Supporting the mental health of early years staff

Sarah Fillingham, area manager, EYPS NPQSL, Portico Nursery Group
Monday, June 18, 2018

Sarah Fillingham shares her nursery group's approach to mental health and well-being

After reading about the Pre-school Learning Alliance Minds Matter survey (‘Stress and mental health problems taking their toll on early years staff’, online, 30 May), I felt compelled to share how we have been supporting the mental health and well-being of staff at Portico Nurseries.

We introduced our ‘Supporting mental health and wellbeing’ policy last October, and since working towards signing the Time To Change employer pledge, we have seen such a massive mind shift in how we work.

We have a working policy and risk assessment; 12 workplace champions will help us to review these alongside our annual team questionnaire.

Some of our team are improving their physical and mental health by walking, jogging, running or other forms of exercise. Awareness weeks such as Mental Health Awareness Week have been pivotal for our champions in sharing good practice.

We have revamped our team staff rooms to be a much nicer place to take a break and relax.
We have had some staff willing to share case studies of their own mental health and well-being to support their colleagues.

We would like to complete our team questionnaires each term, which will help us identify issues, such as the times of the year which cause more stress, and help us look at what we can do to support this. We aim to create a visual well-being scale, so we can see fluctuations over the year.

Through coaching and mentoring, our managers are better equipped at supporting their team in their professional development, and by investing time like never before, help individuals feel like they have a say in what happens in the nurseries.

Our new self-evaluation and action plan review system, which replaced the Ofsted SEF, engages the whole team in reflecting on practice and puts them in charge of decision-making.

In early years, we are constantly looking at areas of weakness in order to get better. This isn’t a bad thing, but we are trying to flip things – and look for the good.

We know children love praise – we need to remember to praise the staff too. Team members may receive a letter of thanks or congratulations on great work. Staff shout-out boards are engaging staff in thanking each other. 

Stressors questionnaires are helping the team understand each other’s roles, and knowing each other’s workload and responsibilities means we are aware of when someone may need help, someone to take the load off, or just ask, ’Are you OK?’.

We believe we were the first early years setting in the region and only the second in the country to sign the Time To Change employer pledge.

I would love to think we can inspire others, give people confidence to make some changes, and get many more early years settings to sign it.

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