Creating & Leading a Culture and Ethos of Wellbeing

These notes are a summary of Pooky’s webinar with the same name. You can view a recording here. You can book on future webinars here.


It’s important to have a clear vision about how we want staff to feel within our school.  Without that it is incredibly hard to achieve, or to know we are achieving it.  Think about your school’s wider mission or purpose and how your staff fit within this. 

  • Revisit your school’s vision or mission statements. Update them with fresh eyes and consider it from the point of view of staff (Vision: our hopes for tomorrow. Mission: what we’ll do today)
  • Put yourself in the shoes of different members of staff; are they aware of the direction of travel, are they part of it, do they want it too…? What are the obstacles and challenge here?
  • How can you weave the big picture into the day to day?
  • How can we bring everyone along and ensure that changing ideas are collaborative and communicated clearly?

In one word, how would you like your staff to feel? 
How would you know if you’d succeeded?


We need first to meet staff’s most basic needs.  In order for staff to thrive and flourish, their most basic needs of safety must be met in the first instance.  I consider safety in four domains: physical, emotional, social and cognitive and these exact same ideas can be applied to supporting children too.  

  • Physical safety: I can come to work with confidence, I won’t be hurt or put at physical risk
  • Emotional safety: I am seen, heard and supported. I can self-regulate and seek respite.
  • Social safety: I know the rules of engagement, they are consistent and predictable (this can be especially hard for new teachers in a foreign culture) 
  • Cognitive safety: I can step outside my comfort zone and try new things

Which of the four domains of safety might need a bit more work; what small things might have a big impact? 


A sense of belonging and purpose is key to promoting good self-esteem and morale.  Do your staff all feel like part of the team; do they feel that they belong and are wanted? 

  • How do we ensure that EVERY voice is heard?
  • Is diversity embraced? Are there any groups who may feel less like they belong?
  • Think about day-to-day interactions – how do we as leaders ensure that staff feel warmly welcomed and wanted each day?
  • How do we create a sense of belonging despite physical distance during periods of lockdown or isolation?
  • What lessons can we learn from looking back at these times to help us steer things face to face?
  • What is the role of staff in ensuring students feel they belong too? How can you lead on this?

Is it important for every voice to be heard? If so, what practical steps can we take?


One of the factors that contribute most to day-to-day wellbeing is a sense of mastery within our roles.  Feeling like we’re good at our job and that our skills are being put to good use.  Continual learning has also been repeatedly identified as an important ‘way to wellbeing’, but we might want to look again at what learning looks like for those leading learning in our schools.  It is not infrequent that we work hard to create an optimal environment and ethos for student learning whilst staff CPD pales by comparison. 

  • What are the vehicles for learning for staff in your school?
  • What kind of learners do we want our pupils to be? Can our staff role model this? Do they?
  • How can we support staff to support one another’s learning?
  • How can we help translate ideas learned into changes in behaviour and practice?
  • What can go wrong? 

Share some of the great learning that has happened for individuals or teams within your school – what worked well? 


A supportive environment is one where we are able to step outside of our comfort zone and try new things.  It’s also one where we know that our colleagues have our back and where we know that if we stumble, a hand will be extended and where we’ll readily extend a hand to others if they are having a tough time. 

  • How can we promote team-work and mutual support and strength, rather than silos?
  • How can we move towards a culture of sharing mistakes, as well as successes?
  • What is our role in terms of looking out for one another?   Do we pick up early signs?
  • Do colleagues feel confident seeking help; are their clear pathways of support?
  • What is the role of buddying, mentoring and coaching?
  • What if it all goes wrong? 

What are the benefits of ‘gifting our mistakes’?  How might this practice impact on how newer or less experienced staff experience school life day to day?


We end by coming almost full circle and considering whether colleagues feel on board with the school’s mission, vision and ethos.  When we’re all paddling persistently, consistently in the same direction, the boat will go faster. Is every member of our staff team on board with our vision and if not, why not and what next? 

  • Do we have a clear vision?
  • Are staff on board with that vision?
  • Are we all paddling in the same direction?
  • How can we keep ourselves on course, working as a team but with clear leadership?

What will you do differently tomorrow as a result of something you’ve learned today? 

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