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‘Wellbeing credits’ to support happy teachers – and save money!

May 1, 2018


Rachel Naylor is Vice Principal at Little Lever School. Here, she shares the school’s unique approach to looking after the wellbeing of their staff.

One of the priorities identified for 2017/18 from our annual review with governors and pupils was staff wellbeing. It was felt the staff could not do anymore, timewise, than they were already doing and research by YouGov showed that 75% of 1,250 school and college staff and leaders surveyed had experienced “psychological, physical or behavioural symptoms because of work”- so we had to do something. Staff absenteeism was very high and we spent £90,000 on supply staff in 2016/17.

We used an external company to conduct a wellbeing survey and had face-to-face interviews with staff. The outcomes shaped the strategies we have employed this year.

We appreciated that staff in the school go above and beyond for the young people to ensure they achieve things they never thought they could, and as a result, we needed to reward them.

Wellbeing Credits

Our most successful strategy has seen all adults employed by the Academy given three, two-hour credits that they could ‘cash in’. This means they can come in at morning break, leave at lunchtime, or have time off in the middle of the day- whatever meets their needs. Every member of staff has been encouraged to use these credits and for SLT to take the lead. Some examples of how staff used the credits include:

  • To attend their child’s nativity or sports day
  • To leave early for a weekend away or have a lie in after a weekend away
  • To do some chores at home
  • To catch up on some school work but in the comfort of their own home
  • Christmas shopping

The non-negotiables with staff are they have to give us at least two weeks’ notice; can not be teaching year 10 or 11; cannot aggregate the credits; and it is at the discretion of the Headteacher. However, so far this year we have not had to decline any requests. We have also found that those difficult conversations about time off- for example to see your child’s first nativity- do not need to happen now.


We have 108 staff in school and so far 59 staff have used their credits, which equates to 193 hours of leave. The impact on staff absence has been immense. Last year’s £90,000 on supply has been reduced to £25,000 so far this year.

And yes, staff still get stressed- but now we can say, “Why don’t you take your wellbeing credit?”

Whole Education is investigating a number of ways that we can support schools to look after the wellbeing of their staff. We work with Place2Be to offer schools the programme ‘Mental Health Champions: Teachers’, which supports teachers to manage their own wellbeing and that of their young people. We also recently launched our programme Strategic HR in MATs, which helps groups of schools think about how they make themselves brilliant places to work. To learn more visit the dedicated website.


‘Independent schools are shamelessly playing the system when it comes to exam grades’

December 22, 2017



These words come from an article written for TES magazine by Whole Education’s Chair, Sir John Dunford

Private schools need to come out of their privileged corner and work with state schools to improve the entire exam system for all pupils, writes one former headteacher

The appearance of the head master of Eton College, Simon Henderson, before the Commons Education Select Committee on 28 September was a first for that school, which usually manages its public relations in ways that burnish the gloss on its image.

However, Eton received some unwelcome publicity in August, when one of its senior teachers and, a few days later, a teacher at Winchester College left their schools after revealing Pre-U (short for pre-university, an alternative to A level) examination questions before the candidates sat them. Both knew the questions because they were part of the teams of people setting the papers in subjects that they taught in school.

I applaud the use of serving teachers being involved in the setting of questions, provided that these questions are fed into a question bank from which examination papers are constructed by those who have no contact with those sitting the test. Ofqual needs to grasp the nettle on this.

The reason that this misconduct was more likely to occur in Pre-U than in, say, A level or GCSE is because Pre-U is taken by a small number of candidates from a very small range of schools, so the likelihood of the question setter being a teacher of some of the candidates is much greater.

Pre-U was launched in 2008 by a group of expensive independent schools seeking to enhance their place in the market through the appearance of exclusivity. Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) saw the opportunity of a profitable new line and worked with teachers in these schools to develop 27 old-fashioned linear examinations, which they marketed as being superior to the A levels taken by the vast majority of examination candidates in the 18-year-old age group. This perceived superiority is illusory.

The International GCSE, or IGCSE, is another old-fashioned CIE examination, based on GCE O-levels that were abolished 30 years ago. IGCSE exams are used in over 100 countries. In England, they have been taken disproportionately in independent schools, which saw them as a means by which they could market their education as more “rigorous” than in state schools.

Some state schools – particularly those that view themselves as competing with the independent sector for bright pupils – have also used the Pre-U and IGCSE.

