When there is no wind – row! | Education Support
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When there is no wind – row!

Kristian Still reflects on the positive and inspirational things happening to support teachers and others working in education with their health and wellbeing despite the structural problems the profession faces.

When discussing the health and wellbeing of education staff, it is all too easy to fall into the bear pit of criticism and complaint, of finger pointing and chastising. That is not to say that I don’t recognise and share concerns regarding funding, retention, recruitment, workload, toxic accountability processes, I do. These are very real concerns and in some cases or contexts, corrosive and debilitating constraints. However, it is also an opportunity to share messages of inspiration and gratitude.

A charity to help you

The Education Support Partnership is a unique charity, here for everybody involved in education. Championing issues of health and wellbeing, offering free, confidential help and support, from trained councillors, no matter what the problem, it is here to help you.

Committed to getting your wellbeing on the agenda, through the media, through lobbying the government or via research, it is here to help you.

Vic Goddard was right when he urged the profession to “get more involved” with the charity’s work. If not involved, at least informed.

Inspirational teachers

Simon Warburton (Assistant Principal Impington Village College) probably doesn’t know he is an inspiration to me, but he is. I met Simon, a chance meeting at a teaching conference at Berkhamsted School in 2013. I had recently taken on a Vice Principal role, in a challenging situation. A situation that was even more desperate by the time I arrived, than when I had accepted the job. Simon was more experienced, then Deputy Headteacher at Hitchin Boys School. We chatted, Simon listened and occasionally offered sensible, pragmatic advice. We closed the conversation with Simon extending the offer of listening ear, if I ever needed one moving forward. It was a gesture of kindness and support that I never forgot.

What I didn’t know was that, about the same time, Simon was wrestling with his own circumstances, “Taming the black dog…” Simon now openly discusses issues of staff wellbeing at almost every opportunity.I want others to realise that help can be found and you must not feel as though there is no solution or no prospect of ever feeling happy or unburdened again.

Mike Armiger (Trainer and Educator) is a specialist in the field of behaviour, looked after children and young people affected by trauma and mental health issues. As a teacher I received little or no training on either issues of health or wellbeing. Now as Headteacher, I am wholly under skilled to handle the student or staff issues that I have encountered. When desperately out of my depth, I have turned to Mike for advice, a signpost. He has never been too busy. He has never turned me away.

A short hat top to Geoff Barton (General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders). Thank you for ferociously promoting the profession. Call it “fashionable optimism” if you will, the troops appreciate it.


On gratitude, it was Keven Bartle (Headteacher at Canons High School), presenting at a Teaching and Learning Takeover 2015 #TLT15, that urged us to make more effort to recognise the discretionary effort of staff we work with. To show a little more gratitude. Now, as well as enhancing one’s general sense of wellbeing, those who engage in practicing gratitude report significantly greater happiness, optimism, and satisfaction with their lives and lower reported incidence of stress and depression compared to their counterparts.[1]

Keven’s presentation got me thinking and I started collecting fun ways to show my appreciation. In fact, I create a list and crossed them off as I tried them out. Every week I write a kudos nomination that gets forwarded to that member of staff. I quite often write two, or three. I still provide opportunities for students, staff and parents to easily report their gratitude towards one another –reading and sharing those messages, has to be one of the best duties of my role. In fact, it was so good, I have passed on that joyful duty to my senior colleagues.

Education is in a precarious state. I am not encouraging education or educators to turn look the other way. Quite the contrary. I am with Vic Goddard, Simon Warburton, Mike Armiger, Geoff Barton, Keven Bartle, Hannah Wilson, Anoara Mughal, Education Support Partnership, Dr Emma Kell, Amjad Ali, Jill Berry, Bukky Yusuf, Jarlath O’Brien, Georgia Holleran, Chris Moyse…

When there is no wind – row!

1Wood AM, Joseph S, Maltby, J. Gratitude predicts psychological well-being above the Big Five facets. Pers Individ Diff. 2009;46(4):443–447.

Kristian Still is a headteacher at an all-through school in Surrey. He also writes a blog on educational leadership: www.kristianstill.co.uk

How we can help

  • Help for individuals  
    Sometimes work (or just life) can be tough. A challenging student, workload pressures, personal financial worries; there are many stresses on those who work in education. That’s why we offer free, confidential help and support, no matter what your problem.
  • Help for organisations 
    Working in education is demanding so we’ve designed a set of services to help you check how your teams are coping, troubleshoot problems and boost everyone’s wellbeing.