On the 30th of Oct, the MICE Hub (Mental Health in Childhood & Education Hub) in collaboration with the Health & Wellbeing Theme at the University of Portmouth, organised a very successful Seminar to mark Black History Month. The seminar was entitled: Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and Conversations about Race and Racism (View video link here)
The following speakers featured in the event:
· Dr Paul Ian Campbell, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Leicester; Associate Editor for Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power; BSA Philip Abrams Memorial Prize (2017).
· Ms Sonia Carr, CEO of Wiltshire Racial Equality Council
· Ms Patricia Gilbert, PhD student School of Education and Sociology, University of Portsmouth
In the talk, the speakers discussed the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, raising areas of concern regarding ethnicity and race relations, social care, education, attainment and well-being. The speakers also considered the extent to which the pandemic and the upsurge of anti-racist activism following the murder of George Floyd have influenced our conversations about race and racism.
By Megan Pound, MRes in Education, University of Portsmouth
Portsmouth considers itself a ‘restorative city’ so I recently attended training regarding its use of the restorative framework and its suggested benefits (Portsmouth Safeguarding Children Partnership, 2020) available to relevant professionals such as teachers, refuge workers and social workers. My specialism is the use of co-production in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of vulnerable children and families, therefore I approached this training hoping to learn how the two strategies could simultaneously achieve better outcomes.
captures the voice of the participant whilst also involving them in the wider research
process; usually promoting equality between contributors and often with regards
to improving service provision. When working with vulnerable individuals, it is
likely that ‘difficult conversations’ will arise, due to the sensitive nature
of the discussion points, potentially preventing successful interactions. Although,
an approach such as restorative practice which focuses on engagement,
respectful language and conflict resolution may be a solution to this
heightened risk of conflict. Furthermore, restorative practices are proactive
as opposed to reactive, allowing individuals to use reflection to learn from
and build upon previous, less successful interactions.
The International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP) explain that “human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them” (Wachtel & McCold, 2004). Suggesting that to best access unheard voices, we must work alongside minority groups rather than imposing pre-existing ideas on them. The IIRP also produced the ‘Social Discipline Window’ which says that the most effective discursive approach relies on an equal balance of support and control; though this might be better described as ‘challenge’ for the individual. Through this, they suggest that mutual learning and change can take place, thus highlighting a correlation between restorative practices and co-production.
particularly when safety is in question, higher elements of support may be
essential, with room to develop the balance of independence over time. The
‘challenge’ element remains vital in order to promote a sense of autonomy and
empowerment, through inclusive yet empathetic guidance. If an individual
becomes reliant on higher levels of support, not only can this remove
independence but also cause feelings of disempowerment and lack of motivation
to help themselves in the future. Perhaps through co-production though, where
participants are equally responsible, they can gain confidence, self-esteem and
a better sense of inclusion; especially when their voice is not only considered
but evidently acted upon.
voice of the individual
the voice of the individual is being deemed increasingly essential for better
service provision, due to the deeper insights that lived experiences can
provide to multi-agency practitioners. Whilst there are a range of approaches
to co-production, it is generally accepted that not only does it allow for
narratives to be heard, but also includes participants in the wider research process; striving for more
informed and sustainable outcomes. It could therefore be concluded, that an
approach such as Restorative Practice aligns with these desired outcomes, achieving
solutions which are agreeable for all involved; service users and providers
to an individual perception may be important to maintain worthwhile,
progressive conversations but it is essential that this does not become a
tokenistic activity without evidence of evolution. Restorative practice takes
this idea a step further than listening to a single voice, instead encouraging
those involved to consider how events may also impact others, promoting empathy
at the heart of this process. Whilst having your story heard can be highly
empowering, it is suggested that through hearing multiple perceptions, not only
can a bigger picture be drawn but also a pathway to more informed change in the
future. Moreover, the consideration of others alone could enable more
encompassing changes to be made and allow for familiar, yet potentially
outdated, procedures to be respectfully challenged and adapted for the better.
A further element of restorative practice is ‘fair process’, which highlights
that if individuals are treated fairly, they are more likely to co-operate with
the process, regardless of the extent that they may benefit from the outcome.
This too relates to co-production where the power balance struggle can become problematic,
if mutually respectful collaboration is not implemented by all involved; for
example, practitioners may deem their qualifications in a higher standing than narratives
of lived experience and vice versa for participants.