But now that GCSE and A levels have been made harder post-Gove, the Pre-U and IGCSE may have become easier in comparison, with Richard Cairns, head of the independent Brighton College, being quoted in the Times as saying: “It has been an open secret for some time that it is easier for schools to secure more A* grades by opting for IGCSE rather than GCSE. There clearly isn’t a level playing field. You can’t blame independent schools for playing the system.”

Well, Mr Cairns, I can – and do – blame independent schools for “playing the system”. Education in England needs principled leadership as much from independent school heads as from their state school counterparts.

Part of that leadership should be fighting within the system for good examinations, not backing into a privileged independent corner and using different examinations from the vast majority of young people in the country.

‘It should be a level playing field’

The pernicious effect of league tables on independent schools is at least as great as on state schools. Indeed, it was John Clare in the Daily Telegraph who started the whole league table trend when he put independent schools into four divisions according to their examination results. With several of the most expensive schools in division four, independent school heads began to look more carefully at the small print of their contracts, just as many state school heads have had to do when their school’s examination results decline.

High-stakes accountability makes it especially important that the examination system is scrupulously fair, both within and between sectors. So there should be no opportunities for one group of schools to be able to use its independence to “play the system” – everyone should be on the same playing field.

This means that independent schools should come out of their bubble and work with their maintained school peers for the improvement of the whole system, for the benefit of all young people. Indeed, their independence can be the strongest card in this process. Precisely because they can go their own way and ignore the stupidest of the regulations placed on state schools, independent school leaders can be the canaries in the education mine, being in the best possible position to campaign for sensible government policies and high-quality examinations if their students are taking the same exams as everyone else.

Unfortunately, too few independent school heads work closely with their maintained-school peers, as my fellow Tes columnist, Bernard Trafford, did throughout his 26 years of independent school headship. If Eton and Winchester had taken the main-road examination route, instead of the Pre-U side street, they would not have suffered public embarrassment, and the A-level system would have been richer for the involvement of their knowledgeable and experienced staff.

John Dunford is chair of Whole Education, a former secondary head, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and national pupil premium champion. He has published the book The School Leadership Journey. He tweets as @johndunford

Joy or Relief? Exploring experiences of the first round of GCSE (9-1) English and maths

November 13, 2017


– by Michelle North, OCR Head of Subject Advisors 

Teaching the first group through a new qualification is daunting. It can feel like you’re leading a class through dark and mysterious uncharted territory. Much more so when you’re a head of department trying to lead your team as well. If you’re lucky enough to be a head of department in tranche 2 or 3, there’s good news – you’re not actually the first ones through – the heads of English and maths have been treading a path for you, and you can learn from them.

Whole Education and exam board OCR have been working in partnership throughout the last academic year to capture heads of English and maths’ insights as they experience the first round of delivering the new GCSEs, and are the first to have their students assessed using the new models and grading systems. We’ve been exploring how different departments have tackled the challenges by reviewing and updating how they’ve planned, delivered and assessed students during the course, as well as capturing their experiences as their students completed the final exams, and revisiting these reflections once they had the first set of results in front of them.

We’ve gained a wealth of insight from this research, and a range of recommendations, which we’ll be sharing at Whole Education’s Annual Conference on 28th February 2018. One of the most fundamental insights we discussed was this: it is different. You have much more freedom with a linear model, to plan a growth trajectory for your students. It’s not enough to take the modules from your old course, add in the new bits of content here and there, and continue with delivering your good old long term plan with minimal change for the new qualifications. You should be thinking about the opportunities to allow students to mature and develop in the course of your 2, 3 or 5 year curriculum, and planning with this trajectory in mind.

That being said, it is also clear that teachers should trust their professional judgement. Although big changes seem daunting, teachers were generally happy that where they had given thought to what they were doing before implementing significant change. When it came down to it they were generally happy they had made the right changes.

If you’re keen to find out more, make time to meet with your colleagues in your English and maths departments and ask them what they’ve learnt this summer, how they planned for success, and what they’re tweaking in their plans this year. Do take a look at your subject’s pages on the OCR website where you’ll find guidance and support for approaching the delivery of a linear course, including our teacher guide: moving from modular to linear. And if you can, join us at Whole Education’s Annual Conference where we’ll be discussing our findings in more detail.

Pass Pilot – Whole Education Project Summary

July 14, 2017

Hello! To introduce myself – I am Zara Peskett, Team Leader for Social Sciences at Shenley Brook End Secondary school in Milton Keynes. Shenley Brook End is a Whole Education school, and at the beginning of this academic year I had the opportunity to become our schools’ Whole Education champion, a role in the school whereby I help co-ordinate Whole Education projects and spread the Whole Education ethos among colleagues. This position gave me the opportunity to work further with a network of teachers on values driven education that aims to give children a Whole Education (it does what it says on the tin).

