Tackling teacher workload and creating a culture of wellbeing

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Tackling teacher workload and creating a culture of wellbeing

by Mandy Coalter, Director of People

Another headline about teacher stress and the pressures in the sector last week. No wonder the teaching profession is facing a recruitment and retention crisis.

The sector is of course facing huge challenges.  However this is true of many sectors and the wider business world.  I strongly believe that the vast majority of solutions to teacher recruitment, retention and workload are within the control of schools; tackle those and you are in a much stronger position to manage the impact of those beyond your control. 

At United Learning we now have 20 schools working collaboratively on employee well-being and we have been fortunate enough to work with national experts Robertson Cooper, a company established by Professor Sir Cary Cooper who definitely knows a thing or two about employee wellbeing.

From what we have learned to date, here are my top tips for school leaders as to what might be worthy of your attention if you want to create a culture of wellbeing and tackle teacher workload.

Teacher workload

Use the Government guidance on areas such as Marking, Planning and Data at

It’s simple, easy and research shows it works.    I have heard lots of great examples from schools about small changes have had a huge impact on both teacher workload and pupil progress whether considering how homework is set or reviewing marking and feedback expectations.  

Plan for peak times

Make sure you are considering the busy times of the year in the school calendar. These are the times to up your game on well-being support for staff and also avoid making any major changes or bringing in new initiatives. Seems obvious but schools that are really proactive at this see a big difference. Many schools I speak to are making time at the end of term to give staff time to undertake joint planning and review.  Staff are finding that end of term planning enables them to rest better during holidays and to come back ready to hit the ground running for the new term.

Coaching and mentoring

Make a safe place for staff to be able to raise concerns about their workload and to be able to work through how to address that. Coaching and mentoring for resilience is a great way to do that and creating a coaching culture has many other significant benefits too.  Investment in coach training and roll out will reap many rewards for your school.

Train your staff in managing resilience

Trainee and new teachers in particular need good quality training in managing personal resilience.   Many will not have had any previous training or support in this area and training to teach is particularly pressurised. 

Other members of staff will benefit from this training too including leaders, experienced teachers and support staff. Teachers will often put pupil needs before themselves but need to understand that ultimately this will impact their ability to perform at work.

Check out the Robertson Cooper's  i-resilience questionnaire at This is a free resource and can be a great way to start to engage people in reflecting on their resilience. 

Run wellbeing campaigns

In the modern world life is hectic and we are constantly on the go.  The impact of this can be seen on the nations health including rising obesity rates, stress and mental health problems.  Many businesses support their staff to consider lifestyle impact and small changes that can reap many rewards.  I recommend Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s book, The 4 Pillar Plan as an excellent resource on this.  

Create a wellbeing group of staff who can champion initiatives and create fun opportunities at work that staff really value.  You can build wellbeing awareness campaigns at your school and focus on areas such as sleep, relaxation, eating well and exercise. There are tons of resources out there for you to access and many schools I work with are also bringing in local expertise and support such as working with fitness providers, or using the skills of staff and parents to deliver sessions.

Make your school a fun place to work and look after staff

Schools I work with do lots of different things that suit their local context but in addition to wellness and fitness activity in school these include staff social and charity events, early finish weeks after peak times, staff breakfasts/lunch, book club and so on. The important thing is to involve your staff in these and utilise the many (often low cost or free) opportunities in school or on your local doorstep.

Help staff balance the juggling act of life

We all have many things to juggle in our week, work alongside childcare, chores etc. Little things can really help here. Examples I have heard are often around easy access to local service providers such as bring in your ironing to a weekly ironing service available in school or have your car collected from school for its MOT/service.  

Sometimes life gets tough for people and the impact of divorce, bereavement or financial worries can’t be left at the school gates. Make sure you either invest in some kind of confidential counselling support or promote Education Support in your school.  Such intervention and support can make a big difference to how staff cope with the inevitable challenges life throws at us and shows that you care.


Mandy Coalter is the Director of People at United Learning. This post originally appeared on Mandy's blog on LinkedIn.

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