How effective will these new commitments be on staff wellbeing and breaking down the stigma around mental health?

The Department of Education have released their new ‘Education Staff Wellbeing Charter’ with Oftsed, the charter was created by teacher unions, schools and the Mind mental health charity.

Covid-19 has been a challenge across all sectors, adding extra pressures especially on those within the education sector. However, there have been a number of positive changes that have occurred due to the pandemic such as a heightened sense of wellbeing across these education sectors and businesses, with the government pushing more resources out to improve wellbeing across all settings.

In the report The Department for Education stated “We believe that everyone working in education should have the opportunity to enjoy the highest possible standard of wellbeing and mental health.”

The charter includes 11 new pledges in which schools will be able to sign up to from the autumn. The main motive of this new framework is to ‘protect and promote’ staff wellbeing, where they have promised to top releasing guidance and updates to teachers and school leaders outside of working hours, one of the main promises in their new charter. They will also ensure to take staff wellbeing into account when doing their inspections.

The report also states that “The schools, college or trust signing the charter are committing to place mental health and wellbeing at the heart of their decision-making processes.”

The 11 pledges are:

  • 1) Priorities staff mental health.
  • 2) Give staff the support they need to take responsibility for their own and other people’s wellbeing.
  • 3) Give managers access to the tools and resources they need to support the wellbeing of those they line manage.
  • 4) Establish a clear communication policy.
  • 5) Give staff a voice in decision-making.
  • 6) Drive down unnecessary workload.
  • 7) Champion flexible working and diversity.
  • 8) Create a good behaviour culture.
  • 9) Support staff to progress in their careers.
  • 10) Include a sub-strategy for protecting leader wellbeing and mental health.
  • 11) Hold ourselves accountable, including by measuring staff wellbeing.

One of Ofsted’s three commitments is to “review whether the framework is having inadvertent impacts on staff wellbeing and take steps to alleviate any issues”.

Schools week have identified that the DfE want to develop the “wider communications strategy on recruitment and retention, linking to existing campaigns that aim to tackle mental health stigma in our society”. This is key in ensuring all education staff feel valued and that their mental health is taken seriously, with hopes that staff retention will increase due to these further considerations.

Shortly after the report was released, Ofsted were branded ‘disingenuous’, after the claims made in the framework have not yet been put into practice.

Let’s hope these ‘commitments’ can be achieved in practice, as this is a commitment required by not only Ofsted but also senior school leaders, teachers and outside organisations.

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