July 26, 2021

Teacher Wellbeing at the heart of new ECE toolkit

Teachers play a critical role in the health and wellbeing of future generations, providing a range of experiences and interactions to support tamariki explore their world, try new things, solve problems, create strong relationships and discover how their bodies work.

Yet the people working in early childhood education (ECE) face long-standing, critical challenges including teacher shortages, high teacher to child ratios and lack of importance placed on their personal wellbeing. 

To explore these challenges and identify opportunities to improve people’s health and wellbeing, Healthy Families Waitākere worked alongside the Heart Foundation to design and test a series of workshops. These were delivered to ECE centres in order to establish insights on effective ECE workplace wellbeing professional development (PD), which informed the development of a toolkit for effective ECE kaiako hauora PD.

Healthy Families Waitākere Lead Systems Innovator, Catherine Powell, explains. “Although it may seem obvious that a healthy and well ECE workforce is made up of well-trained, healthy, happy and committed people, there has been little research focused on teacher wellbeing and what kinds of workplace support can improve it.”

Workshops held over 12 months from October 2019 in West Auckland enabled us to collate three primary insights:

  • Kaiako report greater wellbeing when they feel part of a team, supported and looked after: they take a holistic view of ‘healthy’ including spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Policy development requires a shift to be more holistic: workplace policies need to consider the wellbeing of staff, and kaiako have a role in policy design in their centres.

“Looking after our own wellbeing is a teaching moment, a part of the practice and not taking us away from it, as children are always watching us!” -Workshop participant

  • Students entering the workforce share the same perspectives as experienced kaiako: students believe their wellbeing will be increased if they work in a centre where they feel part of a team, supported and listened to.

Insights were used by the Heart Foundation to develop a national toolkit for the delivery of ECE kaiako wellbeing PD and a framework of critical success factors for effective workplace wellbeing PD.

“Teacher wellbeing is both an individual and collective responsibility. It’s holistic – focussing on the spiritual, physical, mental and social wellness of teachers as professionals. In practice it looks different from place to place, person to person which is why a toolkit and loose framework for the Heart Foundation regional teams has been developed – rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach”, she says.’