Anthony Priest - Mental health, wellbeing and Covid-19: free support for schools in Wales
As the Covid-19 crisis continues in to 2021, the education workforce has shown an unwavering determination to ensure students are able keep learning, while juggling increasing professional and personal demands. Teachers and staff have adapted to new regimes and dealt with constant guidance changes, all while delivering daily lessons to students. This has left many of our professionals understandably feeling exhausted.
Yet we still hear of education professionals going the extra mile to support the children and young people they work with. This is particularly the case as the pandemic has crystallised pre-existing concerns such as learning inequality, child poverty, and access to technology.
Recent findings from Education Support’s Teacher Wellbeing Index 2020 research tells us that the wellbeing of education staff is significantly lower than that of the general population. Symptoms of poor wellbeing such as difficulty concentrating, insomnia and tearfulness are also on the rise.
If not addressed these symptoms can lead to diagnosable mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Stress levels also remain high across teaching professionals (62%) and senior leaders (77%), with long hours and workload being a major contributor.
This is why Education Support continues to call for staff wellbeing to be central to education policy and school practices. Support for teachers has become an issue of social chances and national recovery. This generation of children will be significantly affected by experiencing a global pandemic during their compulsory education. It is vital that those responsible for giving them the best chance are well enough to keep showing up - both physically and emotionally.
Education Support’s School Wellbeing Service - free support for schools
At Education Support, we are heartened by the courage and compassion of the education workforce and proud to be able to offer support during this difficult time.
Funded by Welsh Government, Education Support can now offer support to schools across Wales with a focus on supporting staff mental health and wellbeing. Through the School Wellbeing Service, we are offering free workplace wellbeing services. We can provide your school with resources, staff workshops and advice on policies and practices based on best practice that support staff wellbeing during this time.
You will be allocated a Wellbeing Advisor who can work with you to create a bespoke plan of support that is tailored to your school’s needs.
The advisor can also provide access to other services, through Education Support, including support for headteachers in Wales through a facilitated peer-to-peer support programme and the offer of one to one supervision delivered by trained counsellors. Again, this service is free for schools in Wales.
What schools using the service say
We have received an overwhelmingly positive response from staff who have already accessed the School Wellbeing Services in Wales. Here is just some of the great feedback that we have received:
“I have found it invaluable to have a 'go to' expert such as yourself who is always available and can signpost us to different levels of support for various scenarios…It has been particularly beneficial to gain collective support as a group and then reflect on how it has impacted back in our different school context…we are very grateful to Education Support and the part you are playing during the pandemic.
I felt uplifted when leaving school! It is really so important to talk and share, and good to speak to people outside my normal circle of support, too.
It was one of the best things I ever did to sign up for this support group. I truly value the opportunity to get together with such a lovely bunch!"
Free confidential helpline available
In addition to the School Wellbeing Service for schools, Education Support’s free and confidential helpline is also available to all education staff in Wales. This includes teachers, lecturers and support staff or youth workers working in schools and colleges.
If you are struggling with difficult feelings you can get emotional support from a trained counsellor by calling 08000 562561. Support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us. We’ll listen.
Anthony Priest is a Workplace Wellbeing Advisor at Education Support.