So I found myself on the Middle Leaders Programme with some like-minded people from different schools (they were lovely). The programme has two aims: 1. To consider leadership styles and skills in reflective sessions and 2. To carry out a project that furthers Whole Education values within school.

I settled on my project (action research if you like) – to introduce the Pupils Attitudes to Self and School (PASS) survey into school and to then consider the use of PASS data. The PASS survey is a way of measuring student’s attitudes to self and school in a standardised way with a national comparison (see the GL assessment website for further details – link to webpage).

The focus of the project was to identify students who have below average attitudes to self and school. Then to signpost / flag those students to various interventions within school (e.g. student services, Pupil Premium support, mentoring, Head of Year support). The aim was to improve student’s attitudes to self and school within a 6-month period. The first challenge, as silly as it sounds, was to get all of year 7 and 10 into a computer room to complete the survey. I found that once I had explained to staff what PASS actually is and the impact it would hopefully have, they were a lot more accommodating and having the support of our Team Leader for computing was key. Based on the survey we identified a cohort of 10 students who scored particularly low on the survey. I met with these students and looked at areas they had scored particularly low on. Based on our conversations, I then recommended them for interventions in school and alerted staff to their current views on self and school. For example, one year 7 student had scored particularly low on all the measures that are related to ‘self-regard as a learner’. Informed by this data and our follow up conversation, we were able to access our student services team for drop ins once a month and her form tutor recommended she could attend catch up sessions after school (she didn’t even know they were on!). Happily, I can report, that after supporting these students to access interventions within school, all 10 students PASS score improved when taking the survey for a second time. We are now starting to examine PASS data alongside traditional progress data, to give us a fuller picture of where students are and how they are progressing within school.

Now I am not saying my project was perfect! It wasn’t, but I feel I have done some good along the way, helped improve outcomes for students and learnt some things myself! The Whole Education Middle Leaders Programme is focussed throughout on developing a leadership style that is values led, I have really enjoyed this and my project has been a way of testing out my leadership skills and style in a practical way. When I reflect on my leadership journey I feel I have learnt that you have to be resilient when trying to introduce something ‘new’, be patient and keep talking with people and promoting your ideas. I feel that anything worth doing takes time and I am looking forward to embedding PASS within school further one teacher at a time – the project isn’t over!

Why Growing Great Schools?

November 7, 2016

square-banner – from David Crossley, Associate Director of Whole Education

The Whole Education Annual Conference enables school leaders at all levels from within and beyond our network to come together to share, reflect on, explore current challenges and opportunities.

As delegate after delegate has commented, the conference is a chance to step off the day-to-day treadmill, be inspired and perhaps identify a key idea or way forward for your own school or schools. It also helps form and cement relationships with colleagues from around the country.

In January, we come together at time when few expect resource levels in our schools to increase in the years ahead but most will want to continue to change and develop what they do. This raises the risk of constantly adding things to what we do already and overloading already hard pressed staff.

This challenge set the basis for this year’s theme of ‘doing thing differently’, examining how we can make the most of the staff and other resources we have and how we can ensure we focus our efforts on things that will make a real difference to the life chances of all the children and young people in our care.

On Day 1 we look forward to the inputs, reflections and learning our plenary speakers, including Becky Francis, Jonathan Neelands, Estelle Morris and Tim Brighouse, will explore with us, and the ideas and developments in practice schools and other partners will share.

On Day 2 Andy Hargreaves will lead and facilitate an involving and engaging day around the important questions about leadership, effective collaboration and how to be bold and successful. Sir David Carter will also share his thinking on our school led system and on the importance of how we support develop our most important asset our staff.

We are shaping a confident agenda that will tackle the real challenges schools are facing head on and work towards positive responses. I look forward to meeting many of you there.

Click here to read the most recent conference programme.

Click here to book your tickets.

Growing Great Schools – booking now open for 7th Annual Conference

October 20, 2016

Booking is now open for our 7th Annual Conference, taking place on Thursday 26th-Friday 27th January 2017.

The Growing Great Schools conference will focus on thinking differently to achieve more with less.  On the first day a range of inspirational speakers, including representatives from schools, will share their experiences of practical solutions and wider perspectives. The second day will be facilitated by Professor Andy Hargreaves, who will explore how to make the most of teachers’ professional capital through uplifting leadership.