Nonetheless, a sense of ‘fairness’ will
likely foster improved mental health and wellbeing for all, if they feel
included and valued for their personal inputs. This emphasis on equally respectful
interactions, regardless of factors such as academic success, cultural background
or economic standing, could also allow for higher-quality learning to take
place. By removing hierarchical authority figures in favour of a more
relational approach, more fruitful outcomes could be achieved, across a range
of settings, with participants feeling more able to share honestly and
confidently within a physically and emotionally safe environment.
conclude, there are clear links between co-production and restorative practice which
suggest that they could positively impact on the success of one another. They
are both approaches which must be implemented conscientiously and
empathetically, especially when working with vulnerable individuals. Likewise,
in a city such as Portsmouth, where hearing the voice of the individual is
often noted as being of high importance, it is fitting that respectful,
supportive communication would facilitate this more effectively.
implementing the reflective approach of restorative practice alongside the
inclusive collaboration of co-production, it seems that more meaningful
connections could be fostered, allowing for crucial interventions and support
systems to be quality assured and enhanced. Though the question still remains, if
hearing the individual’s voice continues to be highly promoted as a worthwhile concept,
why is this seldom seen in practice?
5 principles that
support the wellbeing of educational leaders. By Lucy
The wellbeing of those in education has become a popular
topic over the past few years. You only need to look at recent headlines to
understand why – for example, it is reported that 1 in 20 teachers have mental
health problems that have lasted more than a year (Nuffield
Foundation, 2020), and more than half of all education professionals have
considered leaving the sector over the past 2 years due to pressures on their health
and wellbeing (Education
Support Partnership, 2019).
In response to this, recent government initiatives have
placed greater emphasis on the wellbeing of education professionals. For
example, staff wellbeing is now appraised as part of Ofsted’s inspection
framework, and the Department for Education (DfE) has launched a new expert
advisory group. This builds upon previous guidance published by the DfE, which
recommends developing a whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing. Although
educational leaders have been recognised to play a key role in this, they are
rarely asked about their own wellbeing. To address this gap, I invited
educational leaders to take part in a research interview.
So, what did I learn from asking educational leaders to
talk about their own experiences of wellbeing?
1. Make time for
Despite its popularity, there is no universally agreed
definition of wellbeing. Instead, people make sense of what
wellbeing means to them by reflecting on their own experiences and
understanding of the concept.
In this study, the educational leaders were prompted to
explore the topic of wellbeing with a researcher. Outside a research setting, one
common method for encouraging self-reflection is writing in a journal, but this
is by no means the only way. What is important is taking the time to
introspectively ask yourself some key questions, such as:
How do I feel today?
Do I consider my current level of wellbeing
to be low or high?
What aspects of the self (e.g. thoughts,
feelings, behaviours) have contributed to this?
What external factors (e.g. the environment,
interactions with others) have played a role?
You can answer these questions by writing; by talking to
a partner, colleague or professional coach; or by thinking while sitting,
walking or even running. The practice of self-reflection is said to help you
learn and develop a better understanding of yourself. In this instance, it
could help identify what wellbeing means to you, as well as the ways in which
you can support it (see Dr Lucy Kelly’s work on ‘reclaiming
teacher wellbeing through reflective diary-writing’). Notably, this current
study demonstrated that it is not necessary to have experienced both low and
high levels of wellbeing to hold beliefs about what that may look or feel like.
2. Be flexible
What wellbeing means and feels like for one person may be
very different to another person’s experience. It is therefore important that
flexibility is exercised when it comes to promoting your own or other people’s
levels of wellbeing:
Individuals should avoid striving for a
specific manifestation of wellbeing and instead, work out what works best for
Educational leaders need to implement
wellbeing initiatives that offer individuals the flexibility to participate in
a way that supports them.
Educational policies need to be
positioned in a way that gives educational leaders the autonomy and flexibility
to implement processes that work both for themselves and those they lead.
