March 2, 2022Comments are off for this post.

10 Must-Read Books on School Improvement

As a school leader, you're probably often on the hunt for books that can provide recommendations and insights regarding wellbeing, leadership advice, and general education information. At Edurio we regularly produce research related to school improvement, staff/pupil wellbeing, EDI and more.

Some excellent books have been published on school improvement recently, so in this post, we've collected 10 must-read books (in no particular order) surrounding school improvement and leadership.

1) No Silver Bullets: Day In, Day Out School Improvement - Paul Ainsworth

If you're looking for a book that gives big impact from small changes, this is definitely your must-read!

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An image of a book cover on a purple background. The book in question is also the first book on the list of books on school improvement - "No Silver Bullets: Day In, Day Out School Improvement" by Paul Ainsworth

Written by Paul K Ainsworth, this book looks at the impact small day-to-day changes can have on overall school improvement. Having worked as the Director of School Improvement in 4 trusts and supported over 60 schools, Paul has written out 89 tried and tested strategies for school leaders to learn from and adopt.

2) Putting Staff First - Jonny Uttley and John Tomsett

The pandemic has highlighted the need for staff wellbeing, and this book explores how schools can benefit from putting their staff first. 

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An image of a book cover on a purple background. The book in question is also the second book on the list - "Putting Staff First" by Jonny Uttley and John Tomsett 

The authors Jonny Uttley (CEO of The Education Alliance Multi-Academy Trust) and John Tomsett (a teacher for 27 years and a headteacher for 12) challenge the notion that schools should put the student first. Instead, they reflect that putting staff first and concentrating on their workload and wellbeing should be a leader's focus. However, they also remark that pupil achievement and staff wellbeing are not separate notions and present the case that teachers with good wellbeing provide students with better teaching, which is always best. 

3) About Our Schools: Improving on Previous Best - Tim Brighouse and Mick Waters

A great read for anyone looking to learn more about education policy.

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An image of a book cover on a purple background. The book in question is also the third book on the list - "About Our Schools: Improving on Previous Best" by Tim Brighouse and Mick Waters

Using interviews with secretaries of state and others from the education sector. The authors take the reader on a journey of how our education system has been shaped since 1976, highlighting key areas for future improvement to enable teachers, support staff, and school leaders alike to continue shaping thriving schools.  

4) The Next Big Thing in School Improvement - by Rebecca Allen, Matthew Evans, and Ben White

Educational fads come and go; this book is for those looking to understand how to deal with a fad when it comes.

Written by Professor Becky Allen (Co-Founder of Teacher Tapp), Ben White (Assistant Headteacher of a secondary school in Kent), and Matthew Evans (Headteacher of a secondary school in Gloucestershire) these authors use their collective expertise to discuss how to tackle school improvement. By exploring trends and themes in school improvement of the past and present, this book helps prepare school leaders to be ready for when 'The Next Big Thing' arrives and use it in a meaningful way.

5) Leading Academy Trusts: Why Some Fail, But Most Don't - Sir David Carter with Laura Mcinerney

This book is for those looking to tackle the bigger questions head-on. 

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An image of a book cover on a purple background. The book in question is also the fifth book on the list - "Leading Academy Trusts: Why Some Fail, But Most Don't" by Sir David Carter

In 'Leading Academy Trusts', Sir David Carter shows the reader what it takes to become a successful academy trust leader. Drawing on his 37 years of experience in the education sector, David explores the six critical factors that are vital to school improvement and overall trust success. 

6) The Headteacher's Handbook - Rae Snape

This book is a valuable go-to guide for primary school Headteachers. 

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An image of a book cover on a purple background. The book in question is also the sixth book on the list of books on school improvement - "The Headteacher's Handbook" by Rae Snape

Following a 14 year career as a primary school head, Rae Snape offers her reader tips, guidance, and advice on how to negotiate headship while describing the role as a mix of an instructional coach and community leader. The Headteacher's Handbook also features insights from influential voices such as Dr Kulvarn Atwal, Mary Myatt, Remi Atoyebi, Paul Dix, and Christalla Jamil.

