The Valued Worker Scheme can have a “massive impact” on staff wellbeing, says Geoff Smith, NASUWT National Executive Member.
Geoff has worked as a teacher at Malbank School, Cheshire, for more than 20 years and he is proud that his school was one of the first to sign up for this initiative.
The Valued Worker Scheme recognises employers who commit to treating all of their staff fairly, equitably and with dignity.
Geoff has championed this scheme due to his concerns about the current challenges facing teachers.
“The profession has changed,” he says. “Teachers now have to cope with a lot more accountability through data, as well as constant changes in the education system.
“We also have children with very complex needs in schools these days and because of funding cuts there is not enough support available.”
Geoff believes many employers do fully understand their responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
“I think that school leaders often forget they have a legal duty to protect the mental, as well as the physical, health of their staff.
“European legislation also states that every employer should risk assess stress in the workplace.”
Malbank School’s first step was to set up a Health and Safety Committee, which has strived to improve staff wellbeing.
Then the committee decided to introduce an annual stress audit to identify potential problems.
They have worked closely with the headteacher and chair of governors to analyse the staff’s responses and address any concerns as soon as possible.
Geoff feels communication between the school’s leaders, employees and trade unions has improved as a direct result of the Valued Worker Scheme.
“We have got very good relationships within the school now,” he says, “But this doesn’t happen overnight.
“It comes through building trust and listening, finding ways to deal with problems collectively, setting action points and then actually doing what you say you will do.”
Geoff believes that teachers at Malbank have experienced real benefits from the Valued Worker Scheme.
For example, the Health and Safety Committee has been consulted about the school calendar and how best to deal with pinch points of significant workload.
They have also examined pupil risk assessments to ensure that they are being carried out properly and that control measures have been put in place.
Recently, the committee has focused on women’s health and safety and produced a menopause policy, which led to training for all employees.
Geoff says: “If you can establish a Health and Safety Committee and create the right culture in your school, the Valued Worker Scheme can have a massive impact on staff wellbeing.
“This is so important because teachers are the biggest asset of any school. They must be treated well so that they can perform at their highest level and help pupils to achieve their full potential.”
The Valued Worker Scheme is an initiative jointly promoted by the NASUWT, GMB, UNISON and Unite.