We Must Spend £s 💷 To Support Staff Wellbeing

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How can we get everyone inside and outside of education support schools spending cash on teacher wellbeing?

It frustrates me when I see anyone question how a school uses its funding, especially when the budget is spent on staff wellbeing…

Is it a waste of money?

I’ve been a champion of teacher wellbeing for many years – over 200 blogs! Whether this is a set of pens, a ‘duvet day’ or spending cash on a pepperoni pizza, whatever it is, the criticism largely comes from people who are not teachers, and those who do not take context into account.

For example, how much has been spent already? How will it be used? Does the school have a staffing problem? Is it in Special Measures? Was the wellbeing idea approved by the governors? Is there a wellbeing strategy? Is this a good use of taxpayers cash?

I could list hundreds of questions, but the above is a small example of things we wouldn’t necessarily ask ourselves if we saw a social media post (photo) containing a wellbeing package offered to a group of teaching and support staff.

Key wellbeing issues to consider

The first key message to highlight, teaching is a stressful occupation. The research is crystal clear on this.

The second point to make is that we do not have enough teachers. Anything we can do within the profession to encourage one another to stay working in our schools and colleges can only be a good thing. It’s good for your child, your relative’s child and it’s also good for mine.

However, sometimes the criticism does come from people working within schools. Perhaps the business manager who manages the purse strings, or the CEO who has forgotten what it’s like to work at the chalkface.

We all understand schools have a legal obligation. Teachers should “not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.”

We also know that a quick cup of tea or a banana to help keep your energy levels up between year 10 and 11 classes on a Thursday afternoon will make a difference to our energy levels, regardless of profession, and if it’s provided by the employer so I don’t have to worry about the basics? Even better!

This is particularly so for schools that are strapped for cash and time. Especially for teachers after a 5-period day and before one sits down to a parents evening until 8 PM. Even the easiest wellbeing ideas are hardest to implement across a school…

The evidence for spending more on teachers

Ever had to get a cheque cashed or your personal money back from a school’s finance office?

Throughout my career in teaching, I’ve worked with 9 or 10 bursars, managing budgets between £7-10 million in turnover. Three of them had to be removed from their position. One for racism and the other two for financial misconduct! No surprise that each had no school finance management training other than a few qualifications in accountancy, and little or no understanding of how schools operate.

Only ten years ago, one would struggle to find much academic research on teacher wellbeing (and its impact on outcomes) which is still pretty limited and awash with stereotypes. Today, the evidence base is growing, despite one or two still believing that ‘buying teachers a sausage roll’ to help with their wellbeing is a mismanagement of taxpayers cash.

When writing this, I thought I would dig up some old HR notes, staff attendance data, minutes, data and anything else I could grab to demonstrate the impact wellbeing can have on education. For example, staff attendance improving, pupil outcomes, a reducing recruitment budget and improved staff voice.

Staff Attendance

Instead, I’d decided to reduce my workload to offer a few financial calculations for any sceptics.

Below I’ve included a range of items I have purchased for 110 teachers in a large secondary state school – and using GLS Educational Supplies and retail chains as a benchmark for pricing (at the time of writing).

I’ve priced up how much it would cost throughout the academic year if I provided ‘teaching’ staff (with one item per week as part of a weekly CPD cycle) to make their job easier or happier to do. Rather than list 39 items to represent one week for each week of the academic year, I’ve trebled the costs. The range of items showcases the types of things provided. Note, this does not include non-tangible items such as CPD events, MA funding etc.

