11 December, 2020
2020 has been a really tough year for everyone and nowhere can that said to be truer than in the education world. Faced with unprecedented challenges of closing schools and colleges almost completely (except for vulnerable and key worker pupils and students) for a number of months; re-opening and making significant changes - often at incredibly short notice and ever reducing budgets. Many of you have weathered the storm well and there are many stories of the efforts to keep going for the sake of the children and young people which must be applauded. It has been a time which has the potential to come at great cost to the wellbeing and mental health of staff and students alike.
As we head towards Christmas for many staff and senior leaders this will be a long overdue break; many have not taken a proper break from dealing with the changes and challenges the pandemic has brought with it. Lots of schools have implemented well being strategies; offered counselling and occupational health support; increased support and communication between colleagues and teams but our question is how are you approaching Christmas?
Are you going to be stepping into it having taken some time to address your own well being and have you been supporting yourself or are you going to slide into Christmas, desperate for a break - because you know the danger with sliding is you may just not be able to stop. We would urge you all to ensure you have mechanisms in place to support not only staff and pupils or students; but also yourselves. Too many times this year we have heard "I have to be ok"; "who else is going to do it if I don't"; "I am responsible for ….". If this resonates with you then ensure you speak out for support if you need it.
Christmas itself will be very different this year due to the restrictions but perhaps that comes with a positive - take time out while you can; rest; enjoy the things you can do and take some time to reflect on the successes of the year as well as the challenges you have faced and connect with your own support network.
As senior leaders; central teams you are there to support your schools and staff but you are employees too. When mental health is impacted this can lead to issues around developing disabilities and absence management.
It is essential that we all give ourselves permission to recognise the impact of 2020 and to take stock of the toll it has taken on our personal and professional lives. The end is in sight, 2021 brings new hope with the arrival of the vaccine, so take time to reflect. Note down all that you have achieved this year and congratulate yourself but also take time to acknowledge what you need to replenish your wellbeing.
We are here to support as we have been during the pandemic and our friend and colleague Julie Stirpe can be contacted around assistance with well being support for you or your teams.
If you need support ask - after all you have supported many people this year.