7) Being the CEO - Michael Pain

This read is best for individuals and/or trust CEOs who want to understand what skills they may need to hone to improve their leadership skills.

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An image of a book cover on a purple background. The book in question is also the seventh book on the list - "Being the CEO" by Michael Pain

In this book, Founder of Forum Strategy Michael Pain, offers his experience as a startup owner to sector leader to shed light on a CEO's most in-demand skills. A role many consider the most influential role in an organisation. Michael focuses on six dimensions he deems are essential for success and growth as a CEO. 

8) Talent Architects: How to Make Your School a Great Place to Work - Mandy Coalter

A book for those looking to tackle teacher workload and improve staff retention, performance and engagement. 

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An image of a book cover on a purple background. The book in question is also the eight book on the list - "Talent Architects: How to Make Your School a Great Place to Work" by Mandy Coalter

Mandy Coalter uses her vast HR experience across the education sector to help you create a celebrated workplace. Focusing on four pillars of people leadership, Mandy suggests fresh and practical new ideas and opportunities to strengthen your school and teachers, better equipping them to support their pupils.

9)  Imperfect Leadership: A Book for Leaders Who Know They Don’t Know It All - Steve Munby

Have you ever wondered whether or not a successful leader is born or made? 

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An image of a book cover on a purple background. The book in question is also the ninth book on the list - "Imperfect Leadership: A Book for Leaders Who Know They Don’t Know It All" by Steve Munby

In Steve Munby's latest book, the reader is invited to learn from Steve's leadership journey, including the highs, the lows and the trial and error that comes with such a role. Through his lived experience, he explores the argument that good leaders are self-aware of their imperfections. Why? Steve argues that by recognising one's imperfections, a leader is more open to learning how to become a good leader; this includes knowing the importance of asking for help. It's useful to note this work also includes edited highlights of the 12 keynote speeches by Steve delivered to school leaders.

10) The Juggling Act: How to Juggle Leadership and Life - Toby Salt

For those school leaders who're looking to find a balance in their role, The Juggling Act is your new go-to guide.

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An image of a book cover on a purple background. The book in question is also the tenth book on the list of books on school leadership - "The Juggling Act: How to Juggle Leadership and Life" by Toby Salt

As a leader, you're often pulled in various directions at all times, professionally and personally. The Juggling Act provides simple and straightforward advice on managing the different areas of your life without burning yourself out. Professor Toby Salt shares his lived experience with the reader to further explore how he juggled high-level stress-induced roles with a large family, and you can too. 

Evidence-Driven School Improvement E-book by Edurio 

Bonus Resource! This piece is best for those who want to use data to improve their school. 

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In the image, there's a screenshot of the cover of one of Edurio's reports, titled "Evidence-driven school improvement". The cover features a green background with a centered illustration of a group of kids standing in front of a school.

We created this publication to serve as a guide for using non-academic data for school leaders by providing a set of tools for gathering the right data, making evidence actionable, and establishing a culture of collaborative inquiry. You can download your copy of Evidence-Driven School Improvement here.  

February 15, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Series: Race and Ethnicity

This blog is part of our equality, diversity and inclusion blog series where we look deeper into some of the data behind our EDI report. In this post we will be further examining our findings on the experience of people with different ethnicities in schools.

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February 10, 2022Comments are off for this post.

5 Components of a Strong Trust

As more schools become academies and academy trusts consolidate, both the government and the public are making more and more references to “strong trusts”. However, the definition of a strong trust is loose. In this post, we reflect on how previous findings from our survey's analysis can help identify areas of improvement in your trust.

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February 2, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Staff Wellbeing Tips for COVID-19 Absences

As the Omicron wave of COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our communities and schools, Edurio provides 3 tips to promote staff wellbeing.

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January 28, 2022Comments are off for this post.

