MENTAL HEALTH

#EduFootyAid is a new charity football event with a twist: all the players are primary school teachers. It will raise money for Mind, the country’s leading mental health charity. #EduFootyAid is organised by the Striker Boy campaign, which was set up in memory of former primary school teacher Jonny Zucker who sadly took his own life in 2016. Mental health is a key concern for the education sector, particularly primary education, with rates of suicide amongst primary school teachers nearly double the national average.

The event is set to run twice a year, with the first match taking place at Lanchester Primary School in Durham on Saturday October 6th. Gates open at 12pm and kick-off is at 2pm. Every player is raising a minimum of £50 in sponsorship and overall the event hopes to raise £3,000.

Although it's for a serious cause, the event itself will be a joyful and inclusive community day, ideal for children and adults of all ages. As well as the football there will be stalls, raffles, face-painting, refreshments and all the merriment that you’d expect to find at a great British school fair. The event is free for spectators and you can register via the Striker Boy campaign Facebook page.  

Jane Davis, headteacher at Lanchester Primary School said: “We’re delighted to be hosting the first ever #EduFootyAid event. This event is a fantastic opportunity for us to engage the local community and raise money and awareness for a really important cause.”

If you would like to show your support for the teachers playing in #EduFootyAid you can make a donation on JustGiving. Any teachers who would like to play in future #EduFootyAid events should head to www.strikerboy.com to register their interest.

This event has only been made possible thanks to generous sponsorship from a number of suppliers within the education sector, namely; The TES, Think-IT, Groupcall, Animate2Educate, The Literacy Shed, Primary PE Passport, and 2Simple.

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An NUT survey in 2015 found that over half of teachers were thinking of leaving the profession in the next two years, citing ‘volume of workload’ (61%) and ‘seeking better work/life balance’ (57%) as the two top issues causing them to consider this. Research also shows that one in four teachers will quit the profession within the first five years of teaching. Yet, according to a Gallup survey in 2013, teaching was still voted number two out of the top 14 careers - beaten only by physicians.

Why did you go into teaching? Most of us came into it because we had a vision of how we thought education should be. We loved children, believed that we could affect change, had an enthusiasm for our subject, and we wanted to make a difference. Sadly, many of us have lost sight of that vision.

Consider this: On a scale of 1-10, how stressful is your job? Too often, we do not listen to our bodies, ending up with distress, which manifests physically as pain, muscle tension, injury or disease; emotionally with symptoms of jealousy, insecurity, feelings of inferiority, inability to concentrate, poor decision making, mental disorientation, depression, anxiety and so on.

In this article, I’m going to outline five steps to create delicious habits that will make you positively flourish at work!

1. Put your own oxygen mask on first

I am sure you will have heard it said, in the preflight demonstration, that if there’s an emergency, to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. The idea is that you don’t become so preoccupied with trying to help secure everyone else’s oxygen mask that you forget to secure your own. You are not going to be much help to anyone, let alone yourself, if you’re in a pre-comatose state!

Teachers and school leaders often tell me they have depleted themselves for the sake of others - pupils, management, staff, family, friends. It’s important to take the time and care to secure your oxygen mask, then when the challenges of school life come hurtling towards you, you will have some foundations with which to deal with them.

2. Eat a healthy, balanced diet

Drink water throughout the day. By staying hydrated you'll be taking care of your most basic needs first. Water is also essential for cleansing the body, so try to drink at least four to six glasses a day.

Cut down on all refined and processed foods, sugar, fried fatty foods, additives and all stimulants like tea, coffee and alcohol. Instead, eat more whole grains, vegetables, fruit, whole wheat pasta, seafood, free range/organic poultry and dairy products. Make sure to eat enough to ensure your blood sugar isn't crashing. Have healthy snacks around, especially when you are ruled by your school breaks and busy schedules.

3. Start an exercise programme  

Walking, running, swimming, aerobics, dancing or yoga. Exercise regularly at least twice a week. There’s a lot of research out there that indicates the better shape you are, the easier you will find it to handle stress.

