A Bristol-based charity supporting staff and students in schools
On top of heavy teaching loads, delivering the national curriculum, and meeting parental demands, members of school staff are increasingly expected to respond to student’s emotional needs. The impact of this on teachers is clearly felt but not always recognised or addressed. Openmind.ed’s aim is to respond to this impact and support staff and students working in a complex institution. We do this by creating safe spaces for teaching staff and/or students to express and reflect on the impact of school life.
The high attrition rate for teachers, alongside low staff morale, has become a national concern and lead to an OFSTED survey of teachers’ well-being across 2,000 schools in 2019. In response, teachers cited excessive working hours, more time spent out of the classroom attending to school marking and administration, and endless meetings, as being significant factors affecting their job satisfaction.
Furthermore, the behaviour of students, often at a low-level in the classroom, alongside the unrealistic expectations and demands from parents, is another source of concern. Teachers have limited training in how to respond to these particular demands and little time and space within the school curriculum for this to be addressed within a supportive
A recent OECD survey conducted in 48 countries looking at teachers and school leaders revealed that teachers in the UK are working longer days than in any other country apart from Japan.
Our CEO, Dr Clare Short, has worked within the NHS child and adolescent mental health services for 25 years and, until her retirement in 2019, was a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in CAMHS North Bristol. She has long recognised the increasing need to respond to the increasing emotional demands on staff. Openmind.ed aims to meet these needs.
We aim to create opportunities to pause and share experiences that allow us to create a connection with each other. By drawing attention to what is often overlooked in the ‘busyness’ of school life, we allow what is present but has hitherto been unacknowledged to emerge. It is as though the present expands making space for us.
It is through such connections and relationship-building that we are able to develop
resilience, which seems in our experience to be as much about the capacity of the
community or team as it is about the individual. OFSTED, when addressing the well-being of school staff through the What Works Centre for Wellbeing framework, refers to occupational well-being as an eco-system which is shaped by the individual as well as collective relationships. Our own experience, working extensively in mental health, is that when we are connected with ourselves and those around us we are most likely to “be well”, and our experience of being well likewise influences the wellness of those around us.