Visit our booking page to see pricing and the latest agenda and don’t forget to check back here for exclusive input from conference speakers.


Partner Post | Evolve Health Mentors

March 24, 2016

Evolve Health Mentors embedded in primary schools are having a powerful effect on the whole education agenda, an independent research study has found.

A leading Professor of Physical Activity and Health is calling for greater use of Health Mentors in schools after a report found they are having a positive impact on changing the emotional wellbeing and behaviour of children.

A research study led by Professor Jim McKenna of Leeds Beckett University, has found the work of Health Mentors from social impact company’s Evolve’s Project HE:RO led to previously inattentive pupils doing better in lessons.

And by building positive relationships with both pupils and staff the mentors’ short-term benefits of boosting emotional wellbeing are likely to extend to a healthy future life and higher academic progress for all pupils.

A researcher shadowed trained Evolve staff in four schools in Keighley, West Yorkshire, for five days as they mentored children using increased physical activity and one-to-one help with learning when needed.

Professor McKenna said: “This project that builds positive relationships works better than anything like it that we’ve seen brought into schools.”

“The work of the Health Mentors is having a profound effect on the whole school environment. Although the mentors tend to work with disruptive children, that impact extends to all children. If a teacher has a class of smiling children this helps the behaviour of everyone in that class.  That improves all classroom activity.

“I would like to see the health mentoring scaled-up into more schools. That would see a notch up in children’s performance by displacing a lot of anti-social behaviour.”

Professor McKenna added:  “Any school might benefit where it has similar issues to those in the Keighley schools we visited.  That said, there are many schools that are already very well served for adult ‘presence’.  Most, however, are not well served by adults who bring an activity-oriented approach to learning.”

The Evolve programmes are active in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Bradford and Nottingham, where they are having a positive impact.

Professor McKenna explained that by improving physical activity and health and promoting positive behaviour, children learn self-control in the classroom and for the rest of their lives. “In the short-, mid- and long-term this helps enhance positive behaviours and prevents anti-social and criminal behaviours.

“If success only comes in a chaotic way, children don’t learn how to control their achievements. It is crucial that children learn how to control success in a structured way before the age of ten,” he said.

“Some boys don’t have meaningful relationships with male adults as primary school teachers are predominantly female. Few of these boys had any gifted male role models show any interest in them.  Through Project HE:RO they have access to adults they can trust. This results in emotional wellbeing; once that’s in place, then we are in business for better learning.

“The mentors are having a powerful effect in unlocking success and supporting the oasis of learning that teachers are working so hard to create.”

The research was commissioned by Bradford Public Health to evaluate the impact of Health Mentors. Independent researcher Stephen Zwolinsky observed the mentors, interviewed teachers about their experiences, collected data and identified the impacts of physical activity and social behaviour.

He said: “Project HE:RO supports children’s holistic development. With a particular focus on increasing their contact with supportive adults, mentors energetically promote physical activity.”

“Evolve carefully recruits and trains young, active and highly motivated staff.”

“The teaching staff and head teachers I spoke to were all fulsome in their praise for the positive addition to the staffing and the importance of the mentors’ contribution.”

“It was fantastic to see how the inspiring role models built relationships with the pupils and made such a difference. I wasn’t expecting to see such amazing changes in behaviour, self confidence and academic achievement.” A class teacher who was interviewed for the study said: “The confidence he has built there is amazing, a real big change, you see a huge difference. The pupil he is working with has massively grown in confidence.”

And a head teacher said: “It’s about meeting the social and emotional needs of the children, if you can’t concentrate, have no confidence or lack self-esteem then the classroom is a very difficult place. Building that up, for me, is so important before you can start learning.”

Birmingham-based Evolve director John Bishop said the findings of the report are welcomed and he hopes the study will be taken seriously by education leaders.

“Our strength is bringing children’s health and education together,” he said.

“We combat inactivity and obesity through active learning and this is improving basic numeracy and literacy. The research shows that one of our biggest assets is improving the emotional wellbeing of pupils too.”

His co-director, Keighley-based Graham Morgan said Evolve is commissioned by individual head teachers to provide successful health intervention. “Physical activity is helping prevent future illnesses that cost the NHS millions, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. We can help prevent these conditions.

“Our success has come from careful recruitment, rigorous training and the excellent rapport our Health Mentors develop when engaging with children.”

Project HE:RO (Healthy Engagement: Real Outcomes) has been running since 20 and delivers programmes to 120 primary schools.

For more information about Evolve visit

To view the full evaluation report of Project HERO click here