The Department for Education (DfE) has released guidance on the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter, outlining what it is and how schools can benefit. The charter is a declaration of support, and a set of commitments, to all staff in the education sector in relation to their wellbeing and mental health.
Whilst many of the issues the charter addresses are not new, they are important, now more than ever, following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the effect of this on staff wellbeing and mental health. A key outcome for education policy, as set out in the charter, is improving wellbeing amongst staff working in the sector. It is noted that doing so is critical for recruiting and retaining quality educational professionals. Aptly, this guidance was released at the start of the national mental health awareness week (10 – 16 May 2021) and it aims to encourage awareness and support within the education sector.
All state funded schools and colleges are invited to familiarise themselves with the charter, and to sign up when it is available in the autumn, as a shared commitment to protect, promote and enhance the wellbeing of their staff. It is voluntary and there is no time limit for schools/colleges to sign up.
In signing it, the school/college will commit to placing staff wellbeing and mental health at the centre of its decision making and to developing a long-term strategy for improving staff wellbeing. This includes:
- prioritising staff mental health
- promoting an open and understanding culture
- driving down unnecessary workloads
- endorsing flexible working and diversity
- establishing a clear communications policy
- measuring staff wellbeing using recognised tools.
The DfE have also made several commitments in the charter, including measuring and responding to changes in staff wellbeing, improving access to mental health and wellbeing resources and supporting the sector to drive down unnecessary workloads.
Ofsted also understand the role they have, and the impact inspections can have on staff wellbeing. The charter provides for Ofsted to review whether the inspection framework is having inadvertent impacts on staff wellbeing and to ensure inspectors take staff wellbeing into account in coming to their judgements.
Whilst it is not compulsory for schools/colleges to sign the charter, all employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their staff. We would encourage state funded schools/colleges to read the documents in full and consider whether they wish to sign up.
Although the charter is aimed at state funded schools and colleges, independent schools may also wish to review its content in order to assist their own policy and practice in relation to staff wellbeing and mental health. The guidance can be found here and the charter can be found here. Further details will be provided by the DfE on how to sign up closer to its release in the autumn.