Pastoral care: Reviewing staff wellbeing

In their Teacher article Pastoral care: A 10-step plan, Leanne Lester and Donna Cross discuss the need for schools to carry out regular reviews of pastoral care policies, program and practices. Here, they look in greater depth at Stage 2 – reviewing staff wellbeing.

The aim of pastoral care is to create a caring school community which effectively meets the academic and social and emotional development needs of both students and staff. A focus on staff wellbeing also promotes and supports students' wellbeing.

Developing young people's academic, social and emotional capabilities is highly dependent on skilled, competent, and dedicated school staff. Providing emotional support to students, in addition to their responsibilities as educators, can intensify the burden on school staff, with school leadership and teaching consistently associated with experiencing higher levels of work-related stress than those in other occupations. Chronic levels of work stress and burn-out are associated with physical, emotional and mental health complaints, absenteeism, low job satisfaction and attrition (Naghieh et al, 2013; Milfont et al, 2008; Stansfeld & Candy, 2006).

Carmel Cefai and Valeria Cavioni suggest a caring school community promoting staff wellbeing can be achieved through a whole-school approach characterised by three factors: caring and supportive relationships amongst school members; school members being meaningfully and influentially engaged in the school community; and addressing and supporting the emotional wellbeing and education of all school members (Cefai & Cavioni, 2013).

Staff relationships include caring and supportive relationships between colleagues, the school administration, students and staff where all members feel valued and respected. Some ways staff relationships can be enhanced is through encouraging:

  • collegiality amongst staff;
  • staff to discuss and solve problems together constructively;
  • staff to act as mentors and provide support to colleagues;
  • celebrating each other's achievements;
  • understanding between staff and administration; and,
  • regular communication with parents/care givers (Cefai & Cavioni, 2013).

Staff engagement involves being both actively and passively, meaningfully and influentially, engaged in the school community. Engagement can be promoted through:

  • being well informed and actively participating in school activities, staff meetings, curriculum planning and policy development;
  • being given particular roles and responsibilities at the school;
  • being provided with adequate support, resources and technology;
  • being treated equally and contributions valued;
  • teaching partnerships and mentoring schemes; and,
  • professional learning (Cefai & Cavioni, 2013).

Addressing and supporting staff emotional wellbeing and education includes the school's provision of support for staff social and emotional needs and development. This can be achieved through:

  • professional learning and education sessions for staff in the development of its social and emotional competence, health and wellbeing;
  • provision of designated areas where staff can take a break, or socialise and connect with each other;
  • staff being given the opportunity to apply for positions, roles and promotions;
  • importance being given to staff job satisfaction and fulfilment;
  • school policies and provisions to help staff cope with, and manage stress, and reduce and prevent staff burnout; and,
  • provisions for access to professional advice and assistance (Cefai & Cavioni, 2013).

Staff wellbeing and mental health can be actively promoted through a caring and protective school community combined with personal social and emotional resources (Cefai & Cavioni, 2013). Social and emotional competence enables staff with effective coping and resilience, high social awareness and skills, being able to collaborate with others and engage in decision making, being aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and able to regulate their own emotions, and building healthy relationships (Cefai & Cavioni, 2013; Leithwood & Beatty, 2008; Jennings & Greenberg, 2009). Experiential professional learning experiences, mindfulness training, enhancing self-efficacy, and mentoring are useful tools in promoting wellbeing (Roeser et al, 2012; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2010; Mind Matters, 2012; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004).

Reviewing, monitoring and regular evaluation of a school's pastoral care policies and practices is essential to improve school staff wellbeing (Cefai & Cavioni, 2013). Regularly surveying staff about ways to improve their mental health and wellbeing identifies strengths and improvements to objectively determine targets for intervention. A plan of action can then be developed collaboratively with all school staff, or a representative sample of staff, who prioritise targets for intervention, and ways for monitoring and evaluating the action plan.


Cefai, C., & Cavioni, V. (2013). Social and emotional education in primary school: Integrating theory and research into practice. Springer Science & Business Media.

Jennings, P. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). The prosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in relation to student and classroom outcomes. Review of educational research, 79(1), 491-525.

Leithwood, K., & Beatty, B. (Eds.). (2007). Leading with teacher emotions in mind. Corwin Press.

Milfont, T. L., Denny, S., Ameratunga, S., Robinson, E., & Merry, S. (2008). Burnout and wellbeing: Testing the Copenhagen burnout inventory in New Zealand teachers. Social indicators research, 89(1), 169-177.

Mind Matters (2012). Whole School Matters. Commonwealth of Australia.

Naghieh, A., Montgomery, P., Bonell, C., Thompson, M., & Aber, J. (2013). Organisational interventions for improving wellbeing and reducing work-related stress in teachers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 4.

Roeser, R. W., Skinner, E., Beers, J., & Jennings, P. A. (2012). Mindfulness training and teachers' professional development: An emerging area of research and practice. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 167-173.

Skaalvik, E. M., & Skaalvik, S. (2010). Teacher self-efficacy and teacher burnout: A study of relations. Teaching and teacher education, 26(4), 1059-1069.

Smith, T. M., & Ingersoll, R. M. (2004). What are the effects of induction and mentoring on beginning teacher turnover?. American educational research journal, 41(3), 681-714.

Stansfeld, S., & Candy, B. (2006). Psychosocial work environment and mental health—a meta-analytic review. Scandinavian journal of work, environment & health, 32(6), 443-462.

How often do you review, monitor and evaluate your school’s pastoral care policies?

Does your school have a staff wellbeing policy? What support networks and programs are in place for staff?

As a school leader, how often do you seek staff input and engagement on the topic of staff wellbeing and mental health?