Protecting our mental wellbeing

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Protecting our mental wellbeing

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Education Director Gregg Davies praises the resilience of our teachers over the past year, and emphasises the importance of protecting our mental wellbeing in the testing times.

One career which has never appealed to me is that of politician, for a number of reasons.  You never seem to be able to get a straight answer out of a politician, and I suspect my style of communication would not work!

I certainly wouldn’t want to be in government at the moment. Trying to balance the ongoing health of the nation with the economy without a crystal ball is nigh on impossible.  Communicating succinctly and without confusion is proving an impossibility, and I don’t believe any political party would be much better.

That kindness apart, I strongly feel that one group of professionals which has not had the promotion it deserves is the teaching profession. The NHS is doing a wonderful job under hugely challenging conditions and, rightly, earlier in the year the nation stood on their doorsteps to thank them. However, during that time there was another profession which was providing a vital service.

Recently, the government announced a second UK lockdown. One element which differs from that of our first lockdown in the spring, is that schools and universities remain open. IF schools are to remain open, teachers and support staff need to be at the location.  This doesn’t seem to have been universally recognised and this is beginning to grate. Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of ASCL, wrote earlier in the term: “There’s also not enough recognition of the extraordinary levels of leadership you are showing on behalf of your community, and the sense of moral purpose you display.” 

‘Resilience’ is an oft bandied-about word in schools these days. It is a view that our young generation have been mollycoddled by their parents, which has left them unable to believe that they can take risks. This may be true, and indeed I admit to being in the demographic which aligns with this view. However, I wouldn’t go as far as describing them as the “snowflake generation”, as one Norfolk headmaster did in 2018.

If you have managed to get this far, you should be wondering what my point is! It is this. Teachers are showing a massive amount of resilience at the moment, and I mean that in the true meaning of the word. They are not being recognised for this and, my goodness, they should be. I have visited many Bellevue schools this term and, without exception, teachers (and support staff) are working at the limit of their physical work level.

But even more significantly, they are working at the absolute limit of their mental health capacity. I have never seen this before in all my years in schools. There have always been some who have not pulled their weight. However, this term everyone has had to. As one Senior Leadership Team member at one of our schools told me, “Even my grumpy colleague hasn’t been obstreperous. They just haven’t had the time!” 

Now, more than ever, we, you, need to have more than one eye on mental wellbeing. Time MUST be found to do something which brings real pleasure. Exercise is not necessarily the universal panacea, although it is for many of you. Mine is dog-walking and woodworking; our Operations Director, Nick Holt’s, is building model planes with his son. The point is that we all have to find something which takes our mind off the frantic, fraught and frenetic pace which is the everyday norm for you. Please try hard to find and make the time this half term.