The 69 Questions School Leaders Should Ask Staff

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Could staff feedback transform wellbeing in your school?

Bruce Greig has been a school governor since 2011 and a few years ago, he asked his headteacher to run a staff wellbeing survey at his school as it hadn’t been done before. This is what he learned about the process.

Reform wellbeing with a simple survey

The survey kicked off a process which led to a complete transformation of our school staff culture. We learned things from the short survey which we had never heard from speaking to staff on learning walks, or from hearing teachers present to us at governor meetings.

We now do the same survey every year and I think that every school should do the same. In fact, I have become so passionate about the idea, I set up a process for conducting staff wellbeing surveys for schools.

School Staff Surveys uses the same questions as the UK Civil Service People Survey, adapted slightly for schools. These questions are used throughout the Civil Service from the Department for Education to the Intellectual Property Office. They are very robust and cover a wide range of topics without being overwhelming for those having to answer them. There are 69 questions covering areas on leadership, organisational culture, workload and so on.

Graphs from School Staff Surveys

What do staff really think?

Here is an example of some of my favourite questions from the survey and the unique insights they reveal.

If a teacher disagreed with the statement above on performance, would you hear about it from them? Almost certainly not. But, according to the last OECD TALIS survey on this topic (see figure 5.13), over 50% of teachers in England consider their appraisal to be a mere bureaucratic exercise. Do you know what your staff perceptions are about appraisal and other areas of school life?

There is an occupational hazard of being a strong leader: people sometimes get the impression it is your way or the highway, but they won’t say that directly to you! Schools should want their staff to be clear about what best practice looks like, but also be comfortable challenging those ideas from time to time. In my experience as a governor, it is really hard to create a school staff culture where the challenge is welcomed. Do you have that culture in your school?

Asking people about their working environment is a very simple, yet revealing question; which is hard to answer outside of an anonymous survey. Every school wants to grow and develop staff, but are they going to stick around for that journey?

Is your school “a great place to work?” is a “Net Promoter Score” question for gauging staff wellbeing. You’ve probably received the Net Promoter Score question from companies you have bought from, especially online companies. The question is simply “Would you recommend us to friends and family?”. Businesses rely on this simple question as a guide to how well they are serving their customers. So, if you want to recruit the best teachers, you need to ask your existing teachers to speak highly of your school as the best place to work.

Implementing the survey in school

There are another 65 questions in the survey and these questions are all in the public domain – you don’t have to use a paid-for service like this to ask your staff these questions. You could put them into a Google Form or Survey Monkey. However, we recommend paying to use this service because it saves your admin staff a lot of time setting up and administering the survey. Schools will receive well-formatted graphs which can be exported and shared. 

With teacher workload and wellbeing an important focus in the education sector, you would be surprised to discover that most schools are not currently doing regular staff surveys. Bruce Greig is on a mission to change that and make it as easy as possible for every school to run a staff wellbeing survey. If you’d like to try this at your school, get in touch with him by sending an email to bruce@schoolstaffsurveys.com or sign yourself up online. (There is no cost or commitment to set up an account. If you run a survey, it costs £100 and the first one is half price at £50)

About the author: Bruce Greig is an entrepreneur and school governor. He served as Chair of Governors through two Ofsted inspections and four headteachers. He set up School Staff Surveys after discovering how enlightening an anonymous staff survey can be school improvement and decided to make it easy for every school to conduct them.

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Holly Gardner

Holly Gardner is TT Editor, as well as a Freelance Book Publisher and TEFL teacher. She has been working with @TeacherToolkit for 5 years - since she published his first book in her role as Senior Commissioning Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing. Since then, she left her day job, moved to Madrid and trained as an English teacher. She is now a key member of the TT team, continues to teach english and edit books, and also spends her time learning spanish and searching for the best tortilla de patata! You can follow her at @HollyEditTeach.