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Teacher wellbeing – It’s time to assess your policies

Ofsted’s new inspection framework brings a fresh onus on teacher welfare. How can you gauge whether your policies are fit for purpose, asks Dawn Jotham...

  • Teacher wellbeing – It’s time to assess your policies

In September, the long awaited new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) came into effect. Teachers, heads of schools, SENCos, and safeguarding and pastoral leads will be asking what has changed and what steps need to be taken to ensure they are compliant.

The new EIF, which was devised in response to the largest consultation in Ofsted’s history (including a three-month consultation which prompted more than 15,000 responses), is meant to improve the way in which inspections are conducted and refine the criteria against which education settings are judged.

The new EIF has three key changes: a greater focus on equality and diversity, expanding the curriculum to educate the ‘whole’ child, and an emphasis on teacher and staff wellbeing.

Significantly, the latter heeds the call from those in the education sector about unmanageable teacher workloads, stresses, and detriment to teacher welfare.

The result? An expansion on wellbeing from pupils to also include teachers and staff – a move that will hopefully make inroads to addressing the teacher recruitment and retention problem.

This is undoubtedly a welcome addition to the inspection framework. But these changes also pose some challenges for schools.

Namely, how can a school improve staff morale as well as effectively gauge, demonstrate and evidence to inspectors that it has stringent measures in place to support teacher wellbeing or improve staff morale?

Criteria

Reflecting upon the new Ofsted inspection handbook, teacher wellbeing will be judged as part of the leadership and management criteria and, for those striving for an ‘outstanding’ rating, will be assessed on the following basis:

  • The school meets all criteria for good in leadership and management securely and consistently.
  • Leadership and management are exceptional.
  • Leaders ensure that teachers receive focused and highly effective professional development. Teachers’ subject, pedagogical and pedagogical content knowledge consistently build and develop over time. This consistently translates into improvements in the teaching of the curriculum.
  • Leaders ensure that highly effective and meaningful engagement takes place with staff at all levels and that issues are identified. When issues are identified, in particular about workload, they are consistently dealt with appropriately and quickly.
  • Staff consistently report high levels of support for wellbeing issues.

Duty of care

Referring to the new framework, education settings must demonstrate that staff are protected from bullying and harassment, and that teachers’ workloads are effectively managed.

Implementing best practice, pastoral care specialists and senior leadership teams should regularly conduct reflective exercises that help identify key strengths and weaknesses with regards to teacher wellbeing, and the areas for improvement.

With this in mind, the following questions will help improve the provision of staff and teacher wellbeing, and strengthen the settings evidence base during inspections:

  1. Are there robust policies and procedures in place that protect staff and pupils from bullying and harassment?
    • Clear guidelines are an effective way of communicating your school’s values and code of conduct.
    • Formal policies and procedures provide a tangible way of demonstrating the steps taken to support teacher wellbeing.
  2. Does your school have an in-depth induction process?
    • An in-depth induction process supports the policies and procedures that establish school norms and safeguarding processes.
    • The central record which Ofsted will look at during inspections should include a list of staff who have completed their induction.
  3. Does your school provide teachers with a mentoring programme?
    • Mentoring programmes encourage knowledge sharing and best practice among staff.
    • Extend mentoring beyond staffing peers to increase engagement and guidance with governors.
  4. Do staff feel listened to and involved in shaping initiatives from the senior leadership team?
    • A key judgement from Ofsted assesses the ways in which leaders engage with their staff.
    • Clear lines of communication between leaders and staff fosters mutual respect and encourages greater engagement.
  5. Do teachers feel safe?
    • Ofsted will assess whether schools have created a positive and respectful culture.
    • This references spikes in bullying, peer-on-peer abuse and discrimination.
    • Establishing robust policies and procedures will help teachers feel safe and provide clear reporting instructions.

The wellbeing of teachers and staff in schools is obviously central to the efficacy of the learning environment for pupils and sustainability of the broader school community.

But now, leaders not only have a duty of care to make sure teachers and staff are well supported but also that schools are compliant with Ofsted’s new EIF and ready to demonstrate they are adhering to the guidelines in the most convincing and evidenced way possible.


Dawn Jotham is the education product development lead at EduCare. She has held the positions as head of year and lead for pastoral care, and has a masters in childhood and youth studies.

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