May 14, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Is Sleep the Key to Teacher Wellbeing?

To end Mental Health Awareness week we ask Maria Brosnan, Founder of Pursuit Wellbeing and author of The Pursuit of Sleep for Teachers how sleep can contribute to positive wellbeing.

As an educational leadership and wellbeing specialist, I work closely alongside teachers and school leaders. Over time, I have built up a clear picture of how difficult it can be to switch off, and the daily uphill struggle to achieve a good work life balance.  And one of the main culprits?

Poor sleep.

I am convinced that poor sleep is at the core of a wellbeing crisis for our educators.

Let me explain.

Firstly, the research is hard to ignore.

The Teacher Wellbeing Index 2020 by the Education Support Partnership, revealed that 52 percent of teachers have reported difficulty sleeping during the past year. That’s more than half of our teachers are failing to get a good night’s sleep.

Secondly, science clearly links sleep with our overall wellbeing.

Stress stops us from sleeping well; lack of sleep stops our bodies from efficiently repairing themselves; and this, in turn, leads to a feeling of being rundown, an increase in health issues, and the commonly experienced school holiday ‘collapse’, as a cold, flu, or exhaustion hits.

For us to experience the physiological response to stress in our bodies, we go through a process:

  1. First, there needs to be a stressor. This is not difficult to imagine if you are an education professional; perhaps an angry parent, an injured child, a difficult meeting, a nasty email, a tech issue, a playground fight, or another Covid risk assessment.
  2. Next, we respond to the stressor. Sometimes this is automatic and beyond our conscious control, but there are times when we get to choose how we respond to the stressful experience. There is a moment, albeit small, in which we have the power to act. In this split second, we can pause and think before we respond; to ‘self-regulate'. This is our ‘response-ability'. In the midst of the difficult meeting; as the computer crashes again, how do I respond? Even one conscious deep breath to pause can help.
  3. Finally, comes our physiological response. Depending on our response to the stressor, we either produce the biochemicals of stress in our body and experience the ‘stress response’ as a result, or we don’t. 

When we trigger the stress response, it takes our bodies out of a state of natural balance  (known as ‘homeostasis’) and into a state of ‘dysregulation’. Part of this physiological response, which causes dysregulation, is the release of around 1300 biochemicals like adrenaline and cortisol to help us to respond to the stressor.

Many of these biochemicals can linger in our bodies for eight hours or more, and so can still be in our systems at bedtime, acting like a ‘pint of espresso’ in our bodies, making sleep difficult even if we’re exhausted. So even a stressor much earlier in the day can affect our sleep.

Our bodies are naturally highly efficient at returning to balance. But when stress becomes repeated, or chronic, as it often is in the life of teachers, with un-ending demands on time and resources, it becomes harder for the body to get back to homeostasis.

With the experience of regular stress, poor sleep can become not just a one-off event, but a nightly battle. The Guardian reported a few years ago that the average teacher was only getting 6 hours of sleep per night; most of us need 7-9 hours to function well.

Sleep is crucial to wellbeing.

And while it might seem like a quick-fix to sleep is far away, the good news is that small, seemingly insignificant steps can pave the way for a better night’s sleep.

I believe the most important step in dealing with stress, is Step 2, above: managing our response to stressors, thereby reducing the number of times we trigger the physiological stress response.

So yes, it’s worth taking a moment to take a breath or count to ten before responding to the nasty email or tweet!

Secondly, build in small daily habits or rituals you enjoy, knowing that they are serving to reduce the number of times you release the biochemistry of stress. For example:

  • Practice 5 minutes of mindlfulness in the morning or evening before bed
  • Journal out any frustrations to clear your head before sleep
  • Build exercise into your routine, to help discharge any excess stress biochemicals, to name a simple few.

Over time these small steps lead to a calmer day-to-day life, better sleep, healthier bodies, and vastly improved wellbeing.

We need to address the problem, now. So, take this opportunity to prioritise sleep and encourage your colleagues to do the same. And notice the benefits to your health and wellbeing. 

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Find out more about the science behind sleep and wellbeing, and the 95 tips for better sleep, in Maria’s book, The Pursuit of Sleep. pursuitwellbeing.com/sleep

References:

Education Support, Teacher Wellbeing Index 2020,
https://www.educationsupport.org.uk/resources/research-reports/teacher-wellbeing-index-2020

The Guardian, The Teacher’s guide to sleep and why it matters (11th November 2014), https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/nov/11/good-night-teacher-guide-sleep

March 4, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Back to normality?