How to Avoid Teacher Burnout and Support their Mental Health

In recent years, in no small part due to the ongoing pandemic, mental health and wellbeing have been brought to the forefront of discussion within education.

In this post, we look at how teachers and school leaders can learn to support teacher burnout.

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January 11, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Looking Back on the Impact of Our EDI Survey

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This infographic features a purple background with 3 white boxes. Each box highlights three motives for starting an EDI survey.

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January 5, 2022Comments are off for this post.

Findings from the Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Review

In recent years, the mental wellbeing of children and young adults has been an area of increasing concern, compounded by the onset of the global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and school closures. 

Children in a classroom are in school uniforms, sitting at their desks and raising their hands towards their teacher.

Our Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Report summarises the pupil experiences from 45,000+ students across 165 schools between May and July in 2021 to help us understand more about how our pupils feel. With a focus on providing a high-level summary of some of the learnings about:

  • Overall health and emotional wellbeing 
  • Safeguarding 
  • Pupil workload 

Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

In this series of blogs, we’ll be covering our key findings from the report, with this first post focusing on overall health and emotional pupil wellbeing. 

How Do Students Feel Overall? 

Previous research from Public Health England and NAHT has demonstrated that “pupils with better health and wellbeing are likely to achieve better academically.” It is, therefore, no surprise that understanding pupil wellbeing and how to support it is a high priority for everyone in education. 

Our review found that overall, pupils are pleased with their schooling, which is reassuring generally but especially considering COVID-19. For example, 65% of pupils are happy to be studying at their school!


Yet on the other hand, ​one in ten are not. In addition to this, when we asked our respondents “Overall, how do you feel lately?” fewer than half of students (47%) reported that they have been feeling well, with 23% pupils saying overall they have not felt very well or not felt well at all. 

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Image of a graph from the Edurio Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Review. 
The heading of the graph says: Figure 1: Overall, how do you feel lately? 
Underneath the heading, there is a paragraph which says: 
Across all pupils surveyed, fewer than half (47%) report that they have been feeling well lately, and a quarter (23%) report they have not felt very well or not felt well at all. 
To the right hand side there is the graph which states 20% of pupils feel very well, 27% feel quite well, 29% feel moderately well, 15% feel not very well and 8% feel not well at all.

What appears to be affecting pupil wellbeing? Our findings uncovered the following issues which appeared to affect and lower pupil’s overall wellbeing:

  • Stress
  • Overworking
  • Sleep quality 

Is Stress Affecting Pupil Wellbeing? 

INFOGRAPHIC 
In this infographic, there is a title which says Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Report 2021. 
Below, there is a green box with the following written within in: 
Almost half of pupils (46%) report that they often felt stressed, whilst just a quarter (27%) report feeling stressed rarely or never.

Almost half of pupils (46%) report that they often felt stressed, whilst just a quarter (27%) report feeling stressed rarely or never.

According to pupil comments, the major factor affecting stress appeared to be school-related stressors including exams, mocks, homework and teachers. Surprisingly, COVID/lockdown was only mentioned 9 times across all 258 comments collected on the issue. 

Out of the 38% of comments citing school as a factor of their stress, the reasons they gave included:

“As there is a lot of work and homework that I have to complete with a short space of time.”

“School has really high expectations for the students. As they should but homework can be very stressful.”

Are Sleep Issues Causing Students to Suffer?

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In this image there is a circle green around 70% and purple for the other 30%. The inside of the circle is empty and contains the following sentence: 
Four in ten pupils report that they have slept well lately, and three in ten pupils report that they have slept badly.
Underneath, there is a title which says Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Report 2021.

Four in ten pupils report that they have slept well lately, and three in ten pupils report that they have slept badly.

Pupil comments mention a range of factors, from school-related stress and ongoing issues with sleep to short term disruptions affecting them at the time of the survey. However, for some pupils, sleeping badly is less of a concern.

