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Why a Staff Wellbeing Programme is at the Centre of our New School’s Ethos

For teachers at Aureus School, there really is such a thing as a free lunch – and that’s just the start of it, explains Hannah Wilson

Hannah Wilson
by Hannah Wilson

How can we have well students if we don’t have well staff? This is the question I have asked myself many times in the last few years.

Yes, the children in our schools will always be our priority, but we need to get the balance back into our education system.

It shouldn’t be their future success at the expense of our present wellbeing.

At Aureus, we made the bold decision to name wellbeing as one of our 12 values. I say bold because we know that this opens us up to internal and external scrutiny as it puts a spotlight on everything we do and the impact it has, but we have not shied away from this.

We don’t have a magic wand, but we are committed to talking about and changing how we look after the people in our schools.

Our pledge to create a values-led culture means that our conversations and actions are underpinned by our vision and values, that our leadership model and our curriculum all embody them.

We strive every day to live, not laminate our values, so that we are able to ‘nurture hearts and minds’ to enable everyone to ‘grow, learn and flourish’.

A better way

Our why? Our driving force? A lot of my team have come from schools where they experienced toxic cultures, where retention was low and recruitment was high.

Schools where human beings had been reduced to numbers in a spreadsheet, where the heart and soul had been squeezed out of the school community.

Many of my team, including me, nearly left the profession; we all believe that there is another way.

At #PedagooHampshire17 our team curated a #wellbeing #leadmeet.

We shared our vision to provision for wellbeing. We invited friends of Aureus, like Sue Webb from Values-based Education and Clare Erasmus from Magna Carta School to contribute, as well to acknowledge what we have learned from looking outwards and working in a collaborative partnership.

We have actively sought the best practice and magpied what is working to pilot in our new school. Moving our vision to provision is key. Wellbeing shouldn’t be an idea, a document or something we talk about, it is essential that it is something we do, that we commit to.

We started with our staffing – appointing a deputy headteacher for culture and wellbeing.

The language we use is key to frame what we are doing. We strive to use values-led language. Julie leads our whole community wellbeing strategy and is responsible for student wellbeing, she leads our PE lead practitioner designate who leads staff wellbeing.

In time as we grow we will have a wellbeing working party and wellbeing champions.

Measurable impact

Our provision includes:

  1. Mindfulness practice for all of our students at the start of each day
  2. Reflection at the end of each day
  3. Weekly gratitude practice
  4. Organising our students into Coaching Groups, instead of Tutor/ Form Groups
  5. Directed wellbeing time for staff on a Friday afternoon
  6. A wellbeing room, not a staff room
  7. A free hot lunch every day for all staff

Wellbeing can sometimes be seen as fluffy or intangible, which is something we are keen to debunk!

Working with our partners we are collating qualitative and quantitative data to underpin what we are doing so that we can evaluate the impact.

All of our students will be completing the EduKit student wellbeing survey next week to give us attitudinal data, and some of the staff are in a wellbeing pilot for Maria Alexander’s PHD.

10 quick wellbeing wins

  1. Name a MH and WB champion
  2. Launch a MH and WB working group
  3. Sign up for the MH Charter that Natasha Devon is steering
  4. Join the Carnegie Centre’s Mental Health in Schools Award
  5. Create a MH&WB Action Plan
  6. Join the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust MH book club
  7. Get one of your team to be trained as a Mental Health First Aider
  8. Get one of your team to do the dot B Mindfulness practitioner training
  9. Follow #helloyellow and raise awareness on World Mental Health Day on 10 October
  10. Attend or hold a Mental Health Teachmeet

Hannah Wilson is headteacher of Aureus School in Didcot and co-founder of #WomenEd. Find her at and follow her on Twitter at @thehopefulht.

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