top of page
  • Writer's pictureKeven Bartle

Why School Leaders Need Supervision 4: DfE, Education Support & Headrest

Education Staff Wellbeing Charter (2021)

The DfE Education Staff Wellbeing Charter (2021) includes, among its 'organisational commitments' (but notably not the commitments of the DfE) that schools signing up to the charter should "channel support to individuals whose role is known to have a significant emotional component. This might take the form of peer support, supervision, and/or counselling." There is also a specific reference to school leaders in the charter, which says that schools should "develop a sub-strategy specifically for protecting leader mental health. This should include access to confidential counselling and/or coaching where needed." This places the burden for the provision of supervision (for their staff and their leaders) squarely on schools, although the DfE does pledge that they will:

"Measure on an ongoing basis the levels of anxiety, happiness, worthwhileness, life satisfaction and job satisfaction across the sector’, using established metrics and methods. We will track trends over time and build this evidence into policy making. We will also continue to take the advice of sector experts on wellbeing and mental health."

Given the declining metrics on school staff wellbeing and advice from sector experts, perhaps this means that the DfE will soon be recognising how important, indeed vital supervision funding and provision is to the sector. Perhaps, but I am not holding my breath.

Teacher Wellbeing Index (2022)

The charity Education Support's most recent iteration of its Teacher Wellbeing Index (2022) paints a bleak picture of the profession and indicates how far school staff wellbeing has declined since the Ofsted report of 2019 (when it was already looking problematic). Based on the responses of 3082 respondents, 707 of whom held leadership roles, the report shows that 75% of those surveyed felt that they were stressed, a figure rising to 84% for school leaders. A higher percentage, 78% generally and 87% of leaders, said they had experienced symptoms of mental ill health. 58% of leaders said they had experienced insomnia because of work and 50% had found themselves irritable and subject to mood swings. Education Support concluded that "the wellbeing of senior leaders is now at its lowest level for the past four years". These findings echo the responses noted by Greany et al with the underlying data for the Teacher Wellbeing Index showing that school leaders have the lowest wellbeing scores, putting them at "high risk of psychological distress and increased risk of depression".

Two factors from the index may serve to mask the scale of the problems on a daily basis. The first is the level of presenteeism (when staff attend in spite of being unwell), which is reported as 47% generally and 61% for school leaders. The second is that 59% of respondents said that they were not confident in disclosing the fact that they suffer from unmanageable stress. Perhaps unsurprisingly then the proportion of those surveyed who said that they have considered leaving the profession in the last year was 59%, with 61% of senior leaders saying they had done so (up 7% since 2021). 48% of all respondents said that their employers did not support those with mental health problems. Interestingly, and hopefully for this series of posts on the importance of supervision in schools, 76% of those who say they are looking to leave the profession felt unsupported, but this figure drops to 44% (still too high but significantly less) for those who did feel supported by their schools.

Annual Headteacher Wellbeing Report (2023)

Whilst we are down amongst the weeds, the charity Headrest published its Annual Headteacher Wellbeing Report(2023) in February based upon the themes arising from the calls that it has had to its helpline over the past year. The report identifies a latest phase in the Covid/Post-Covid sequence that has provided a new suite of concerns that dominate the thoughts of the headteachers who seek support. In earlier phases the struggles for school leaders were on managing the pandemic, on coping with the return of graded inspections, and on dealing with the mental and physical exhaustion all of this. More recently, the report explains that school leaders are dealing with a range of issues from budget erosion, retention and recruitment, the impact of the cost of living crisis, accessing mental health support for students and stakeholder pressures. This is creating a loss of self-confidence in their capabilities, a sense of moral injury, anxiety, burnout and stress. For some "it was evident that the support they received was minimal and the expectations placed upon them unrealistic". Unsurprisingly, then, one of the conclusions from the report is that headteachers should be provided with "access to independent, fully-funded support for their wellbeing" and that governors should ensure that this is accessed.

13 views0 comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page