The largest factor which affected pupils' sleep in our report was family and home-related issues, which accounted for 10% of comments related to sleep quality. When talking about issues related to family relationships and home conditions pupils said the following:

“We have building work at home so it is very dusty and messy.” 

“My siblings keep me up at night”

8% of pupils stated school-related issues as the reason they don’t sleep well. With some pupils commenting, “I find it hard to sleep due to stress from school.” or “School is so stressful and when you are alone in your room at night, your whole existence goes through your head and you overthink even little things. I have had nights where I have cried myself to sleep”

How Does Overworking Affect Students?

 

INFOGRAPHIC 
In this infographic, there is a title which says Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Report 2021. 
Underneath, there is a graph which illustrates 43% state that they feel overworked quite or very often, whilst only 3 in 10 (28%) state they feel overworked rarely or never.

When asked 'How often have you felt overworked lately?', more pupils stated feel overworked than not; 43% state that they feel overworked quite or very often, whilst only 3 in 10 (28%) state they feel overworked rarely or never.

Not surprisingly, there is a notable difference in the proportion of students feeling overworked based on how many hours of homework they do per day. For those doing more than 2 hours, 55% feel overworked; for those doing less than 2 hours, the proportion is 41%.

The difference is larger when comparing between pupils with varying levels of extra responsibility. Less than one third (30%) of pupils with no extra responsibilities outside of school feel overworked; this rises to two (65%) among pupils with a lot of extra responsibilities.

What Can Your Trust Learn From Edurio’s Insights? 

Overall, our report provides an insight for educators into how children in England have been feeling during an intense period of COVID-19 and national restrictions. The pandemic brought the importance of mental health and wellbeing to the forefront of thinking and provides us with the opportunity to understand where students may need the most support. 

Within our report, we also provide an understanding of how these findings compare to others, allowing school leaders to see which issues may have been exacerbated by the pandemic. For example, former Head of Research at Ofsted, Daniel Muijs compared the results to a similar survey, the Big Ask’ report from Children’s Commissioner, 2021 which also found 1 in 5 respondents reported mental health concerns. Muijs added that  the results from our survey were concerning as they mean in a classroom of 25 up to 5 pupils are not feeling well.  

The report is not a reason for despair among school leaders. Muijs reflects that the emphasis in pupil comments on school-related factors may be due to the questionnaire relating primarily to school and being completed within a school context. Muijs’ final comment goes on to remark that pastoral support is well-established, and wellbeing is a key concern in most schools, as witnessed by the interest in this survey from them. On the other hand, the report does also include evidence of increased stress during key moments in the school life, suggesting there are issues school leaders may be able to anticipate as pupils move through the school system.


Get a free copy of our Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Review report by filling out the form below.

October 25, 2021Comments are off for this post.

What Can a Diversity Survey Tell You about Your School?

It is often said "that it takes a village to raise a child." This phrase can be used to illustrate how a child's development and growth depends on more than just their parents/carers, it also includes family friends, neighbours and schools. Yet, a variety of people with different characteristics make up a village, and this can raise an interesting concept about the different types of people needed during a child's development. 

You can meet people from different backgrounds in any community, with different physical abilities and qualities, appearances, life and work experiences, and other commitments. Diversity reflects this and can be found throughout England's schools, but unfortunately, it isn't always reflected in its staff members.


For instance, in our 2021 equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) report, we found that less than half (43%) of staff felt their workplace was diverse, and fewer still (36%) felt that the diversity of the staff body reflects that of their students.

Each individual brings their own unique background to their workplace and experiences the workplace in their unique way. In this article, we'll be looking at how an equality, diversity and inclusion survey can help your trust and school become more aware of its makeup and subsequent needs, and share some findings from our 2021 equality, diversity and inclusion report.

Why Do We Need Diversity in Education?
What Has Edurio Learnt about England's School Environment
Are UK School Leaders Diverse?
How to Build More Equal, Diverse and Inclusive Culture in Schools
How to Use a Questionnaire in Your School Community
Edurio’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Survey

Why Do We Need Diversity in Education?

