Question: Shall we write a wellbeing policy? Response: No! No! No!

img_1148I’ve written a few posts on wellbeing since starting this blog.  I’ve talked about my own journey to support my own wellbeing and how I’ve shared this with others.  I’ve written about how I approached the job of planning our school’s calendar for this academic year with wellbeing and workload in mind.  I’ve discussed whether Twitter really does support a healthy work-life balance (conclusion being it can do – as long as you can also switch off!).

Wellbeing is an important concept and something I 100% agree should be at the forefront of our discussions about education.  The wellbeing of our students and staff today and for the future should be at the heart of what we do.  Qualifications and wages are not enough for a fulfilled life for anyone.  Yet despite this, I am (albeit silently in my head) shouting down the suggestion I’ve seen recently that schools should have a wellbeing policy. I strongly believe a policy is the last thing we need to support wellbeing and here’s why…

Policies are written to be posted on a school website to be make things transparent for parents and carers (eg admissions policies), to control what people do (eg feedback policies), to provide checklists to make sure everyone is following what is being asked of them (eg education visits policies), to share how we deal with issues (eg anti-bullying policies) and to strive for equality of opportunity (eg Pupil Premium policies).  They are an important part of the operational aspects of running a school and without them there would be confusion and conflict.

But wellbeing isn’t an operational aspect of running a school.  It’s not a list of ‘stuff’ that everyone needs to tick off and then we can say we’ve ‘done’ wellbeing.  It’s not something you can regulate or control for.  It’s not something that can be written down and monitored. It’s not a policy and by turning it into such you risk it becoming tokenistic and something else that is ‘done’ in a school.

Wellbeing is about vision and values and culture. It should inform your policies and the strategic and operational decisions in your school – everything in your school should support the wellbeing of its staff and students. From curriculum decisions (impacting the future economic wellbeing of your students) to how teachers mark and plan and teach (impacting their workload and wellbeing) to how your pastoral team run interventions when students are presenting signs of anxiety (impacting their mental wellbeing) to how line managers support staff following time off (impacting their physical and emotional wellbeing), wellbeing should underpin your ‘policies’ and ‘procedures’ – not be another one.  I may even go so far as to suggest writing a wellbeing policy is a sign wellbeing isn’t being taken seriously by a school if they need a document to remind people to look after each other.

Wellbeing doesn’t need a policy of its own – it’s far bigger than that.  Wellbeing must underpin school culture, vision and values, the operational policies and procedures and every single decision we make in schools.  The wellbeing of our students and staff today and for the future is at the heart of everything we do.  And it’s because of this my answer to the question ‘shall we write a wellbeing policy?’ will remain ‘No! No! No!’

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