How can you reduce staff absences and enhance productivity?

English only – Article written by Sandra Taylor, Regional Development Consultant, Teacher Support

Statistics show that 2016 is likely to be a challenge for Welsh Governors. Recently released statistics for sickness absence of teachers in Wales has shown that 63% of teachers took sickness absence during 2014, a 3% increase on the year before. Not only that but the average annual number of sick-days per teacher was 11 days, compared to 4.5 days in England. In the lead up to the new school year, you may be thinking about what strategies you can implement in order to avoid this trend and ensure that your school reaches all of its targets. There are two ways of ensuring that your school culture is healthy and productive; the top-down approach, and the bottom-up approach.

The top down approach is simple; make sure that your headteacher is feeling and working at their best. Strong leadership is an easy way to inspire staff and can gain the buy-in of important stakeholders like school leadership and those vocal parents in the community. If schools are to successfully improve the work/life balance of all staff, the headteacher needs to be seen setting a positive example.

One programme that you may consider for your headteacher is Headspace. Headspace is a professional development programme for headteachers developed by Worklife Support that allows heads to share advice, problem solve, and support one another in a confidential environment. Joining a Headspace programme offers heads a space to work with colleagues as well as a skilled specialist to share learnings, frustrations, and best practice. Participants of the Programme report feeling more effective as leaders, developing skills and behaviours that impact positively when they are back in school. Headspace is a six to 12 month programme and is minimally invasive to the headteacher’s schedule.

The bottom-up strategy is, in essence, the opposite. This means “taking the temperature” of the school and its culture to identify any opportunities for improvement. By confidentially asking school staff what they think are the important elements feeding into the school culture and morale, you can collate their thoughts and concerns to identify trends. This is a thorough way of better understanding your staff without putting anyone on the spot. A thorough programme that can take on this task for you is the Staff Engagement Programme. The Staff Engagement Programme was specifically designed by Worklife Support to help schools work collaboratively with staff to create a positive working environment by securing the wellbeing of their workforce.

The programme begins by giving every member of staff a voice through the confidential, online Staff Engagement Survey. The resulting data not only highlights your school’s strengths but also supports you as the Board of Governors and the senior leadership team in identifying areas for development and inform organisational strategy. The experienced consultants will then work with your school leadership to provide flexible levels of support over a two year period. The programme can include:-

  • Two surveys, one at the beginning and end of the process to benchmark and track progress
  • Eight consultancy interventions, chosen by the senior leadership team
  • Training from a suite of modules
  • 24/7 support and guidance through an Employee Assistance Programme
  • Training of a support team
  • Introduction of the process to all staff
  • Data analysis and feedback, focusing on the different needs of staff groups
  • Advice and support on developing and sustaining an action plan
  • Provision of learning and development sessions to address any specific needs
  • A regular review of the process

The company that offers these programmes is Worklife support. From September 2015, Worklife Support will be joining forces with Recourse (the charity dedicated to all staff in Further and Higher Education) and the charity Teacher Support Cymru, to form one single charity: Education Support Partnership. Education Support Partnership will be offering a wide range of support for all education staff, not just teachers.

For more information on the support that Education Support Partnership can offer you, please contact Sandra Taylor, Welsh Regional Development Consultant at Sandra would be happy to meet with you to discuss our services in more detail. You can also visit our website