Ahead of the wider reopening of schools Edurio CEO Ernest Jenavs shares his thoughts on how schools can build forward stronger after covid-19 disruption.

Schools are now days away from opening to all pupils. While it will take quite a bit more time to get past the disruption caused by Covid-19, seeing children excitedly rushing back to school will be the first step on the way back to normality for many school leaders. But we should all make sure we do not go back to normality, because that is still going back. Instead, school leaders can use this opportunity, taking an evidence-based approach to build forward stronger.

When we carried out research on the impact of Covid-19 with 45,000 pupils, parents and staff members, we found high variation across the respondents. There were elements of the experience that stakeholders praised and hoped would continue in the future such as virtual parent events, use of technology to diversify learning and flexible working. A minority of pupils actually reported better progress due to lack of distractions and travel time loss.

We don’t have a clear answer yet on whether the future is “blended”, “hybrid”, “mixed” or whatever other fancy term we can come up with, but we do know that thousands of schools have carried out thousands of experiments in providing learning differently. As schools return to in-person learning, we should not lose the knowledge of what has worked. We urge every school leader to gather feedback from your stakeholders on how they are doing and how the school or trust can learn from the last year of disruption. Perhaps there are even more radical changes that innovative school trusts might be able to implement!

By gathering such evidence, every school can look forward with the confidence that this time, although difficult, can contribute to a better education experience in the future. Whether you use surveys or just gather stories from your staff, pupils and parents, here are the five reflection themes you should consider exploring:

  • What have the main challenges been for our stakeholders during the last year? Which of these can the school prevent in case of future disruption?
  • What learning methods have pupils appreciated the most? Which ones do we want to keep?
  • How are our pupils doing in terms of well-being? Where do they need the most support over the next year?
  • How do our staff prefer working in the future? What elements of the disruption should we maintain to ensure a more efficient working environment?
  • How has parental involvement supported the learning of our pupils? How can we retain parents as partners in learning going forward?

To access all of Edurio’s research for free, including our reports on covid-19 disruption, click here.

January 28, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Review of DfE remote education framework

The Department for Education recently published a new framework to help schools and further education providers review their remote education provision during the pandemic. 

The initial guidance on how to use the framework has been somewhat vague, but the DfE emphasise that it is not a compliance tool. Rather, its intended use is to support internal discussions within schools and Trusts on how things are going for their pupils and staff, what their organisations are doing well, and what would be appropriate next steps.

By now, there is no shortage of documents advising schools on ways to organise their remote learning provisions. Ofsted’s recently-published What’s Working Well in Remote Education, as well as Remote Education: Expectations, Evidence and Experience by the CST and Making remote education work by Edurio are just a few examples. The new DfE framework does not attempt to be another resource of this type; instead, you could view it as a proposed template for SLT discussions on remote education based on previously published DfE guidelines and known evidence.

Next, let’s briefly look at the six main themes of the framework.

Leadership - having a clear vision and plan for remote education provision as well as systems to monitor its quality and impact on staff and pupils. The framework highlights the importance of clear communication among adults - staff, governors, parents - regarding the school’s arrangements for remote education.

Remote education context and pupil engagement - access and engagement are two prerequisites for enabling learning. The framework invites schools to understand what resources and skills their pupils and families need in order to be able to connect to learning from their homes, and how schools can help provide those.

Curriculum planning and delivery - this theme looks at everything related to the actual learning process: the curriculum, minimum provision, resources, and assessment. It seems that the framework spells out a fairly demanding vision for schools. At the same time, it reminds that in many ways the quality of remote education depends on the same principles as in-school provision.

Capacity and capability - this theme focuses on the support available to staff to enable them to fulfil their roles. The three main types of support the framework emphasises are clear guidance on effective practice, availability of material and professional development resources, and engagement in broader professional networks with other schools and organisations.

Communication - although an element in other themes as well, communication is also included as a separate theme. Here, the framework reiterates the importance of clear expectations, particularly for pupils and parents, and of the need to maintain the school community despite the circumstances.

