In the last week, primary schools all received their first paper-based document from the Department of Education, which probably means that the recession is officially over. Seriously, though, this booklet is a very important one and is called Well-being in primary schools. It notes all the things a primary school must do to ensure the well-being and mental health of all members of the school community.
Sadly, the booklet reads like a disclaimer from the Department of Education. There have been so many cuts to services like NEPS that often it reads somewhat distastefully. However, to be a bit more positive, it is welcome that the Department is interested in highlighting mental health and well-being in primary schools. Thankfully, most primary schools have been working on this for many years before the booklet arrived in the post.
In amongst the disclaimers is a section on staff well-being. You’d probably miss it because it consists of one paragraph.
Schools are encouraged to provide a safe and supportive environment for staff members. It is crucial that staff members are supported in maintaining their personal health and well-being. A school staff would benefit from reflecting together on their own well-being and their general attitudes to mental health. The Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) provides professional development support for staff members and is available to provide advice to managers on whole staff support. The Psychological Society of Ireland’s 40 (practical) tips for mental health, well-being and prosperity may be useful in helping teachers to enhance and maintain their own mental health (www.psihq.ie). Individual teachers requiring additional support at a particular time may access the Employee Assistance Service. Further information can be accessed at www.carecall.ie. or telephone: 1800 411 057.
It seems rather sparse: another booklet, a PowerPoint presentation from the PDST and 4 calls to a hotline.
Schools also got a little poster to put up in the staffroom called: Ten Actions to Promote The Well-Being of a School Community. I can’t fit all ten in the photo below so here’s the top five.
I personally don’t have much of a problem with these ideas but number 8 makes me feel sad. It states:
Fostering a whole-school ethos that accepts and values diversity within the pupil and staff population.
I would love to see a day in Ireland where this action was possible but today it isn’t. There are a number of staff in Ireland who still feel the need to hide their sexuality or their religious beliefs or non-beliefs. There is also little to no diversity in staff in Irish primary schools. Maybe one day, this action will be relevant. I really hope so.
Overall, I’m a little bit uneasy with this booklet and poster as I feel they have only been sent to us to tick a box or get the government off the hook should they be legally challenged. The Department have managed to wangle themselves out of seemingly impossible human rights issues this week in the Dáil so I’m sure this document will be used to demonstrate that they are upholding their part of the deal. Sadly, this booklet on well-being has made me feel worse.