Wellbeing items purchased

  1. Staff hand gel = £3.59 x 110 = £395
  2. A bag of satsumas £1.35 (for 10 at Tesco) x 110 = £14
  3. Yellow highlighter pen x 110 = £4.43 (for 10) = £45
  4. Sausage rolls £1.75 (for 10 at Greggs) x 110 = £18
  5. Ice cream on a hot summer’s day £0.85 (f0r 8 pack) x 110 = £12
  6. A large bottle of water on a hot summer’s day £3 (for 6 pack at Tesco) x 110 = £54
  7. A pencil case £2.02 x 110 = £222
  8. A set of board pens £4.19 x 110 = £461
  9. A class pack of mini whiteboards and pens £28.50 (for 10) x 110 = £285
  10. Large Pizza  £16.99 (for 10) x 110 = £170
  11. Chocolate doughnut £0.80 (pack of 4) x 110 = £22
  12. End of term refreshments £13 (for a pack of 18 beers) x 110 = £78
  13. Teaching book roughly £10 each = £1,110
  • Total costs = £2,886
  • Multiplied by 3 = £8,658
  • High-end estimate = £15,000

The high-end cost works out to be approximately £136 per member of teaching staff. I appreciate that this doesn’t include costs of support staff and not all schools have a budget for this, so do take this as a benchmark for a city school that has a good budget and is placing staff wellbeing and professional development as a priority. “Investment in staff training in England varies from less than £165 per teacher” (TDT, 2019).

When we consider that my school had a CPD budget of £100K reducing to £30K in year 3, spending £15K (which I know is a huge sum of cash for any school) is still only 0.15% of the school’s overall budget. Research suggests schools “across the sector, the median spend on CPD is 0.7% of the school’s overall budget” (TDT, 2016). Just a drop in the ocean!

Wellbeing impact on standards

You can find all of the examples below articulated in the many blog posts I have written. Just look at what impact you can have from looking after your staff!

  • Staff attendance increased
  • Cover budget reduced
  • Recruitment budget reduced
  • Application field increased per job advert
  • Staff voice improved
  • Attendance to CPD improved, including SLT
  • All staff arriving on time to CPD – and participating
  • Improved CPD satisfaction
  • CPD impact in the classroom
  • Highest examination results in the 150-year history
  • Awarded Investor in People status
  • Achieved Bronze level for CPD from the Teacher Development Trust
  • and more…

We should all make a wellbeing promise to ourselves, and to each other, and try not to sabotage any efforts to improve what is a bloody stressful occupation! Let’s face it, Ofsted will ask you how you are reducing workload and managing staff wellbeing too…

Despite what critics say, when headteachers spend £,000s on their school staff wellbeing, teacher attendance and pupil outcomes increases dramatically!

8 thoughts on “We Must Spend £s 💷 To Support Staff Wellbeing

  1. Hear ,hear . I spend my own m9ney on my staff ! Mainly because it is so hard to get money spent on well being as you say. Friend at a private school just got a hamper to thank her for working through lockdown…remotely!

  2. Ross, it is worth also factoring in the cost of staff turnover which is the result of low staff wellbeing. Firstly, there is the cost of recruiting a new member of staff include the advertising costs, staff time spent on sifting CVs and interviewing candidates rather than time spend on curriculum development for example. Recruitment may take some time and therefore there will be Supply costs to cover the lack of a permanent member of staff for that role. Lastly, there will be time for the new teacher to settle into the rhythm of the school – this isn’t a financial cost but it is a productivity cost as it will take any new teacher some time to get fully up to speed. In the legal profession, the cost of replacing on legal professional has been calculated at £40k. If you worked out the costs in the teaching profession and compared them to the wellbeing budget it should make for a compelling argument for the SBM.

    1. Hello James – Yes, I could have written a thesis here. My passion comes from working in a challenging school where we spent thousands on adverts and staff wellbeing initiatives – including achieving IiP status which we secured. Our cover budget was also over £100K when I arrived to one school and it took a couple of years to reduce this. Guess what? The motivation for writing this came from an SBM!

  3. Thanks for this. Sorry what is an SBM?; As you know, our profession loves acronyms! School Business Model /Manager(Or am I way off the mark!)

  4. While I whole heartedly agree with the sentiment of the article, it does feel like we are in a sad place when whiteboard pens, highlighters and mini whiteboards are seen as wellbeing items rather than the basic tools of the job.

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