly to those who have been on the frontline of education throughout the pandemic, both face-to-face and online.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

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Teachers hoping for priority Covid vaccination to help schools reopen


Teachers and their unions are in the news this week as pressure grows on the Government to provide them priority status in the queue for the Covid-19 vaccine.

So far, with the vaccination programme looking like it’s progressing well throughout the UK, teachers are requesting they become the next in line to receive the jab to ensure a quick and safe return to the classroom.

As the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced this week, schools are to remain closed until at least March 8th in a bid to help reduce the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, the mass vaccination programme works flat-out to achieve its first milestone of having all health care workers, vulnerable or people aged over 70 vaccinated by mid-February.

One of the country’s largest teaching unions, the NASUWT, has launched the Vaccinate2Educate campaign, asking for all members to sign the petition to see teachers given immediate access to the vaccine. With many teachers expected to work in confined spaces, often with no provision of adequate PPE, the union has concerns for their members’ welfare should this not be addressed quickly and schools allowed to reopen.

It’s a view shared by the opposition leader, Kier Starmer, who is pressing the Government to use the approaching half-term break – running February 15th-19th – as an opportunity to vaccinate teachers once the current priority groups mass vaccination roll-out is complete. Alongside other critical ‘frontline’ professions, including police officers, firefighters and transport workers, teachers would jump the queue ahead of those aged between 50 and 70 years, who are currently the next group set to receive their invitations to a vaccination centre for their first dose.

Some schools have gone as far as offering their facilities in the hope of having their calls for support answered. According to the Daily Mail, a group of school headteachers – known as The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference – has presented a plan to the Government to allow almost every school-based worker to receive their vaccination during February. By utilising 150 schools across the country as vaccination hubs, around 1 million doses of the vaccine could be administered to headteachers, teachers, teaching assistants, catering staff and caretakers in just one week.

No one can argue that teachers have so far put themselves in a position of vulnerability every day during the pandemic, and adequate protection from Covid is required. And many feel that by vaccinating teachers and their co-workers, schools and colleges will open quickly, in turn, having a positive impact on the millions of children currently home-learning. It’s clear nobody in the teaching profession wants schools to remain closed any longer than is necessary, with many fearing for the long-term ramifications on children after being out of a structured learning environment for months on end. No doubt it is a sentiment shared by millions of parents across the UK as they try desperately to juggle work commitments and the multiple components of homeschooling, supervising their children’s learning being only one among many new daily demands.

In need of some HR advice? Wherever you are in the UK, you can arrange a chat with one of our friendly professional HR advisors at any time.

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