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Excellere College

Build connections between staff

Aim or focus:

Build connections between staff.

Background situation

Special Character (Christian) Integrated Area School (the school has only just been integrated, thus a sense of being temporary has resided over many of the classrooms, the staffroom, equipment and even some jobs within the school for a number of years)

Roll: Around 170, Year 1-13

Decile: 5

Location: North Whangarei, semi-rural area, SH1

Contract: Initiated by the Principal after the programme had begun. Team: Built around 6 months into the contract, after the New Year to avoid disruptions from staff turnover.

Process undertaken

  • We took part in the contract because we saw a need amongst our students for Social Skills and better connectivity.
  • Research from the Student Wellbeing Initiative workshops and readings made us aware of how much student wellbeing is initiated and affected by staff wellbeing.
  • We met as a team and realised that staff wellbeing needed to be moved to a higher level.
  • We decided to survey our staff to see how they felt.
  • From this survey we found both strengths and weaknesses within our school relations and systems that affected the valued-connected-secure perspectives of staff members.
  • We saw a need to build staff connections and wellbeing. We fed back to the staff who were eager to be a part of this initiative. Responses from the survey were analysed by the team and presented at a staff meeting for staff to analyse and share feedback. Some suggestions were to build a Social Committee. Some staff members also organised social events off their own bat and brought a table tennis set into the staff area. Further steps need to be taken here to consolidate what has begun.
  • We recognised a need to involve support staff more within the school (they felt very disconnected). The staff recognised this too within the feedback. Further steps need to be taken here.
  • We also saw a need to foster a stronger valued-connected-secure relationship between the staff and the Board of Trustees. The importance of staff resilience and how the staff are feeling was fed back to the Board of Trustees. The BOT were also able to express their views. It was recognised that both sides need to play an important part in building a strong and positive relationship. This will help staff and students feel valued, connected and secure and promote a safe and supportive school environment.
  • A second staff survey will need to be completed to gauge the wellbeing of new staff.
  • Once staff wellbeing has been lifted we will begin the process with the students. With staff more aware of the importance of supporting their own and each others wellbeing we can then begin to focus on the wellbeing of the students.
  • Future steps include building stronger connections with our parent and support community.

Responsibilities

  • Jess – Senior College Teacher, HOD Health and Phys Ed, Student Wellbeing Initiative Team Leader
  • Eric – Senior College Teacher, former Senior Dean of the College, Key Competency Initiator (unofficial)
  • Pauline – Junior College Teacher, SEMCO Coordinator, and Junior College Health overseer (unofficial)

Resources

  • Student Wellbeing Contract Workshops
  • Student Wellbeing Contract Readings
  • Jo Robertson (Student Wellbeing Contract Facilitator)

Outcomes

  • Team knowledge about resiliency and wellbeing was increased.
  • Staff felt listened to.
  • Staff understanding of resilience – (valued-connected-secure) beginning to increase (focus for this term).
  • Staff beginning to take on more responsibility for valuing and connecting with one another.
  • BOT made aware of strengths and weaknesses of the BOT relationship with staff (Building connections and strengthening this relationship will be a staff focus for this year).
  • Junior College has generally continued to develop strongly as a whole (they are all on one ship). Senior College still feel more like each are rowing their own boats, but feel we are beginning to draw up alongside the ship.
  • The BOT generously invited all staff and partners to a restaurant for a meal at the end of the year. This was their way of saying thanks to all staff for the work done over the year.

Reflections

Threats

  • The Team was created late in the contract. This put us on the back foot (not long-term, but as far as progress in relation to other schools on the program).
  • Staff are “over” initiatives. We need to work with them in a way where they see the point and feel natural and good about the changes – that this is not a program but a paradigm shift.
  • Staff work overload. It is hard to organise social events when staff often feel overloaded. More creativity will need to take place with this, as well as in thinking up great ways to connect the staff and make them feel valued and secure whilst on the school property (for example, staffroom environment and competitions, classroom visits/idea sharing, etc).
  • The relationship between staff and BOT requires the need for a mutual focus on valuing the respective roles and making this a stronger working relationship.

Opportunities

  • Principal is very pro-the Student Wellbeing Initiative.
  • Having a team approach has enabled us to be more effective and to support each other with our work within the school.
  • Having a survey of staff gave the staff a voice and informed our action. Staff involved in analysing the collected responses gave them ownership of the situation and they were able to recognise the areas of need and ways they could become involved in building staff relationships and supporting each other.
  • We were able to be honest with the Board of Trustees’ – this was a bonus.
  • A small school means we can build connections more quickly as we know everyone already.
  • The Junior College are fairly well-bonded as a staff network.
  • We have appointed a teacher-mentor who spends time with teachers, enjoying their teaching and aiding them to become better at their craft. This will work hugely in helping Senior Staff feel secure and valued.

Strengths

  • Senior management support, appraisals, formal meeting requirements, office staff and pupil-contact hours are our strengths – they were generally not high stress factors for staff.
  • Laughing and joking amongst staff was noted as a great morale booster that we currently engage in.
  • Meeting one-on-one with a staff member here or there to share work or have lunch at the SH1 Cafe is happening on occasion building a support network.

Future Focus

  • We intend to build on our inter-staff connectivity this year. Beginning with one or two staff meetings focusing on staff wellbeing and valued-connected-secure session and incorporating this as a way of working and embedding it in our everyday practice.
  • Some staff members have shown interest in beginning a staff fund and social club. Now that the new year has begun we will be able to kick start these initiatives.
  • Building relationships between staff and Board of Trustees and valuing each group’s role in making our school safe and supportive.
  • Future plans involve building links and relationships with parents and the greater school community. A staff-parent BBQ has been arranged by the Principal one evening this term. This works well alongside these future goals and will help sustain the promotion of a safe and supportive school environment.

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