Never before have schools been more VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous workplaces, where the pressures of autonomy and the excessive demands of accountability make it a very stressful environment. Evidence shows that “gritting through” challenge and not addressing the impact, ultimately impedes performance, wastes time and resources, and can dangerously impact health.
Getting the balance right has never been so challenging in terms of seeking greater calm, clarity, understanding and agility. Despite all the turmoil, we know that the only anchor is authentic leaders, who know that everything starts and ends with them: who they are, what they believe in, and why they do what they do. And whilst headteachers and leaders may know that stress negatively impacts their health, many don’t have the evidence-based tools to address this effectively.
What the evidence shows
- 84% of Headteachers are experiencing chronic stress. (Teacher Wellbeing Index, 2021).
- One in four (25%) primary school heads and more than one in three (37%) in secondary schools who started their roles in 2015 had left by 2020 (BBC News, 26th April 2022).
- Psychological stress is now a well-established independent risk factor for coronary heart disease (Wirtz, 2017).
- More than half of assistant and deputy headteachers (53%) do not aspire to headship, mainly as a result of lack of ‘crushing workloads’, lack of professional trust, and high stakes inspection (NAHT, 2021).
- Coronary heart disease is the number one cause of death globally.
- More than a third of school leaders (37%) identified that they needed access to mental health and wellbeing support over the last year (NAHT, 2021).
- Research using biofeedback technology shows that by learning scientifically validated self-regulation techniques, the harmful effects of stress can be measurably reduced.
- Research shows that schools with higher levels of authenticity, relational trust and a culture of wellbeing and support are better placed to sustain purposeful change.
The positive impact of our approaches are well researched, several of which are outlined below:
- Increased calmness and wellbeing (Friedman, 2000)
- Reduced blood pressure in hypertension (McCraty, 2001)
- Increased levels of autonomy, affiliation and agency leading to a more motivated workforce (McClean 2003)
- Increased emotional stability and cognitive performance (McCraty, 2001)
- Improved school performance with higher levels of relational trust (Bryk and Schneider, 2002)
- Increased functional capacity in patients with heart disease (Luskin, 2002)
- Reduced stress and anxiety in college students (Ratanasiripong, 2012)
- Increased leadership potential in those with a strong sense of purpose, personal values, identity and hardiness (Bennis and Thomas, 2002)
- Increased employee life satisfaction, blood sugar levels, and markers of cardiovascular inflammation (Lord, 2019