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Ipswich State High School: Health and wellbeing

Ipswich State High School (ISHS) is a large secondary school located in north Ipswich with approximately 1500 students and 146 staff.

ISHS's workplace health and wellbeing efforts commenced in 2013 with the introduction of a wellness committee. Since then, the program has developed with multiple initiatives implemented to improve health and wellbeing within the school community. The program has received silver recognition through the Queensland Government Happier. Healthier. Workplaces' recognition scheme, has been awarded 2014 Secondary Canteen of the year and became the winner of the Queensland Healthy Options Canteen Award for the second year in a row.

The program

ISHS's health and wellbeing program involves a number of initiatives to address health risk factors.

Nutrition:

  • 'green' choices served in the canteen achieving a five star rating
  • roving staffroom morning teas to showcase healthy meal options available from the canteen
  • healthy recipes included on school notices
  • healthy cooking workshops for staff
  • healthy snacks available in the staff dining room.

Physical activity:

  • Fitbits loaned to staff to encourage their participation in fitness activities
  • after school gym sessions conducted by physical education head of department
  • staff and their families are encouraged to participate in the local park run
  • Certificates II and III Fitness students conducted a six week course with cleaners (an ageing workforce group)
  • physiotherapist designed exercises for cleaners for before and after shifts (cleaners continue to perform a daily warm up routine before their shift and also attend the Certificate III in Fitness course on Friday mornings)
  • annual fitness and healthy eating challenges run online
  • weight loss challenge
  • social soccer and netball games on Thursday afternoons
  • staff encouraged to use school gym and pool
  • weekly running and walking groups.

Mental health:

  • gratitude wall in the staff room
  • guest speakers on resilience
  • six week mindfulness and meditation course
  • 'R U OK? Day' and 'I make a difference day' to acknowledge staff and students' contributions to the school
  • Tzu Chi Buddhist community partnership.

Other:

  • health checks and flu vaccinations
  • alcohol free (e.g. dry July)
  • men's health programs
  • mini health expo in partnership with community health
  • wellness information board for staff.

Program strengths

Wellness planning and management commitment

An ISHS wellness committee was established at the start of the program and comprised teachers, teacher aides, cleaners and administration staff.  All committee members have a genuine interest and enthusiasm for building staff wellbeing.

The committee works as a team in partnership with community health and regional Department of Education and Training staff and utilise resources such as the Queensland Cancer Council's QUEST program to inform planning and identify opportunities.

New staff are welcomed onto the committee to maximise sustainability and provide new ideas. This has been helpful in addressing the needs of new and/or younger staff members.

With the support of the principal, the ISHS wellness committee has employed a strategic approach to wellbeing by embedding the school's commitment to staff and school community wellness into key school policy documents and systems.

While recognising that school staff are often time poor, ISHS has fostered a 'now is the time' culture that believes that when staff are under pressure that's when their wellbeing matters most.

A multi-strategic whole school approach

Staff and students are actively involved in the planning and delivery of all health and wellbeing activities. These are implemented in response to staff feedback through an annual wellness survey. The survey captures staff needs, interests and participation in initiatives.

Employing a multi-strategic approach, ISHS include complementary strategies that make changes to the workplace environment (healthy places) as well as programs to influence healthier individual behaviours (healthy people strategies). By focusing on both organisational and individual strategies and integrating health and wellbeing into the school's systems and culture, ISHS has been able to maximise the effectiveness of the program.

ISHS's comprehensive program includes a range of health behaviours and a number of strategies for each risk factor to appeal to as many staff as possible and to meet all staff's identified needs.

Sustainability

ISHS has ensured that the program is sustainable and effective over the long term by:

  • establishing a wellness committee to help plan strategies
  • undertaking an annual staff survey to assess the health and wellbeing needs of staff and ensure program activities meet desires and interests of staff.

The principal supports the program which has been cemented in school policies and systems. ISHS have developed supportive partnerships with the Department of Education and Training, local health and community organisations and utilised current staff knowledge and expertise as well as student interest to help implement activities.

The program continues to grow and ISHS staff are enjoying the benefits of improved health and wellbeing.

More information

Improving health and wellbeing prevents illness and injury and is an investment in your workforce. Find out what your organisation can do to: