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Diary of a head teacher Lysa Upham- East Bierley CE (VC) Primary School
What prompted you to become a
head teacher? Becoming a head teacher felt like the natural next step. I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference; the move into leadership was to make a difference across a wider range of classes. Becoming a head teacher is about making a difference for every child. I knew it would be challenging but felt ready for the challenge and excited about the prospect of the role.
Why do you think health and wellbeing is becoming increasingly
important in schools? In primary we have always supported the health and wellbeing of children, they need to be ready to learn so it is essential we take into account their health and wellbeing. I think pastoral care in primary has always been a major part of a teacher’s role so it is good that this is finally acknowledged as important. Times have changed, society is different now and changing at a fast pace so we need to ensure children are supported through this and prepared for the next stage of their lives.
For staff, I think there has been a growing realisation that the job as it stands is just not a realistic prospect for people embarking on their career. The expectation of what a teacher (and indeed other staff in school) will do is enormous; add to that the fact that so many teachers want everything to be perfect so keep driving themselves on, then the situation is not sustainable.
What do you do in your school to support the health and wellbeing of your pupils and how has this
benefitted them? We work with children as individuals in order to address their needs – this can be through time with people in school or working with outside agencies including counsellors and psychologists. Obviously, our relationship with parents is crucial in supporting our children. We know our children well and can work with them individually or in small groups.
Creating safe places to take risks and develop resilience is key. Children understand they can succeed but that initial failure to succeed is merely a step along the way. Providing every child with the opportunity to succeed and be celebrated, reducing the pressure is essential. We do this through our broad curriculum – afternoons specifically focussed on art skills or providing sporting opportunities and wide-ranging musical events. This provides all children with the chance to excel and reduces the pressure to achieve highly in the core subjects.
How do you support the health and wellbeing of the teachers in
Supporting staff is essential and possibly the most challenging aspect – we are after all, our own worst enemy when it comes to our own health and wellbeing.
your school? Supporting staff is essential and possibly the most challenging aspect – we are after all, our own worst enemy when it comes to our own health and wellbeing. We have to look out for each other – be there to lean on, hold up, cry on and most definitely laugh with. A staff room which is a safe haven and a place everyone can be open and honest. A place that is welcoming to all! It is about knowing staff – many conversations are about them and life outside school, not just work related.
We have worked hard as a team to support each other and reduce workload, to help manage wellbeing. Using elements of the curriculum, to have weeks that require minimal planning and no marking but are still beneficial – we use these when we have parent meetings and round assessment points. Providing time out of class to enable support for others – covered by the head (including planning and marking). Having weeks with no staff meeting but time to do what you need to do. Not having to stay in school for PPA time and having additional PPA time when possible.
Having an open door policy if staff want to talk, providing treats in the staff room – not always chocolate related, and letting people know they are truly appreciated.
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