In the summer of 2018, Optimus Education advertised their new national accreditation called the Well-Being Award for Schools and Headteacher (Peter Woodman) immediately made enquiries to find out how to participate in the scheme. The school had been working for a long time on increasing and improving pastoral support for students who needed additional care and explained in a statement: “we were also concerned about the increasing strains put on staff in schools due to external services being cut. We were advised by Optimus that there were two routes towards achieving the accreditation: either a school-led or an advisor-led approach. We opted for the advisor-led approach so that we would receive support from an expert who visits many schools as part of their work and could ensure we adopted best practice. Achieving the award in itself was never the priority; rather, it was the work that went into achieving the award that was the most significant factor in our decision to go ahead.
The first part of the process was a meeting with our advisor who talked us through the 8 areas of the accreditation and asked us to set out our current provision at the time. She then provided concrete strategies for completing each of the 8 stages and gave us an outline of an action plan. We appointed a Well-Being Team, made up of a Head of House (Phillipa Robins), one of our Sixth Form Managers (Dee Gammond), our safeguarding Governor (Sally Catchpole), our Head of Character and Culture (Matt Fry), a member of staff with an active interest in this area of work (Andy Cooper) and the Deputy Headteacher (Sarah Edwards). We met monthly to review the action plan, complete a SWOT analysis of our provision and set interim targets on the action plan. What quickly became clear was that our provision for staff and students for well-being was varied but not strategic and certainly not coherently drawn together or well advertised to those who needed it.
Over the course of 9 months, the team continued working towards achieving the award, and hosted an interim visit from our advisor who checked our progress in the 8 areas and provided support and practical guidance on our next steps. The most significant part of the work was in creating a coherent strategy for the award which involved setting whole-school targets with SMART outcomes and staff responsible for achieving them. Once this was in place, the aims and objectives of what our end result was to look like became much clearer. The most evident impact of this strategy has been a new Weald Framework which moved away from our old community framework and towards a structure to underpin every aspect of our vision and ethos as a school: namely, that educating young people to become decent citizens who are successful in their chosen paths beyond school can only be done by focussing on their characteristics and not wholly on their academic pursuits. This new framework was drawn up with contributions from the wider student and staff body and has been welcomed wholeheartedly by all stakeholders.
The final part of the process was the verification visit at the end of November. Our assessor required meetings with a range of stakeholders (including students, staff, parents and governors), an interview with the Headteacher and a presentation by the Well-Being Team. Finally, he reviewed all of the evidence we had put together and immediately judged our work to be unequivocally in line with their expectations to pass the accreditation.
The impact of achieving this award has been very broad: it has served as a tremendous acknowledgement of the work of our pastoral team across the school which in turn has proven to be a great motivator to continue to drive our standards of care for our students even higher. In addition, the assessor provided us with some specific feedback which we are keen to follow up. Whilst we know our aim of making our provision coherent and thorough has been met, the second critical aim of advertising this support needs further work. We look forward to working with students, parents, staff and governors to continue this critical work on behalf of the whole community of The Weald.”