Jun 22, 2020
Welcome to Episode 43. Wow, this has been quite a week! Three of the Four panels on the “For Flourishing’s Sake” Virtual Book Launch Extravaganza happened on Thursday, the day the book launched in Kindle format. The final panel will take place on 21st August, when the paperback comes out.
One of the issues we talked about in one of the panel discussions was cost. Too often, I hear the cost argument: “Oh, well that sounds great, but we just don’t have the budget”. I am sure that, as someone who listens to this podcast and is therefore interested in promoting the flourishing of everyone within your school community and as an ardent advocate of Positive and Character Education (or whatever you may call it in your school) you have heard these objections over the years, too.
It is true that much of Positive Education has sprung from prestigious independent schools such as Geelong Grammar School in Australia and Wellington College in the UK. But as Fabian de Fabiani - Director of Character Education and Wellbeing at the Odyssey Trust for Education and Assistant Headteacher at Townley Grammar School - said to me when I interviewed him for the book:
“If the independent sector has been doing this for the last 20-30 years, why can’t the state sector do it?”
At Townley Grammar School, a state-funded selective secondary school just outside London, where costs are very high but the school’s budget does not get the inner London uplift, they developed their Character Education programme and policies around the belief that everyone has a fundamental right to social mobility and discovering their purpose. They then introduced the same principles, adapted to the different environment, to Erith School, which they renamed King Henry School, as they formed the Odyssey Trust for Education. As Fabian explained when I interviewed him for the book and in the first of last week’s book launch panels, it is about where your priorities lie, and about being good at collaborating with others and spending your money wisely.
Patrick Ottley-O’Connor - Education Consultant, Leadership Coach and Headteacher & Executive Principal, North Liverpool Academy - explained that you can find cost savings in other areas and that staff will accept these if you bring them on board and they understand why certain costs have to be cut, especially if they know you will then re-invest them into structures and systems that will improve well-being. He gives a great example of this in the book…you’ll have to read it for yourself though, I wouldn’t want to spoil your reading enjoyment! 😉
Cost savings can actually be achieved directly from wellbeing initiatives, as Dan Morrow - CEO of the Woodland Academy Trust - explains in the book. When he joined the Trust, they had been losing around 40% of staff per year, which is at the top end of the normal range of staff attrition for schools in the UK). A year later, this had dropped to 4%. The trust saved over £100,000 in recruitment costs alone last year! In the book, he explains some of the simple initiatives he has introduced to improve the wellbeing of staff and students in his schools. I am sure he will talk about some of these in the panel discussion on 21st August as well. Details of this will be posted virtual book launch extravaganza webpage nearer the time.
So, putting wellbeing at the heart of education doesn’t have to cost the earth, and it may even save vast sums of money in recruitment and retention, not to mention the costs related to sickness absence, especially as a high proportion of sickness absence is related to mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression.
I hope this episode has given you some ammunition when you hear those objections from colleagues or education leaders about Positive Education being too expensive. And I’d like to leave you with a final thought from Patrick Ottley-O’Connor. When he talked to me about his school as a “loving, caring community”, he added:
“The way we speak to each other doesn’t cost a penny”.
Positive Education is not just about new initiatives and programmes. So much of it hinges on strong, determined leadership and creating an ethos for wellbeing in the school. And that starts with the way you talk to your colleagues and your students, and the way you look after each other as a community.
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The book, by the same name, came out on Kindle on 18th June and will be out on paperback on 21st August. You’ll find it on all major online book retailer sites. It’s jam-packed with evidence-based strategies for whole school positive education with case study examples from a wide range of schools from around the world. So why not order your Kindle copy now, or pre-order your paperback so you’ll receive it as soon as it’s published?
If you’d like to get in touch with questions or comments, or to contribute to a future episode, please contact me via Twitter at @FlourishingED. You can also leave comments on individual episode pages right here at www.forflourishingssake.com (see bottom of this page).
I look forward to hearing from you, and until next time, For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!