Pressure and Stress in Schools

Pressure on school staff is immense and increasing: workloads, sprucing up and record keeping for inspections, meeting oft-changing targets, long work hours – all these are cited as reasons why almost two thirds of teachers in a recent study considered changing their profession.

Pressure on students is also high: from school, as league tables are the main port of call for parents to rate and compare schools, and, from parents, as many parents innocently believe that their children’s future happiness is highly dependent on the grades their children receive in school. Children also put themselves under enormous pressure since they often experience their self-worth as derived from parental approval, itself dependent on their own personal league table of test scores.

Importance of Teaching Wellbeing in Schools

Schools of course need to be a place where children are straightforwardly educated. It also needs to be a cornerstone in the children’s lives, with the children in an environment where they are supported in becoming well-rounded, resilient people, able to meet the inevitable challenges of being stretched by school, relationships of all kinds, loss, and later, work. As we know from basic psychology texts and tens of thousands of hours of child observation, children learn deeply from modelling. When teachers model wellbeing, it is much easier for children to develop life-sustaining habits of resilience.

Moreover, we know from organisational studies of service organisations that there is a powerful influence of leadership in setting the climate. Schools have layers of leaders rather than managers; the Head leads the school as the single most important climate-setting figure, teachers lead the classrooms, and popular children lead as well.

 Current Wellbeing Policies in Schools

Estyn and Ofsted already include student well-being in their reports, but are they really looking in the right places? Moreover, staff well-being, so relevant for teacher performance, is not rated at all. Well-being leaders such as Dr Anthony Seldon have brought meditative mindfulness, physical exercise, and community-oriented values into school policies; these are major steps in a constructive direction. However, Dr Seldon’s positive affirmation approach is an oversimplification of an already simplified field of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and he still sees the source of wellbeing as external to the person, just not in grades.

Without the support of an effectively crafted and executed well-being policy, staff and students are abandoned to the vagaries of whatever support may happen to be available in a given moment or within the structures they happen to be within. Not only is there a lack of a positive, but presence of a negative: children are by default taught people-pleasing rather than resilience and mature autonomy.

 “Emotional First Aid” Wellbeing Trainings by Dr Garfield

These critical gaps can be filled with the wellbeing trainings and consultations provided by Dr Garfield.  The consultations enable schools to develop or to ameliorate their wellbeing policies that benefits both emotional welfare of students (and staff) and students' academic performance. The trainings can be delivered within or without the fuller context of an improved wellbeing policy. These trainings (see Services) help students decrease or even eliminate their stress levels. They also serve the dual function of increasing test score results and improving emotional wellbeing.  Student family and school relationships improve, providing them with an environment of support that facilitates healthy thinking and perspective about the most challenging aspects of their studies.