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Coronavirus (COVID-19): tips for staff during uncertain times
During these anxious and challenging times, increasing pressure is being put on schools. Here are some tips for staff working in schools, as well as advice on looking after your mental wellbeing whilst self-isolating
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Stress and anxiety levels may be heightened, particularly for those members of staff who are still in school and are more stretched with colleagues away.
Where possible, make time during the day to take a breather and do something relaxing that works for you. Of course, staff are very limited when it comes to time, but there are plenty of five-minute relaxation techniques that can be done quickly and often to reduce anxiety including:
Mindfulness can also be practiced in the classroom, and can benefit both pupils and teachers.
A good example of this is Nicola Harvey’s STAR breathing model. Teachers can use this model to support their own wellbeing, and then demonstrate this in front of their class so that everyone can practice together.
Knowing how to respond to pupils' questions about the current situation will help to reduce anxiety and uncertainty amongst pupils and staff, creating a calmer atmosphere in school.
It’s inevitable that pupils will ask questions, and will likely be hearing lots of rumours or ‘fake news’. Whilst overloading pupils with too much information could potentially increase anxiety, children and young people have a right to know the facts and how to stay safe.
Anxiety UK and the New York Times are both useful starting points for tips on talking to children about coronavirus. Although these are aimed at parents, they include useful tips for teachers, such as:
- assessing what children already know
- talking to them at an age-appropriate level
- not dismissing any fears
- processing your own concerns first to prevent causing more anxiety amongst children.
Don’t worry about not knowing everything. If a pupil asks a question and you're unsure how to answer, tell them you will try to find out and get back to them. Do some research, but remember to use reputable resources such as GOV.UK and the World Health Organisation.
It may also be useful to direct pupils to websites like YoungMinds who provide advice on what to do if you're anxious about coronavirus.
With heightened levels of anxiety, pupils and staff need to understand what anxiety is and how to make themselves feel better. Put this poster up in your school to give a better understanding of the symptoms of anxiety, and who people can talk to if they need extra support.
Simple and effective communication is always important, but even more so during times of uncertainty.
All members of staff, pupils and parents/carers should know exactly where to find information and updates, and when it will be sent.
'It’s useful for recipients to know exactly where and when information will be sent eg. a weekly email on Friday, or an updated set of guidance on the website or VLE each week. It’s frustrating if promised communications don’t happen, or if it’s too hard to find out what the work being set is.
If the guidance is confined to one portal, one webpage, one document or one clearly labelled folder, then it’s likely to work better. Don’t make kids or parents work too hard to find the info scattered across several places.
Have paper-based back-up that can be posted or collected from the school office – if there’s a skeleton operation to do that.'
Although we should always be prioritising our own mental health, this can be particularly hard if we're spending more time inside with less human contact.
Here are some tips for those having to self-isolate or work from home.
Be mindful about the information you're consuming
Although it's important to stay up to date with government guidance, don't overload yourself with information. Everyone is different, so see how you feel and adjust your news intake accordingly.
If you're starting to feel overwhelmed, stay away from social media. Instead, ask someone you trust to share updates with you.
Eat well and stay hydrated
Not being in a normal work routine can make it very easy to snack or binge on unhealthy food. Mixed with a lack of exercise, this can have a detrimental impact on our mental health.
For more information on the relationship between food and how we feel, take a look at Mind's article on food and mood.
Human beings are naturally sociable animals: isolation can increase stress and anxiety, so it's important that people stay connected as much as possible.
Although it might be harder for people to be together physically, it's now very easy for us to stay connected online. Stay in touch with friends and family through messages, phone conversations and video calls.
Our physical health is connected to our mental health, so it's important to remember to exercise when you can. Although you might not be able to go to the gym, try going for a run or exercising outside.
Whilst it may be tempting to spend most of your time on your devices, sitting in front of a screen all day can have a negative impact on your sleep and overall wellbeing.
Below are some creative activities to do at home if you're self-isolating.
- Activities to do at home or in self-isolation amid coronavirus pandemic
- Activity ideas for kids during self-isolation
David Beeney shares his top hints and tips for working from home.
- The number one rule of working from home is… leave the house! Even if this just means standing in your garden or on your doorstep. You’ve got to get out at some point during the working day (being mindful of self-isolation rules).
- Move around the house. Even in a small apartment, if you can, mix up your space, from desk to kitchen table to sofa. Try out different environments at home. Each shift to a new zone gives you a new perspective and can re-energise you if you’re struggling with a task.
- Put some boundaries around work. You need to look after yourself and draw a line under the day so it doesn’t encroach into your home life. Home and work can blur together particularly when your office is the kitchen table, so have some rules about when you’ll finish, or have a door that you can shut on your work when the time comes.
- Stay focused and switch off distractions. At home, there’s the fridge, the TV, other family members, a pet, chores and so on. To get the work done, you’re going to have put all those things out of mind. You can do house-stuff during your lunch break, but right now the work to-do list matters most so you’ll need to keep focused.
- Have some social interaction. Working from home can be lonely, so make sure you have some calls with fellow team members where you not only catch up on the projects you’re working on but also can share some tips on how you’re getting on with remote working.
- Know what YOU need to have a good day. Remember that you are in control of the environment when you work from home.
- Mind - Coronavirus and your wellbeing
- Independent - Coronavirus: how to manage your mental health during self-isolation
- Anxiety UK - #Coronanxiety support and resources
- YoungMinds - What to do if you're anxious about coronavirus
Last Updated:31 Mar 2020