Safeguarding and wellbeing - the final theme covers pupil safety and wellbeing, and lists aspects of remote education provision for which schools really should strive to develop a clear strategy. These include clear reporting routes, online safety, data safety, monitoring pupil wellbeing, and expectations for behaviour.

Overall, this list of themes aligns well with our research at Edurio before the pandemic as well as now. Throughout this past year, we have been supporting Trusts across England in their work to better understand each of these themes with the help of our surveys. 

We are now providing a free bundle of remote learning surveys to any school or trust who wants to identify areas of improvement for its remote learning provision, support pupil and staff well-being, and stay connected to the school community through these times.

Our research has highlighted leadership and communication as two particularly impactful factors. The data from the Edurio Covid-19 Impact Review that was conducted in 277 schools across England at the end of summer term 2020 shows that good leadership and clear communication were the top criteria which affected staff and parent confidence in their school’s response to Covid-19. Staff and parents who found leadership communication clear were more likely to feel positive about their school’s response to the disruption than those who felt the communication had been unclear.

Clarity of learning tasks affected pupil self-assessment of their academic progress to a similar extent.

Any framework is only as helpful as the actions it supports. The new DfE framework offers a good structure for internal discussions with a focus on possible next steps for each school, and we welcome its emphasis on the key elements of leadership and clear communication. It is important, though, that this stays as a supporting document and does not in fact become a tool for external accountability during a time of crisis.

If your trust or school needs support monitoring your remote learning provision and the wellbeing of your whole-school community, our free bundle of pupil, parent, and staff long and pulse surveys and can be accessed here.

March 11, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Parent survey about the Coronavirus (Covid-19)

In response to the threat, our survey design team with guidance from educators globally has designed a simple set of questions you can ask your parents to understand their readiness for a home schooling scenario and where they may need support.

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January 20, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Self-assessment for staff wellbeing

Why did we bother to create a tool for self-assessing staff wellbeing — a topic that has been on Head Teachers’ minds forever? What is the difference between self-assessment and simply thinking about a problem?

This blog post will cover 3 ways self-assessment can add value to solving a problem — through adding structure, generating conversation, and identifying gaps in evidence.

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October 25, 2019Comments are off for this post.

“Working with Edurio has helped us harness the power of national benchmarking”

In the first year of Edurio’s Staff Retention project, Brook Learning Trust (BLT) ran the Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Survey in two of its three academies. 

What convinced the team at BLT to participate in the first year of a brand new research project? 

We asked Education Director Nicola Taylor. Her answer:

‘’Working with an external partner on important research that serves a bigger purpose... The schools who participated in the Edurio survey were able to benefit from additional rigour in the design and application of the survey as well as the quality of feedback and analysis received following its completion.’’

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June 25, 2019Comments are off for this post.

TALIS 2018 and Staff Retention in Schools

Last week, the OECD released results from its latest Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). This was the third time the OECD surveyed teachers and school principals worldwide to gather information on key aspects of the teaching profession and what schools and policy makers can do to strengthen it.

In England, 2376 lower secondary teachers and 157 principals completed the TALIS 2018 questionnaire. We were very eager to read the initial findings as just last month, Edurio published the first findings from our own Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Survey that involved more than 10,000 school staff in 322 schools and 23 multi-academy trusts across England.

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May 20, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Improving Staff Retention in Academies

Findings from 10,530 responses to the Edurio Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Survey

Over 10,000 academy staff members from across England have responded to our Staff Wellbeing and Working Conditions Survey so far.

Today, we published a report highlighting our first findings.

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March 18, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Worksheet: Survey results analysis and communication

A resource that will help you make the most out of your survey results

When it comes to analysing survey results, it can be difficult to know where to start! Whether you are a person who notices the negatives first, or someone who only focuses on the positive, it is important to go through your survey results in a systematic way, taking into account your organisation’s specific context. Once you have made general conclusions about the results, you need to share them with others — so a key element is having a strong communication plan ready.

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March 4, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Stakeholder feedback at United Learning

An inclusive approach to school improvement

It’s been two years since Edurio started working with United Learning on their Learning from Learners project — a focused effort on collecting and using pupil feedback to improve schools. We value our partnership and look at United Learning as an example for others to follow — regularly using stakeholder feedback across different roles and for different purposes at every level of the trust to continuously learn and improve.

We recently had the chance to talk to the team at United Learning to learn more about how it all got started and the impact of the project so far.

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