The mental health of staff is at the forefront of conversations about the early years workplace, with troubling evidence provided by the Early Years Alliance Minds Matter Report in June 2018 and the appearance of staff wellbeing in the Leadership and Management judgement in the new Ofsted Inspection Framework. It is a serious issue, one that needs leadership via policy, and that takes time. Meanwhile, early years staff may need to rely on themselves to make small but hopefully significant changes.
We’ve all heard the sayings ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’ or ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. They highlight the importance of looking after yourself so you have the energy to look after others. The role of the early years educator is one of constant giving; giving care, giving time, giving fun, giving guidance, giving experiences. Let’s give a moment, to think about the small things settings can do to nurture their staff.
· Ask a colleague how they are today. If you are a manager, take time to check in with staff.
· Foster a culture of openness. Is wellbeing on the agenda at staff meetings? Do staff feel able to talk about wellbeing?
· What is your staff communal area like? Is it possible to be creative, move the chairs, bring in some pot plants, write an uplifting quote or a funny thought on the whiteboard – things that don’t cost money, but that will quietly change the mood.
· Do you have a wellbeing policy? Was it a collaborative team effort?
· Do you make contributions to your setting’s ethos? Having a voice helps you to feel valued.
· Mentor one another. If you are a manager, do you have someone to talk to?
· Be reflective, create a culture of trust and respect, look for the positives and build on them.
These are just a few ways that early years teams can support each other and improve wellbeing.
EYA Minds Matter Report June 2018 https://www.eyalliance.org.uk/sites/default/files/minds_matter_report_pre-school_learning_alliance.pdf
Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, Ten Steps Towards School Staff Wellbeing https://www.annafreud.org/media/8459/school-staff-wellbeing-report-final.pdf
Sonia Mainstone-Cotton in Schoolsweek https://schoolsweek.co.uk/tips-for-improving-staff-wellbeing-in-schools/
Sarah Fillingham in Nursery World https://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/opinion/article/supporting-the-mental-health-of-early-years-staff
Edited by Jules