Education is a vital part of a society's growth and progress, so it makes sense that our schools should reflect the diversity of our communities. Our classrooms don't exist in a vacuum outside of our society. The learning experience our young people receive can help provide an understanding of 'the other', which can help tackle racial discord and even reduce bullying.

For example, studies show when lesson plans reflect the students and their varied backgrounds, they develop a deeper knowledge of a subject. This equips learners with a broader understanding and often leads to students working harder and achieving more. 

School child with long brown hair sitting in a white shirt reading a book.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that when lesson plans reflect the students and their varied backgrounds, they enrich their overall learning, promoting creativity and higher achievements.

Photo by Rodolfo Quirós from Pexels

With this evidence to hand, it may make sense that we would want our children to see evidence of equality, diversity, and inclusion in their learning environment regularly. From the moment young people enter a school, its decoration, lessons, and even the school staff and leaders all provide an opportunity to promote a diverse environment. A diverse school can provide a richer, more profound education, a more balanced view of the content covered, improve staff mental health, wellbeing and satisfaction, and enhance creativity, leading to better decision making and problem-solving. Overall, by fully utilising the diversity of your society, the more resilient, both academically and emotionally, your school can be. 

Of course, representing diversity isn't just a box-ticking exercise or a project to make you Of course, representing diversity isn't just a box-ticking exercise or a project to make you feel like you're doing something. While the 2010 Equality Act stands to protect those with protected characteristics from discrimination, " education remains one of the best tools we have to tackle inequality and discrimination." So, without introducing different cultures, races and gender early on in life or as a society, The Guardian warns that we "may risk a lack of intellectual growth" or, as the EU Business School puts it, we may "fail to combat prejudice."

What Has Edurio Learnt about England’s School Environment?

Here at Edurio, earlier in 2021, we collected the largest data set on EDI issues within schools to date to produce a national benchmark reflecting the opinions of over 16,500 staff members from 380 schools who took part between January-March 2021. A major focus of this analysis reflected how different staff groups (across a range of demographic and other characteristics) experience life in the school and trust structure.

This review allowed us to explore day to day workplace experiences, recruitment experiences and career development opportunities between different staff groups across the country. In addition to responding to general questions about workplace experience, respondents also described their identity and background based on protected characteristics such as age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, gender and sexual orientation. Therefore, our data provided an overview of how those with different protected characteristics saw equality, diversity and inclusion across various elements of school life.

At the start of this article, we mentioned that many in the education industry report a gap in representation between diverse students compared to their leadership teams. In our EDI 2021 report, we also highlight this gap in representation between England's staff. Most staff we surveyed said that they "do not feel the diversity of their workforce reflects its student bodies' protected characteristics." With others even voicing why they think their leadership teams lack diversity, "The position of Deputy Head was recently advertised, and the person spec requires a first-class degree. I would be concerned that this could hinder the diversity of the applicants." Data such as this is vital to understand how our schools can become more diverse because it gives a voice to those experiencing school life day in and day out. 

Are UK School Leaders Diverse?

Therefore, if advocating diversity creates a thriving community and the best start in life for our children, it makes sense that the makeup of our school staff should represent the variety of people it educates. TES reported that Forum Strategy mirrored this sentiment, asserting that school leadership teams should reflect the diversity of the pupils they serve. 

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev from Pexels

However, as it stands, UK schools often don't reflect this. Our 2021 EDI report found that less than half (43%) of teachers think their workplace is diverse, and only 28% think their leadership is. 

Not only this, but a report from UCL Institute of Education (IOE) found that 46% of all schools in England have no Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) teachers, and even in ethnically diverse schools, BAME teachers are underrepresented in senior leadership teams. So, unfortunately, while our schools recognise that equality, diversity and inclusion are helpful for our education sector, we do not see this in reality.

