Case Study: United Learning
United Learning: A Lesson in Wellbeing Excellence
United Learning, a prominent educational group comprising over 70 schools across the UK, is committed to delivering exceptional education while improving the life prospects of young individuals. With over 40,000 students and 8,000 staff members, United Learning faces the challenge of national teacher recruitment and retention, particularly in historically underperforming schools. To tackle this challenge, United Learning has joined forces with Robertson Cooper, embarking on a multi-tiered, phased approach aimed at elevating wellbeing awareness and nurturing momentum across the school community. The journey encompasses empowering school heads, HR leaders, and Wellbeing Champions to proactively manage wellbeing for the long term.
Taking a Truly Holistic Approach: Creating More Good Days at School
United Learning’s objectives were ambitious: to forge a comprehensive wellbeing strategy that can guide schools in their wellbeing and resilience endeavours; establish a network of wellbeing advocates, including Heads and Wellbeing Champions, to foster a culture of wellbeing within and beyond schools; instil a sense of personal responsibility for wellbeing among all employees; integrate wellbeing initiatives into HR priorities, particularly recruitment and retention; understand the impact of current pressures on health and wellbeing in pilot schools; and measure the influence of health and wellbeing investments on key school performance indicators, such as student performance.
MANDY COALTER, DIRECTOR OF PEOPLE, UNITED LEARNING
“Partnering with Robertson Cooper has enabled us to take a strategic approach to wellbeing that, after two years, is already delivering real benefits to our schools. In our initial pilot group of schools, we have seen lower sickness absence, improved levels of satisfaction with work/life balance, improvements in employee engagement and some of them have already seen an impact on staff retention. As a result, many more schools have come on board and joined our work and we are building momentum towards an embedded culture of wellbeing at work. Creating more Good Days at Work enables us to deliver our mission to bring out ‘the best in everyone’ – by showing that we really are committed to the health and wellbeing of our employees.”
Igniting Change: The Rise of Wellbeing Champions
Collaborating closely with United Learning, Robertson Cooper has meticulously crafted a staged wellbeing development approach, spanning multiple sites and populations. The journey, guided by invaluable insights from stakeholders, began with data collection and pilot programme design. It further entailed assisting United Learning in formulating a comprehensive four-year wellbeing strategy.
In the pilot phase, attention converged on a select group of eight schools. The primary objective was to foster consistent wellbeing awareness through diverse activities and resources meticulously designed and facilitated by Robertson Cooper. This initiative generated a surge of interest and momentum, culminating in internal wellbeing case studies that radiated beyond the pilot schools. As the initial excitement matured into a readiness for progression, the focus transitioned towards empowering key roles and communities during the second year of the programme.
This stage encompassed equipping stakeholders with toolkits, training, and resources, guided by baseline measurements, culminating in the establishment of a robust Wellbeing Champions Network. As the programme advances into its third year, the expansion continues, reaching nearly half of United Learning’s extensive network. The initial pilot group continues to enhance internal capabilities, effectively fostering the independent management of wellbeing within the United Learning Group.
MANDY COALTER, DIRECTOR OF PEOPLE, UNITED LEARNING
“Building, developing and training a Wellbeing Champions Network is playing an important part in our wellbeing approach. There’s no point in having a cohesive strategy with lots of engaging activities if no one knows about it or is engaged enough to take part. Robertson Cooper’s approach has enabled us to get out there and make some noise around wellbeing – creating the interest and energy that any wellbeing approach needs. Their training, support and resources are engaging and popular with our employees and the experience they bring has really made a difference to the success of our approach.”
Grading Success: A Report Card on Wellbeing Impact
United Learning diligently tracks various key performance indicators, including staff absenteeism rates and academic performance across schools. As the programme takes its early strides, two critical domains—employee engagement and sickness absence—are already showcasing promising results.
In the pre-pilot phase, the average sick days per person within pilot schools stood at 9.96, surpassing the Group average of eight days. Over the span of two years, the average sick days per person have plummeted to 5.85 days, marking a noteworthy reduction of 4.11 days. This reduction dwarfs the Group’s average decline of 1.48 days, resulting in substantial cost savings approaching £100,000. These financial savings barely scratch the surface, as they exclude the additional expenses associated with substitute teachers.
Employee engagement across academies offering wellbeing programmes stands at an impressive 76%, outpacing the Group average by 2.5%. Notably, engagement has risen by 3.4% over the past two years. Satisfaction with work-life balance has surged by 4%, reaching an average of 58.33%—2% higher than the Group average. Noteworthy is the shift in perceptions of United Learning’s commitment to staff wellbeing, with positive ratings climbing from 48.5% to 56.7%, a 7% surge compared to other academies in the Group.
Enhanced School Performance
The benefits of wellbeing investments are reflected in school performance outcomes. Among the eight pilot schools that completed the first year, substantial performance improvements were observed. While acknowledging other contributing factors, it’s evident that the contentment of teachers significantly influences classroom effectiveness. For instance, one pilot school experienced a rise in expected standard of reading, surpassing the target by 6%, and witnessed a 7% increase in the number of pupils excelling in Mathematics.
This strategic approach underscores United Learning’s dedication to empowering educators with the resilience and tools required to navigate challenging scenarios and personal adversities. As the programme continues to flourish, the focus on the Health and Wellbeing Strategy remains unwavering, establishing United Learning as trailblazers in the sector, especially when schools are compelled to elevate their approach to teacher recruitment and retention. The profound impact on the teaching community heralds a brighter future for education within the United Kingdom.
Are you looking to activate or upskill a network of Wellbeing Champions?