Building consideration for mental health and well-being into the planning process for education

stressed and worried by Bhernandez.

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I’ve been giving a lot of thought to a draft implementation strategy for A Curriculum for Excellence and have identified a key element in its success to be a strong focus on maintaining and supporting the mental health and well being of teachers and headteachers.

All too often people in positions such as mine can focus upon the technical elements of implementation and see it a problem to be solved through a logical project management approach.  I have to admit that on many occasions in my career as an educational leader that I have succumbed to temptation of the “grand plan” approach – which took no account of the how it impacted upon the mental health and well being of those who would have to implement the “plan”.

There can be no doubt that any curriculum innovation can bring with it significant concerns and pressures which can have a negative impact upon the health of those who work in schools.  If we add to this some of the financial pressures on public services which might come about as a consequence of the credit crisis then the potential for an explosive mix is made even more likely.

To that end I believe that a key factor to be borne in mind throughout the implementation process is how we – and I do mean we – maintain a focus upon the mental health and well being of our colleagues.

I’ve been very impressed by the Teacher Support Network and any service which offers help and support must be welcomed. But I would like to see us move that focus “upstream”, i.e. build some consideration about the impact upon mental health and well being into the planning phase – as opposed to treating the symptoms of the consequences of our plans – regardless of how unintended they might be. 

4 thoughts on “Building consideration for mental health and well-being into the planning process for education

  1. Hi

    Really glad to see this post – I think good mental health underpins so much in healthy / functioning organisations.

    I recently attended a one day conference on ’emotional intelligence’ and think that this agenda has so much to offer both staff and pupils. I am sure this is not a new concept to you and would be interested to know your views on how it applies in East Lothian.

    For those who havent come across it the basic premise is that intelligence comes in different formats, one of which is an emotional intelligence, and this can be learnt and developed like other capabilities. To be emotionally intelligent one has to strive to develop an understanding of yourself, your goals, intentions, responses, behaviour and all. You also need to develop an understanding of others, and their feelings.

    Daniel Goleman is credited as the person who developed the concepts behind emotional inteligence, which he refers to as EQ. He identified the five ‘domains’ of EQ as:

    Knowing your emotions.
    Managing your own emotions.
    Motivating yourself.
    Recognising and understanding other people’s emotions.
    Managing relationships, ie., managing the emotions of others

    The key point for me at the conference I attended was that emotional intelligence is not just a by product of a successful learner / organisation it underpins that success. Another key point for me from the conference chimes with my own professional background as a community psychiatric nurse – that emotioanl intelligence like good mental health can’t be given to you yo have to develop / maintain it for yourself. However, the environments we live and work in (ie. the reactions of others) contribute greatly to our opportunites for good mental health and for emotional learning.

    For many children, develping emotional intelligence, will happen as the by product of being brought up in loving families with good parenting skills and extended support. It will be developed at schools where they feel welcome, involved and inspired and by friends who respect and trust them.
    For others the home environment will not offer so many opportunities to develop emotional intelligence- the question in my mind is what difference will the curriculum for excellence make to these children who are coming into school with a low EQ. Will it give the opportunities learn about and manage their own emotions, will it provide oportunities to learn the skills of self motivation. Will it help them to recognise and understand other people emotions, and will it provide opportunities to deal with the success and failures involved in realtionship building.
    An emotionally intelligent school would require emotionally intelligent teachers. Maybe its time to reflect on what staff need to develop their own emotional intelligence

  2. St Francis and Forthview Primaries in Edinburgh have been creating a curriculum in Emotional Literacy over the past 4 years, Steven. It’s was initially trialled in 16 schools, then 43 and is now in all Edinburgh schools and being bought by schools in other authorities. It works on the four domains you mention – self awareness, self management, empathy and relationship management. It can be seen on http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/internet/Learning/Learning_publications/CEC_creating_confident_kids.

    Maslow would show that addressing children’s emotional needs frees children to learn more as it increases their confidence, their resilience and their ability to co-operate. The programme delivers part of that but every system in our school and our whole ethos from staff welfare to partnerships with parents/carers and partner agencies is the other part.

    The good news is that the new Health and Wellbeing guidance from A Curriculum for Excellence focus strongly on this for children and young people. As leaders, we need to make sure that the mental health and emotional wellbeing of our staff (and ourselves) receives similar attention. Not easy at times of great transition like this.

  3. Don
    I am really pleased to see this topic being discussed.
    You may be interested to know that Teacher Support Scotland in partnership with Fife Council is developing an online effective practice guide on individual and organisational well-being. The work has been funded by Scottish Government because it is based on the findings of a two year pilot project we carried out with 20 schools in Fife and Renfrewshire (which was also funded by SG).
    The focus is really on organisational development and very much is focussed on creating the conditions for well-being and the roles of school leaders as well as local authorities.
    We are interested in gathering ideas from around the country so would be happy to hear from anyone with an interest in this field.
    We hope to launch the guide at the SLF in September 2009.

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