School scan

What is a School Scan of Wellbeing and Why Does Your School Need To Do One?

A school scan is a process I recommend all schools consider before attempting to introduce any new strategies or initiatives aimed at improving staff wellbeing. 

Scanning your school is simply a process used to “scan” multiple sources of evidence to determine the state of staff wellbeing in a school. Evidence may include observations, data, feedback, and staff voice. 

I believe that it’s essential to consider the needs and interests of your school and staff and look at what is already working or not working before putting new actions, alterations, and activities in place to support staff wellbeing, particularly after two years laden with lockdowns. 

Without a scanning process, school leaders and wellbeing teams could be putting their energies and resources into practices that make little or no difference to staff morale and wellbeing. Without a scan, we can be left open to making assumptions about what our staff really value and need – which may only cause more frustration. 

This article will cover:

  • What a scan is and why we do it
  • The benefits of conducting a school scan
  • How to scan your school 
  • What to do with the information from your school scan

In this current climate, the focus in schools continues to be on the wellbeing of our teachers and staff as they navigate staff shortages, increasing departmental and systemic expectations, mounting complexities in student needs and workload pressure (just to name a few).

But to work out where your staff need the most support to improve their wellbeing and school culture, it is important to scan multiple sources of staff wellbeing data. This step is vital – without a clear understanding of the current work environment and the school’s overall approach to wellbeing, health, and mental health, your staff might consider your attempts to patch their wellbeing as futile. 

What is a school scan?

A school scan of wellbeing is a process whereby an entire school staff takes part in collecting, reviewing, and discussing multiple sources of staff wellbeing data. 

A scan is used to gather information that helps give schools an informed direction moving forward. The idea of a school scan comes from Helen Timperley’s ‘Spiral of Inquiry,’ an inquiry model commonly used to conduct an inquiry process into student learning but is a useful process to follow when inquiring into staff wellbeing initiatives too. 

Exploring how effective our approach is means asking the big questions:

  • What is going on for our staff?
  • How do we know?
  • What can we do about it?

A scan of staff wellbeing enables us to be curious about our people and stay open to new kinds of information and insights about our leadership, team formation, relationships, school culture, strengths, and areas for development. It also ensures a much richer understanding of our staff experiences and helps us avoid the traps of our assumptions, biases, judgments, or perceptions. This is especially important for the leadership team as they often make many of the big decisions but also for our teaching staff, so they too can consider the perspectives and actions of their leaders. Remember – school scans provide the overview. They are not the main event, and once you gather information about your staff, you must use it to identify your priorities moving forward and plan your next steps.

What data should your school scan consider?

A school scan can review a number of different sources of data, including (but not limited to):

  • Observations of the leadership team
  • Observations of staff
  • Staff satisfaction and climate data data
  • Staff injury, absence, and compensation data
  • The observations and feedback of teaching teams and individual staff
  • Anonymous staff wellbeing survey data
  • School validation/registration feedback data

How long does a school scan take?

A school scan is not something that is completed overnight and takes more than a quick discussion in a leadership meeting. This is an important process that must not be rushed. I would suggest that a true school scan may take your school a whole term to complete. This is because you are spending time collecting surveys, reviewing data, and having conversations with your teams and staff. 

The benefits of a school scan

Scanning your school and reviewing the current state of staff wellbeing is a valuable step to begin collecting data in order to establish the foundation for future development and informed action. 

Aside from giving us baseline information, a school scan is also beneficial as it:

  • Provides a valuable source of information about what is happening in our school that may often get overlooked
  • Involves all staff and gives them an opportunity to contribute
  • Feels less “top-down.”
  • Is helpful for staff to be able to communicate their feelings, thoughts, and emotions
  • Enables us to problem solve
  • Opens up our perspective as leaders
  • Builds awareness
  • Sparks motivation and engagement 
  • Shows our staff that we are considering their health, wellbeing, and mental health 
  • Builds trust and loyalty 

First time scans are likely to turn up surprises but can also be a genuinely positive experience, regardless of what we learn about our school, leadership approach, and processes. The reason for this is that in my experience, as soon as a staff catch wind of your approach to improving staff wellbeing and see you taking steps to seek their opinion and feedback – morale improves. Teachers and staff will gladly talk about what works for them (and what does not) – if they believe they will be listened to with respect and that action will come as a result.

How to scan your school

1. Discuss overall staff wellbeing with the leadership team and/or assembled staff wellbeing strategic team

Ways to do this include:

  • Discuss anecdotal observations of staff wellbeing from a leadership perspective
  • Review staff absence, incident, injury, and compensation data
  • Review school/department staff satisfaction data
  • Survey staff about their wellbeing
  • Collate what practices are in place currently for staff health and wellbeing and what is successful or unsuccessful

2. Collect staff feedback about health and wellbeing

Ways to do this include:

  • School leaders discuss staff wellbeing with teaching teams during professional learning time or weekly meetings
  • Have staff complete an anonymous staff wellbeing survey (the advantage of these tools is that employees can respond privately, without the added pressure of social interaction)
  • School leaders have informal conversations with staff members during teacher development planning time or annual professional discussions and ask their honest opinion about how they are doing across their health and wellbeing and their views of school culture. It may be helpful to consider questioning in a way where staff are encouraged to take ownership and reflect on their involvement as school staff

3. Review data and draw conclusions

Collecting the data is part one of the process. Your next step is to review the multiple sources of data you have collected. It is a valuable exercise to consider this as a leadership team but also to involve staff in the process of data review as well.

To complete your school scan, it is important that you identify the key themes that are present across your data sets and decide on 1-3 priority areas for focus. Not identifying priority areas can mean you focus on too many areas and risk not attending to any of them very well!

It can be really helpful to have an impartial guide to support this process. During my work with multiple schools inside the Well-Led Schools Partnership Program. I cant tell you how many times I have had to intervene to guide leaders and/or staff back to the key themes in the data. It is really easy for us to either get caught up in the perspectives or opinions of a few staff or only see the data we want to see and ignore the data that we might find challenging or confronting!

What to do with the information from your school scan

Now that you have taken the time to review your school’s data and have drawn your conclusions and priorities for the year, it is time to set to work developing a ‘Wellbeing Action Plan.’ 

A Wellbeing Action Plan for your school helps identify, plan and measure the actions needed to work towards school or organisational improvement. 

Conclusion

The school scan is the first part of a larger, 6-step approach that I use when working with school leaders hoping to introduce effective strategies and initiatives to support staff wellbeing. 

This first step is crucial in ensuring all the others fall into place. Understanding the current state of your school and your staff’s needs will ensure that your efforts to repair any gaps are meaningful and successful. 

If you would like support completing a scan of wellbeing at your school and coming up with an action plan to address your results, I can help with conducting and interpreting an Anonymous Staff Survey or through my School Wellbeing Consulting services. Book a FREE clarity call, and I’ll be happy to hear out your staff wellbeing concerns and answer any questions about my approach. 

Sources 

https://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Pedagogy-and-assessment/Evidence-based-leadership/The-spiral-of-inquiry

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