Andrea Rippon is the Director of Stronger Relationships, a Social Enterprise that helps individuals and organisations build stronger relationships at home, work and school. As a wellbeing project involving staff at Recreation Road Infant School nears completion, the feedback has been nothing short of fantastic.
With the help of funding from the Norwich Opportunity Area COVID-19 Recovery Grant for Mental Health and Wellbeing, staff at Recreation Road Infant School in Norwich have been getting some well-deserved support from Andrea Rippon, the Director of Stronger Relationships.
Called Supervision for Wellbeing, the project has been embedding a peer-supervision culture within the school staff team. Peer supervision usually refers to reciprocal arrangements in which peers work together for mutual benefit – developmental feedback is emphasised and self-directed learning and evaluation is encouraged.
Through a series of professionally facilitated supervision sessions, staff learn how to maintain their own wellbeing through receiving and giving support to each other. As their experience of the skills of peer-supervision grow, they can transfer them to the larger school community, including children and parents. Designed to be scalable and self-sustaining within a year, Recreation Road Infant School looks forward to making mental health and wellbeing a priority for their staff. Andrea says: ‘We are nearing the end of the project and the feedback from teachers has been fantastic.’
In their own words:
Susanna, Assistant Head (Pastoral):
In the general hubbub of school, it’s hard to find the time to really talk and listen to colleagues. I don’t want to burden them with my issues because that would be inappropriate. Having this time set aside, where we have agreed to talk and listen to each other is really important to me. When I have a work-related issue, I know that the level of understanding from my colleagues will be good. Although, they are not there to give me solutions I know that I can ask them what they might do in my situation and that can be useful. Often, just talking it through (where I am heard and not judged) helps me see things more clearly and I find a strategy or a solution myself. When it’s a home-related issue I find that, because my relationship with my colleagues has deepened, they see beyond my role and offer me a great deal of empathy. The staff hierarchy dissolves and we experience each other as people, not only doing the best we can but striving to do better. I have learnt that sometimes that might mean doing less, rather than more! In a nutshell, peer-supervision is being heard, no matter what.
Jenny Martin, Teaching Assistant and Cover Supervisor:
It’s good to hear that others have struggles and insecurities too. I thought it was only me hiding behind the seemingly confident ‘professional mask’. It’s great to be heard and supported, although I find it challenging not to be a ‘fixer’/advisor (unless that’s asked for). The skill of ‘just’ listening can be so powerful and that’s been a real eye-opener.
Lisa McNaughton, Teacher:
Although time is precious, making room for peer supervision (an hour, once every half term) is really valuable. It gives me the space to reflect on me and how I am doing, both at work and at home. It’s a space where I have time to think about personal and professional issues in a solution-focussed way. It feels very nurturing to be listened to by colleagues. We can be fully ourselves in a supportive and confidential setting. I come out feeling positive and cared for.
Louise Carolan, Teacher:
It’s a safe space where I can build relationships with colleagues which I wouldn’t normally have time to do. Our supervision group is mixed up with staff from across the school – Senior Leadership Team, Teaching Assistant, Teachers. It’s really good to have the time to get to know each other as people, rather than as roles. I feel seen and known. It makes a big difference to my school day, to have this sense of safety, trust and care. It doesn’t happen immediately, but as we began to commit to the supervision process and, more importantly, to each other, this feeling of trust and confidence builds up. I really value it and recommend it to my colleagues who I think might benefit.
(Pictured left to right: Lisa, Susanna, Louise and Andrea)