Antrim Grammar School
Antrim Grammar school is one of many schools who worked with us in creating the Northern Ireland Wellbeing Academy. In this article we put the school spotlight on the Principal Jenny Lendrum.
Jenny worked with us and ran the HSE indicator tool questionnaire in late 2016 and again in late 2017 (and is ready to run it again towards the end of this year. After below average results the first time, they showed improvements in every area measured to become the highest scoring secondary school we have seen.
How did you react after getting the results for your first questionnaire?
I felt hurt by some of the scores and comments from staff but had to take it on the chin. We asked for the feedback, so were determined we were going to use it effectively to focus on continually improving the school results, with a real commitment to ensuring all our staff felt good about coming to school.
How did you use the results?
We wanted to be open and transparent, rather than be overly self-critical and simply ask people what they wanted to be better. As a senior team we talked about the need to not be sensitive or defensive and it is a real strength of ours. When the feedback was given to staff, we included all the negatives. Some staff came to us and said they couldn’t believe some of the things others had said. But different people respond in6different ways and have their opinion.
It’s important we got the full picture. After having all the training with you and the other Northern Ireland schools, we wanted to have a deliberate strategy, rather than continuing with our previous tendency to intermittently do things, such as a wellbeing day or putting cakes in the staff room.
What were some of the actions you took?
We looked at three areas. The first was to make sure the school celebrated what was already going well. The second to identify and action things that could be changed immediately, for example reducing e-mails, and more consistent use of ‘thank you’ and praise. Finally, we listed things that needed greater reflection and discussion, for example dealing with micromanagement.
This meant giving an undertaking to dig into these, understand more and the creation of a plan of action.
What had the biggest impact on changing results so quickly and dramatically?
The senior team constantly talk about staff, making sure they all say thank you, for big and small things. ‘Thank you’ cards are left in pigeon holes and funny cards on desks. There is a big focus on praise and encouragement, teamwork and collaboration.
The leadership team also use the self-assessment questionnaires of the 12 competencies proven to reduce or prevent stress in staff. Although the senior team scored well, it helped us to question ourselves, and make sure nothing was missed. Now we include reviews of a behaviour at some senior team meetings and in a way that people feel safe and can share – and this doesn’t cost anything.
As we model what is needed, we are seeing others across the school copy us and are now working on ensuring all middle leaders demonstrate the agreed behaviours.
Do you have any words for other schools?
If you want outstanding results over the long term, then there is only one most important thing in school – staff. Taking that first step to run a questionnaire and being involved in training to ensure you focus on the right areas is key. It will allow you to plan and make sure your leadership behaviours every day demonstrate to staff that they are important, and their wellbeing really matters.
Introducing the Acceleration Academy
Are you interested in:
- A fast track process that helps line managers put staff first and raises student outcomes?
- An evidence backed way to measure staff wellbeing and focus on those things that have the biggest impact in your school?
- Supporting line managers so they understand those behaviours and competencies that have been proven to reduce staff stress and improve their wellbeing and performance?
- Reducing costs and spending more of your stretched budget on the things that matter to you?
Answering yes means the Acceleration Academy is for you. It’s an on-line platform with wellbeing measurement and a growing resource base, designed to make it easier for schools and Trusts to tackle this important area.
You can find out more, register for a free account or invest in an affordable solution.