The National Agreement introduced an entitlement to a reasonable work/life balance for all teachers. The view is that where teachers believe they have a reasonable work/life balance, it will benefit them and input on pupils through better standards. Although teachers have an entitlement, work/life balance should be considered in terms of the whole workforce including governors. One of the big challenges with work/life balance is the individual nature of the determination of a reasonable balance.
The key to addressing the work/life balance issue is to talk about it and thereby not only show an interest in each member of staff’s wider activity but also become aware of matters which need to be discussed further and addressed. Often, the simple fact of discussion is enough to convey to the employee that the employer is taking the duty of care seriously and is concerned to ensure that sensible workloads are being carried. EPS and the Healthy Schools team have also developed a website focused on staff wellbeing, which is inclusive of work/life balance issues. The tools available on the Wellbeing of the Workforce website provide schools with an opportunity to use the remodelling framework of discover, deepen, develop and deliver, to develop and deliver strategies around improved staff wellbeing, including work/life balance.
Governing Bodies can also review the way they work and assess the workload impact they have on the school and themselves (e.g. frequency of meetings, timing and length of meetings, committee structures, length of reports, focussing governance on key issues for the school and so on). Although the governor’s role is voluntary, it would be wrong to fail to continually review the way the governing body works in the school.
Governing Bodies also play a key role in supporting Headteachers to improve their work/life balance. Whilst the Teacher’s Pay and Conditions Document suggests that senior leaders in schools should lead by example, it is clear that this continues to be a challenge for most Headteachers and senior school leaders. Governors have to act in the same way as Headteachers should for all other school staff in this respect, challenging and developing strategies to support those individuals who are obviously overstretching themselves and engaging in regular dialogue regarding work/life balance to achieve realistic and sustainable solutions. Governors should also ensure that Headteachers are able to access their entitlement of Dedicated Headship Time as covered within this website.