School leader support in Wales gives much needed boost to mental health and wellbeing

Emotional and practical support for senior leaders in Welsh schools is proving a lifeline to school leadership teams across the country.

News 19 October 2021 / 2 mins read

It was like a little stepping stone, a refuge. It wasn’t fluffy, it was real, practical advice that you could put into action.
Austin Bowers, primary school head teacher, North Wales

The school leader service, run by Education Support and funded by Welsh Government, is making a positive, practical difference to senior staff wellbeing at a time when those working in the sector are facing more pressures than ever.

Education Support’s free and confidential services offer group or individual support. The groups, run by professional facilitators, comprise of six online sessions with a small number of peers.
Open to any Head teachers, deputies or assistant heads working in Welsh state schools, the service is a chance to look at current concerns and share experiences, a step away from every-day stresses and strains.

Austin Bowers, head of a primary school in Wrexham said of his experience:

“Earlier in the Pandemic, everyone was looking to head teachers within the community.

My tow float throughout this time was the school leader service. It was a safe space to share anxieties but also get some genuinely good ideas from a wider group of peer heads with a breadth of experience, a broader range that you wouldn’t normally come into contact with.”

Tracy Jones, another school leader in North Wales commented:

“The sessions helped us to coach each other a bit, coming up with solutions ourselves after being coached. Our facilitator was brilliant at helping us with that. It’s really, really valuable and you’ll be supported by peers who understand what you’re going through and be able to support them as well. We’re always making sure everyone else is ok. Put your own oxygen mask on first. It’s ok to do that and if we don’t, we should!”

Education Support’s UK research consistently shows increasing stress levels among all staff but particularly amongst senior leaders.

Faye McGuinness, Education Support’s Director of Programmes said:

“This service is designed to give you support and space in the here and now. We’d encourage anyone in a school leadership role to find out more and sign up for the service. We know stress levels are consistently high in the profession and symptoms of poor mental health are on the rise.

“Our free service not only supports your personal wellbeing, it can also improve your professional performance. It can keep you going and keep you mentally healthy throughout these difficult times and beyond.”