At a time when stressed-out teachers are leaving the profession in droves, Lancashire CC is combating the trend with the launch of its wellbeing team.
Its work has two key strands, the Wellbeing Programme and Working Together to Support Head Teachers. The wellbeing programme was launched in September 2002 to help schools manage work-related stress and build a positive organisational culture. A volunteer - an experienced teacher, known as a facilitator - spearheads the programme in each school. Initially, the school surveys its staff to assess stress levels.
'This is the best management tool I have come across,' says one headteacher. 'It helps me judge staff feelings and find out what the issues are.'
The second strand of the wellbeing team's work is Working Together to Support Head Teachers. It was launched in 2003 to address growing concerns at stress levels among headteachers.
The project identifies the key sources of stress and provides the necessary support. This is achieved through regular updates and newsletters, which suggest ways to keep a good work/life balance.
The bulk of those involved in the project said the expectations of others and staff problems were the main contributors to their stress levels. Suggestions provided in newsletters include headteachers giving themselves some personal time when they cannot be interrupted during the school day, as well as taking regular exercise. Governing bodies of schools are also being encouraged to set a head's wellbeing target at their next performance management review.
The wellbeing programme has attracted a number of accolades, not least this year's LGC Award for education. Since the programme began, the number of schools using the project has risen from 65 to 150.