4. Take time off from the digital screens

While screens may feel relaxing, and allow you to turn "off", try and find a sans-screen activity to truly take time for yourself. Skip the TV and enact even the smallest self-care rituals, like:

  • A bath
  • Time to clean and moisturise your face
  • Legs up the wall with eyes covered for 5-10 minutes
  • A five-minute foot massage
  • Listening to relaxing music with a cup of tea
  • Journaling

5. Say “NO!”

This is the hardest word for a teacher to say! Most of us are kind and caring individuals, high achievers and hugely diligent. We teach because we want to make a difference, and the word ‘no’ is so hard to say. But we MUST say it if we are to survive in this culture of an ever-increasing workload. Try saying: ‘Not now’, and then give a future time frame.

Take Nottingham’s Education Improvement Board as an example. They have come up with their own fair workload charter. In brief, the charter defines what ‘reasonable’ means in terms of the additional hours teachers are expected to work beyond directed time each day. They say that school policies should be deliverable within no more than an additional two hours a day beyond directed time for teachers (and three hours a day for those with leadership responsibilities).

Schools adopting the charter receive the Education Improvement Board fair workload logo to use on their adverts and publicity. This reassures potential applicants about the workload demands that will be placed on them in choosing a charter school over one that hasn't adopted it. Read more about the charter at: www.schoolsimprovement.net/what-exactly-is-a-reasonable-teacher-workload.

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With the exponential rise of technology, the popularity of social media platforms and the ubiquity of smart devices, ‘online health and safety’ has never been more important. The benefits of edtech are enormous, from individualised learning and mixed realities, to the instant global connectivity that social media provides. But we need to balance these rewards by addressing the risks of being online - from cyberbullying and loss of privacy, to concerns around the mental health of social media users. So how should schools go about ensuring this?

I write this at the start of April, whilst enjoying a view some may call “paradise”: sat on Long Beach, in Pulau Perhentian Kecil, with the South China Sea lapping up against my toes. It’s been a well-needed ‘switch off’ after the last three-to-six months (the last three in particular). The added benefit of five days without working WiFi was not lost on me. Whilst naturally there were those who worried about my radio silence, being blissfully ignorant of literally everything going on outside of a 1km stretch of beach has been quite refreshing! So how has this benefited me as an international educator?

Loneliness is an increasingly detrimental issue that strikes the most vulnerable groups in society the hardest, with children and seniors being especially susceptible. Yet, it spares no one. 45% of British people report sometimes feeling lonely, and as many as 18% feel lonely all the time. Loneliness is not only an issue of scale; it has also been labelled as being worse for us than obesity and physical inactivity, having negative effects on both mental and physical health. So what do school communities need to know to help tackle this issue?

When it comes to stress, anxiety and worries, our natural instinct is to protect children from them; why? It’s a natural process we need to go through, and an important life skill we need to be able to manage. If we don’t fail, we don’t learn. Part of failing is feeling sad; part of feeling sad is knowing how we can move on and be positive again. It’s important for children to experience a healthy amount of stress and anxiety. If they don’t experience it, how will they learn to manage it?

Is the answer to community reinvention sitting at a school desk? In the year that the UK has appointed the first ‘minister for loneliness’, it seems that perhaps we - as members of a community - need to take some responsibility for anyone struggling within our own locality. Let’s use retirement as an example: it is often seen as a time of happiness, ‘me time’, starting new hobbies, however many issues can hamper the enjoyment - poor health, lack of money, bereavement, distant families, inadequate support and, subsequently, loneliness.

An experienced Drama teacher, Drew Morris will soon become assistant head Aureus School in Didcot, Oxfordshire. Here, he discusses self-doubt, leadership tactics, celebrating your colleagues’ successes, and the Way of the Beaver...

I ask my friends “How are you feeling?” almost everyday. Not because I have to, but because I need to! Our lives are busy, complex and difficult, and to pass our friends by without a simple question would be unfriendly!

Former BESA chair of edtech Maria Brosnan is on a mission to boost teacher wellbeing. Here, she shares her inspiration, her concerns about one SLT role in particular, and her three-step method for wellbeing success.

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