Improving staff wellbeing & morale at City of London Academy | Education Support Partnership

Improving staff wellbeing & morale at City of London Academy

City of London Academy is in Southwark which is in one of the most socially deprived areas of the country. Over the last five years has seen the school move to the top 10% of non selective schools in England. Teacher turnover has decreased from 16% in 2015 to an anticipated 10% in 2017 while the academic achievement of the students has increased substantially year on year.

Hannah Mathews leads on wellbeing at City of London Academy in Southwark. Here she outlines the work that has been done to improve staff wellbeing, morale and retention making the school a more positive place to work.

“As a school we wanted to support our staff who we know work in what is an increasingly challenging profession. We looked at the Investors in People award but opted instead to work with Education Support Partnership because of the support they could offer to help us achieve our own goals.

The academy took up the Positive Workplace Programme and Employee Assistance Programme to help to improve:

  • self reported wellbeing of staff
  • staff retention
  • recruitment
  • motivation and communication
  • workload

We already had a number of initiatives in place to support staff such as free pilates, health care and termly staff rewards. However, it became clear that staff wanted to see systemic change in the school to improve their working lives further.

Since commencing the Education Support Partnership Positive Workplace Programme and Employee Assistance Programme our staff turnover has already improved for teachers from 16% in 2015 down to an anticipated 10% in 2017, and staff report that the school is a more positive place to work.  Our academic results are also greatly improving year on year.

Wellbeing is now on our school’s whole development plan as well as being on the agenda of many of our internal meetings too.  Wellbeing really factors into our decision making now as we are on a continuous journey, staff say that they appreciate feeling heard and that they feel positive about working at City of London Academy. 

Here are some of the key changes that have been made to facilitate this shift which has helped to create a thriving workplace:


  • staff wellbeing is now a part of the City of London Academy’s culture
  • appreciative enquiry sessions with SLT, wellbeing team and support team focusing on wellbeing. The model has been rolled out to the whole school in a twilight inset
  • classroom observation is done using a developmental and coaching model.  Also starting to use 'instructional rounds' to further develop this approach
  • instructional rounds also takes an appreciative enquiry approach allowing us to gather valuable insight into what is working well in the school which we can build on
  • free mindfulness 9 week course for teachers and a plan to deliver mindfulness training to all staff as part of their CPD, to embed this into their teaching practice
  • two twilight insets focusing on wellbeing
  • inset training for middle leaders and NQT on productivity and wellbeing
  • free 24 hour a day  counselling, support and information line through Education Support’s Employee Assistance Programme
  • key members of SLT and all of our middle leadership receive performance coaching
  • random act of kindness week
  • Students regularly give thanks to teachers though posters in the staffroom, notes in pigeon holes and most popularly at the end of term staff celebrations
  • more staff socials & benefits:
    • staff events organised
    • gym is free to use even after 6pm
    • cakes in the staffroom!
    • free lunch on inset days
    • interest free travel loan


  • we increased our inset days at the beginning of September from 0.5 to 2 days
  • less twilight sessions
  • assessments weeks turned into assessment fortnights
  • marking and moderation week is scheduled into calendar
  • more faculty meetings scheduled in calendar allowing for more moderation time
  • 3 cover supervisors hired
  • SLT members now also do cover lessons every week
  • 2.40pm finish on a Friday
  • differentiated and personalised CPD with a choice on workshops on inset days and personal coaches
  • all meetings run strictly to time.
  • SEF, developmental plan and exam analysis templates were reviewed for simplicity Centralised detentions run every day by senior leaders
  • change of tone of communications with more humour and a more approachable style
  • staff bulletin more user friendly and sent out every week
  • junior staff forum established and meetings scheduled in the calendar
  • marking policy has been redrafted and simplified
  • trials of new more sustainable marking methods are underway
  • all dates for data point communicated at start of year on the academy calendar
  • strong removal system which is responsive and 100% supportive
  • opportunity to work with a behaviour specialists coming to observe a lesson(s) of your choice followed by solution focussed coaching discussions

Having the support of our Education Support Partnership consultant has really given me the courage to facilitate whole school change. They have ensured that any work I do has a real impact of the wellbeing of staff and is not just tokenism.”

Hannah Matthews & Richard Bannister

In order to achieve the cultural shift that the staff have requested, all senior and middle leaders have taken the opportunity for professional coaching by our Education Support Partnership coach.

It is hoped that the coaching sessions will support our middle leaders who reported feeling the most strain and in turn shift a leadership style that will benefit the whole school.

We have started a culture shift through making changes of top down communication styles, and in the recruitment new staff to balance our existing teams in light of our new wellbeing agenda.

Watch a short video where Hannah outlines how staff wellbeing has been improved at City of London Academy.

What would you say to other schools?

We would definitely recommend addressing staff wellbeing through the Positive Workplace Programme to other schools.

Education Support Partnership really worked hard to understand our school and they provided a fresh objective take on the issues we were facing. They were not afraid of asking difficult questions and then championing the work that we did to make things better.

Overall, they provide a full service that addresses the issues that really affect wellbeing specific to your school. Their consultants are excellent coaches and well placed to speak knowledgeablely and authoritatively about life in schools."

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about our Positive Workplace Survey.

The service includes pre and post survey in-school consultancy, presentations as well as the robust and confidential staff survey and report. Please email at or call 020 7697 2750.