Emotional Labour

Emotional Labour

Exploring the impact of repeated bereavements for staff in a special school

Edvard Munch, Two Women on the Shore, 1898

The Tavistock Institute was invited by a headteacher to undertake an action inquiry to better understand the impact of repeated bereavements for staff working in a special school for pupils with severe and profound learning difficulties.

In this Lunchtime Talk, Anne Benson and Thomas Spielhofer shared what they, alongside John Bosley and the school, found during this inquiry, with focus on the concept of emotional labour, as it proved useful in understanding what was happening for the staff. In the talk, they elaborate on aspects of the school culture that combined to provide a containing environment in which both staff and pupils can thrive.

Recording of the talk

Speaker’s bios

Anne Benson is a Principal Consultant and Researcher as well as the Head of Professional Development programmes at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. She is a UKCP accredited Psychotherapist with 30 years’ experience of working primarily in and with the health and social care sector. Anne’s practice is informed by a blend of humanistic, psychodynamic and systems theories. Anne has worked in the NHS, Local Authority, Higher Education and third sector organisations as well as organisations with a national and international remit, most recently The Kings Fund (2009 – 2015).

Dr Thomas Spielhofer is a Principal Researcher at the Tavistock Institute with many years’ experience of leading relevant projects. He has a particular interest in researching the characteristics and needs of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) and studying the benefits of programmes aimed at reducing early school leaving. To this end, he has over the last few years worked on several national and European projects exploring early school leaving, including the current Erasmus+ funded project.

John Bosley has worked in schools for pupils with severe and profound and multiple learning difficulties for 35 years, 25 of those have been as deputy head at Abbey Court school. In that time the nature of needs in Severe Learning Disabilities schools has developed and changed with increasing complexity, including medical needs, life limiting and life threatening conditions and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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