This flexibility emphasises the multi-faceted nature of
wellbeing. One common model of wellbeing – Seligman’s
‘PERMA’ model – suggests that wellbeing comprises
of five different dimensions (Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships,
Meaning and Accomplishment). A flexible approach will allow individuals to
choose to focus on the dimensions of wellbeing that are most important to them,
whether that is building a support network or working towards a goal of their
3. Strive for balance
Although people experience wellbeing in different ways,
high levels of wellbeing are often described as feeling balanced. Crucially,
this balance does not simply refer to a reduced workload. Instead,
‘balance’ may mean:
time between work and non-work (a phrase suggested by one participant, who
refuted that it was a work-life balance as work is part of her life too).
Taking part in
leisure activities outside of work, such as swimming or choir.
that educational leaders are also people with full lives outside the school
spend time in school during the holidays to help promote a sense of control.
home one day a term to take space to focus.
time to experience the ‘nice’ parts of the job, such as spending time with
demands of their job role is balanced with their ability to do it.
Ultimately, a balanced life allows people to distribute
their attention, energy, time and resources as they desire. To help sustain
this balance and higher levels of wellbeing, it is recommended that individuals
find ways to aid themselves in achieving balance in their everyday life.
4. Take action
In this study, the educational
leaders perceived wellbeing as their own responsibility and something
they should actively promote. Although the approaches varied, each leader
demonstrated that they were adopting strategies in line with the New
Economics Foundation’s ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, summarised below.
Connect…The educational leaders were connecting
to those around them through the use of Twitter, group activities, and role modelling
positivity and other behaviours that help promote their wellbeing.
Be active… Examples of physical
activities included cycling, running and swimming.
Take notice… This action was expressed as
being mindful. For example, one participant described pausing to take notice of
the beautiful scenery he passes through on his commute. He noted that this
awareness extends to those around him, as he notices and comments on
colleagues’ small changes (such as a haircut or new shirt).
Keep learning… The educational leaders
were continuing to learn through various forms of CPD, both formal (e.g.
conferences) and informal (e.g. reflecting on their practice with colleagues).
One participant noted that you keep learning throughout life and offers the
example of learning to become a better runner.
Give… This action was depicted as
volunteering time and support, for example, coaching other leaders through
challenging circumstances and volunteering for a local hockey club.
On Twitter, the#teacher5adaycampaign encourages educators to utilise these five actions to promote
their own wellbeing. Using the hashtag,
educators share examples from their own lives, which helps raise awareness of
the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ and the ways in which educator wellbeing can be
To promote higher levels of wellbeing, it is recommended
that individuals ask themselves what they have control over, and which of the
five actions they want to explore to support their wellbeing.
5. Lead by example
The educational leaders were leading by example in
relation to promoting and maintaining higher levels of wellbeing. It should be
noted that leading by example (or ‘idealised influence’) is one of Bass’ four
key transformational leadership behaviours, a type of leadership
commonly associated with high follower wellbeing (see Bowers (2019)
for a review).
This leadership behaviour can be demonstrated in various
Modelling behaviours that support wellbeing,
such as maintaining balance and engaging in leisure activities. This is
grounded in Bandura’s social learning theory, which posits that individuals
learn from observing those around them.
use of the ‘emotional contagion’, which is the phenomenon where observing one person’s
emotions and related behaviours can lead to exhibiting a congruent emotional
state. In this study, educational leaders strived to be positive and calm
around those they lead (often described as their work persona or ‘mask’).
Communicating that wellbeing is a priority
from the top-down. In this study, one educational leader used the oxygen
mask analogy (‘put your oxygen mask on first’) to encourage his staff to
support their own wellbeing, before helping others.
The educational leaders who
participated in this study noted that leading by example helped support their
own wellbeing too.
In summary, it is essential that
educational leaders are encouraged to ‘put their own oxygen mask on first’.
After all, a leader who promotes their own wellbeing can have a positive
influence both on themselves and those they lead. In the field of education,
this can reflect increased teacher motivation, commitment and job satisfaction,
which in turn, is associated with improved pupil outcomes. As such, investing
in the wellbeing of educational leaders can have a significant impact on
a multitude of levels: from the individual, to the classroom and school system
as a whole.
This blog is based on research carried out by
Lucy Lindley for
the Master’s in Research qualification at the University of Portsmouth. Five
semi-structured interviews were carried out with educational leaders who expressed
that they had personally experienced high levels of wellbeing. Their narratives
were analysed in-line with the theoretical underpinnings of Interpretative
Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), a qualitative methodology that encourages
close engagement with each participant’s lived experience.