Welbee CEO: “Teachers always put pressure on themselves and are often perfectionists”

Very good, founded in 2018, is an online assessment and staff wellbeing improvement tool designed to help senior executives and HR directors create mentally healthy schools, retain and motivate staff, reduce costs and increase student achievement . It was named the best wellness solution in the Education Resources Awards (ERA) Awards 2022.

How was Welbee born? Can you identify some moments that pushed you in this direction?

I have always had a fascination with education, culture and leadership. My mother was a teacher and I have been a governor for over 20 years. In fact, this is my second career. I spent 23 years in retail banking, ending up as a director and on the board of directors. I then found myself working with schools and began supporting hundreds of schools and their senior management teams in cultural development and leadership development. I was really interested in wellness because people didn’t look at it.

Welbee focuses on providing clear actions for schools rather than just collecting data – can you explain how this works in practice?

We want to be more of an organization for the improvement of the well-being of school staff, not just a survey, so we are very focused on what happens after the data is collected, although there is a lot of data in the platform if people want to go and look in. themselves.

We worked with a group of schools and what they told us was “whatever you do, don’t just give us a load of data”. We collect the data in a truly comprehensive report, which not only shares elements such as highlights and strengths, but also recommends actions that schools could take and shows which groups of staff those actions could be relevant to.

Instant downloadable PowerPoint presentations are also available, so results can be shared very quickly with staff or interested parties. We always encourage our schools to make it more of a shared journey rather than the speech therapist by thinking about all the actions and implementing them. All it does is put more pressure on the SLT and their well-being.

You are an expert in coaching and people development: how has your approach changed over the years?

I had actually started my journey by focusing on students, and in particular on character education. I built a 63-lesson character education plan and co-wrote a book on resilience. This is where I came up with the idea of ​​helping the next generation to truly develop their skills, not only for academia and achievement, but also to have a happy and successful life; find the right job and how to get there.

But I realized very quickly, actually, that if we want an education system fit for the 21st century, then we have to start with the staff. I thought the best way to help young people was to focus directly on them, but in reality it is to focus on parents and schools and help teachers to give their best every day.

If teachers come to work, have fun and are supported, then they will give the best lessons. I have embarked on a journey of research and discovery and have found causal evidence from the education and health sectors that shows that self-reported well-being of staff is causally linked with outcomes, outcomes, retention and financial performance.

It has become obvious to me that if you want to do the best with kids, you have to put the staff first, which can seem counterintuitive. Clearly there are two aspects: there is the quality of teaching, but the second part is how teachers feel, and their energy, passion and motivation every day to deliver their best work and thrive in their environment.

Mark Solomons and the Welbee Team collect their Education Resources Award (ERA).

What are the main challenges schools and staff face right now?

It is an industry that struggles for capacity. Statistics from the DfE show that one in four head teachers who started since 2015 is no longer head teacher and one in three teachers leave teaching within five years. As governor, I know we are starting to struggle to recruit support staff, due to factors such as low pay and the fact that they are not included in the performance appraisal systems.

In industries like banking, when you take on a leadership role, you are 80% in the lead and 20% in the lead, and this is reversed in teaching. When you go from teaching to department head, for example, you still need to do 80% of your teaching, yet we expect them to somehow manage this leadership role in a very short amount of time. Also, in many cases, we don’t provide them with the training or development to enable them to do so.

Another big problem is accountability.

Teachers carry the burden of being accountable to children, parents and the school management team, as well as being inspected by Ofsted. Teachers always put pressure on themselves and are often perfectionists.

While workload is clearly a big deal, it’s more about helping people understand that they are in a high-workload environment, but it’s okay not to get it all done. You can only do your best and you can choose working hours – people forget they have a choice. If you let your work dictate your hours, we are more than willing to work from midnight, every night. So you have to make a choice.

What are your hopes for the future of school wellbeing?

I have this vision in my head of teachers all jumping to work every morning, with big smiles on their faces. Hopefully over the next two or three years, I want us to help many more schools get into this more systematic and cyclical approach to wellbeing, where you think all the time and it’s not something that happens away from the school development plan and in one day. of well-being per year. In any organization it always depends on whether you feel trusted, if you feel supported, that you feel you can speak and give feedback safely.

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Welbee CEO: “Teachers always put pressure on themselves and are often perfectionists”

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