More than £25k supports teaching heroes through wellbeing initiatives

Hundreds of frontline school staff have been supported to deal with the toll of the pandemic, thanks to the generosity of the public and organisations following the Youth Sport Trust’s first ever Christmas appeal.

Following the appeal through the Big Give Christmas Challenge in 2020 to help school workers, £25,451 worth of donations flooded in as people were keen to show their support of teaching heroes. 

Over the past year, the money raised has now been invested in wellbeing initiatives to support staff at 24 schools in some of the most disadvantaged communities. 

Each school committed to becoming a Well School through the initiative: putting wellbeing at the heart of school life. Each school will also share their journeys on the Well School platform so that more schools can benefit from their learning. 

Jordan Stephenson, Development Manager at the Youth Sport Trust has led the roll out of the initiative. He said: 

“We are so thankful to everyone who donated to our campaign and especially to our match funder, the Monday Charitable Trust. 

“School staff often don’t get the recognition that they deserve or are too modest to receive it. In the past 18 months, our campaign and the amount that has been raised recognises the work done by frontline school staff and supports them to deal with the difficult situations they have been confronted with. Well done to all school staff who continue to ensure this generation of children have a safe place to learn and grow throughout the pandemic.” 

Recent research from the Education Support charity revealed more than three in four school staff experienced symptoms of poor mental health linked to their work in the past year. The Big Give funding has enabled the schools to support staff through a range of initiatives like training for dedicated wellbeing champions, staff bootcamps, education around the importance of healthy eating, sleep and physical activity, and support aligned to the NHS approved Five Ways to Wellbeing. 

How schools have used the money raised through the Youth Sport Trust’s Big Give appeal: 

All Saints Stibbard Primary School & Nursery and North Elmham Primary School in Norfolk (Flourish Federation) 

Staff at both schools have been dealing with the added pressures and workload Covid has presented. Wellbeing continued to decrease as staff felt less connected to colleagues and were unsure of who to turn to. Many reported a lack of relaxation time, as working from home made them feel as if they were always on call, alongside a lack of opportunity to take part in physical activity. The schools used the funding to launch a pilot initiative called,The five ways to wellbeing (T5W2W). This is a research-based set of principles, supported by the NHS, which if employed on a daily or regular basis supports positive mental health outcomes. All staff were invited to an inset day in September 2021 where the principles and ‘The Big Give’ project were introduced to them. Posters were displayed across both schools and all staff were encouraged in class to take part in a minute's mindfulness each day, with 5 minutes of mental wellbeing at the start of each staff meeting. The funding has enabled mental health champions to be trained in each school and acts of kindness to be introduced. A mental wellbeing webpage was also created, alongside a conscious effort to ask one another about wellbeing.  

The results have been positive: 

  • 82% of staff reported improvements in their mental wellbeing, with 60% saying they knew how to access support if required (up from 17%).  
  • 91% of staff said they felt valued which was a large increase from 64% previously.  

The language of mental health is far more widespread in the school now and is heard in staff rooms frequently. As well as providing support to colleagues, the initiative has encouraged staff to take responsibility for their own mental health and give them ideas on how to do this. 

Clavering Primary School in Hartlepool 

Since the launch of the new Ofsted inspection framework, a particular concern for Clavering has been the reports and social media comments up and down the country of the negative impact on staff wellbeing of Ofsted’s deep dives and the greater scrutiny of each school’s curriculum intent, implementation and impact. Clavering used the funding to support and mentor three of its subject leaders to feel prepared to take on responsibilities for which they do not currently receive thorough training and recognition for. It was hoped this would improve workload, performance and wellbeing through heightened recognition and improved professional development. 

Already, the school has reported the three middle leaders are feeling more confident in their role, more empowered and better supported. They are taking a greater ownership of their area and are starting to articulate the vision and explain how their area operates across the whole school (whether it is a specific curriculum area or a more general focus like internationalism). 

Bluecoat C.E. School and Music College in Coventry 

Bluecoat wanted to encourage staff to talk about their mental health and normalise mental health issues. As well as staff being reluctant to talk about mental health, the school acknowledged that line managers were not all equipped on how to spot signs of poor mental health and the need to prioritise self to protect individual wellbeing. Using the funding, it is now shifting towards a culture which encourages open dialogue around mental health to ensure staff address issues early on and seek out appropriate support. It is implementing a wellbeing strategy, delivered by the Head of HR in conjunction with the executive leadership team and wellbeing champions, to address these challenges and ensure that professional development, personal lifestyle programmes and positive intervention are developed and embedded.  

As part of the wellbeing strategy, the school’s wellbeing champions took a lead to develop personal lifestyle programmes to positively impact the wellbeing of staff. It has introduced activities like staff fitness bootcamps, Friday sport with various opportunities to play and compete in sport, running events and challenges. 

Staff said: “It has enabled me to meet new colleagues and let off some steam in a constructive way after a challenging week, it’s good to get fresh air and exercise.” 

Another commented: “I have noticed being in a routine of looking forward to staff sport that I have been more productive in my work as I am working with less stress.” 

Most of the initiatives have been designed to be sustainable and many of the schools involved hope to create lasting change through them. Follow more school journeys through The Well School movementpowered by the Youth Sport Trust and Bupa Foundation. It is supporting schools across the country to put wellbeing at the heart of teaching and learning and place more value on the outcomes schools achieve beyond academic attainment alone.   

To find out how you can continue to support the Youth Sport Trust and its work please visit 

Published on 17 December 2021