How to Build More Equal, Diverse and Inclusive Cultures in Schools

So, if you recognise that your school lacks diversity, you may want to consider creating an So, if you recognise that your school lacks diversity, you may want to consider creating an action plan to address this. As this is a significant undertaking, we’ve compiled a few steps school trusts can take towards this, curated from the American Society of Mechanical EngineersForbes - Heidi Lynne KurterKazooProdigy and Drexel

  • Hiring diverse members of staff 
  • Using unconscious bias training for recruiting 
  • Conducting diversity training - especially leaders
  • Supporting professional development opportunities 
  • Celebrating employee differences
  • Listening to employees and students to understand their backgrounds
  • Holding more-effective meetings
  • Creating diverse and anti-discriminatory school policies 
  • Communicating goals and measuring progress

At Edurio we also host roundtables related to our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Survey which allows trust experts to gather together to share frustrations, learn from each other and collaborate across trusts to further explore how to tackle such issues these surveys raise within their trust and school.

Of course, this template only demonstrates some steps your trust or school can take towards building a more diverse school as this list is ever-growing.

If you're trying to champion diversity within your trust or school, it's useful to remember that every school is unique, and your diversity initiative needs to be unique as well. As Forbes puts it, diversity can't be a copy and paste exercise which is taken to each school without any personalisation. Diversity within a school needs to reflect schools' individual needs. Harvard Business Review suggests you listen to your employees to see how staff feel within your school to determine your diversity journey. By taking the time to engage with your staff and actively listen, you're showing your staff that diversity is taken seriously.  

How can you listen to employees? Well, to better understand your employee's experience, there are many things trusts and school leaders can commit to, like holding virtual focus groups, hosting peer-to-peer sharingholding town hall-style meetings or even launching an employee survey

How to Use a Questionnaire in Your School Community

Surveys can be a great way to listen to your school's staff as they allow employees to have a voice, increase employee engagement, enable trusts to monitor how staff feel, lead to direct organisation growth and help achieve benchmark results.

By giving your members of staff a voice, you're able to assess the needs of your school(s)' community truly. Using a survey can provide you with many insights to help you understand what needs to build a more diverse, equal and inclusive workplace.

INFOGRAHPIC 
"Using a Questionnaire in Your School" 
Infographic which explains how to use a questionnaire in your school community using the same information as the bullet points above.

Once you've held a survey amongst your school(s) and collected all the necessary data, your survey results can be used to form an action plan. By using the experiences of your staff, you're able to identify the areas of improvement that are important to your unique school environment. Ultimately, this means when you set equality, diversity and inclusion policies, you're not copying and pasting actions from a universal playbook but creating a meaningful and thought-out commitment to creating a diverse environment that meets the needs of that environment. For instance, it's easier to know which steps your school can take toward creating a more diverse environment with personalised information.

As one respondent shared:

"Different backgrounds and identities are only addressed during various diversity weeks and are not part of the everyday running of the school. I think staff need more training on how to make inclusion a part of their everyday practice."

Edurio EDI Report 2021

As a leader, this type of feedback helps highlight the need for long-goal commitments to create a diverse environment. 

Ultimately, the type of feedback generated in a survey allows trust and school leaders to reach a common understanding of the situation. Staff and leadership can move forward together with clear important values in relation to their concerns.

Edurio’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Survey

If you’re interested in learning more about a survey that can help you understand how staff with different backgrounds, identities, experiences, and needs feel in your school or trust, please get in touch with our team today. 

Edurio has helped over 1500 schools in the UK and internationally to analyse stakeholder feedback. We partner with leading school groups and academic institutions to design pupil, parent and staff survey instruments that help school leaders make better decisions.

Our survey provides insights on equality, diversity and inclusion measures and explores the quality of your organisation’s recruitment and advancement processes. This survey will help you develop a sustainable action plan that promotes equality, diversity and inclusion across your organisation.


Fill in the form below to find out how Edurio could help improve equality, diversity and inclusion in your school/trust.

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 teacher 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. 

----------------------

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.