Teach SouthEast is a school-centred initial teacher training provider (SCITT). In the secondary SCITT, we currently work with 20 partner schools to provide training to 75 trainees in the South East. As the member of staff who has responsibility for pastoral care, I wanted to explore ways in which we could prepare trainees mentally for the training year and for their future teaching careers. In the academic year 2017–2018, we had a high percentage of trainees who did not complete the course (17.6 per cent). The main reasons cited were ‘mental health’ (42 per cent) and ‘personal circumstances’ (33 per cent). This led to a review of our pastoral care and the introduction of strategies to support trainees to successfully complete the course despite personal difficulties.
After analysis of research into the management of stress (Kobasa and Puccetti’s ‘hardy personality’ (1979), Rotter’s ‘locus of control’ (April et al., 2012) and studies such as that of Baqutayan (2011) on social support), we identified strategies to promote resilience:
- increase the feeling of control:
- provide communication
- involve in decision-making
- talk about resilience and stress-management
- model healthy behaviours
- promote commitment:
- focus on the goal
- celebrate success
- show trainees they are valued
- promote challenge rather than fear or stress:
- admit and review mistakes
- promote reflection
- focus on the learning from challenging experiences
- provide social support.
We fed the findings of our research into every area of our provision.
We began at interview by introducing a task where candidates prepared responses to a tailored ‘resilience scenario’, which they discussed at panel. Before they even began training, we talked to them about resilience and prepared them for the fact that this would be a challenging year.
We provided trainees with a pastoral booklet that contained strategies for managing stress and workload and information on where support was available. We provided social support through a pastoral coach and we also intentionally paired trainees so that they had a pastoral buddy and built time into the programme for them to speak together.
Centralised training developments included introducing sessions with specific foci on resilience, mindfulness and stress-management. We invited experienced teachers to give talks on ‘why I love being a teacher’ (focus on the goal), including tips on stress-management. We tried to give trainees control over their training by introducing carousels so that they could select sessions that they felt were pertinent, and by running intervention sessions with small numbers of trainees who expressed an interest in extra input.
We also sought to give trainees a sense of control by developing communication. We provided a weekly bulletin so that they knew what was coming up. Within our bulletin and through our social media, we communicated messages that were in line with the ‘commitment’ goal: inspirational quotes and motivational messages to remind them of how far they had come and of the importance of self-belief. We involved our trainees in decision-making, providing the opportunity to give their opinion in written evaluations and through a ‘trainee voice’ panel. We explicitly told trainees where we had made changes based on their feedback.
In addition, we developed our school-based training. Our mentors have been trained in giving feedback, including responding to any less effective aspects of lessons with learning points. The first question on the mentor meeting record is a wellbeing question – trainees reflect on their wellbeing every week.
We constantly strive to create a collaborative culture where trainees feel nurtured, valued and fulfilled, and we regularly assess our provision and refine it to try to minimise workload.
Trainee feedback (via a pastoral review questionnaire, trainee voice and evaluations of training sessions) indicated that they felt the pastoral support had a ‘positive impact on their transition into teacher training’ (97 per cent strongly agreed or agreed).
Our January 2019 Ofsted report (Ofsted, 2019a) stated that ‘Systems to ensure high-quality pastoral care for trainees and the promotion of their well-being are first class’ (p. 3), and that ‘Very professional, resilient and self-reflective trainees are well prepared for life in their employing school.’ (p. 4)
The measures we have taken appear to have had an impact on our completion rate. Last academic year (2018–2019) four per cent of trainees withdrew, and so far this year we have two per cent that have withdrawn; this is an improvement from the 17.6 per cent that withdrew the year before we implemented the changes.
The changes to our pastoral provision have been welcomed by trainees and are often cited in our trainee voice panel as strengths of our course. The main difficulty that we have moving forward is maintaining the personalised support as our numbers of trainees increase – our central team is growing to cater for this.
We continue to focus on supporting the wellbeing of our trainees, both in their training year and into their early teaching career – this has been built into our improvement plan and we will be exploring how we can develop our provision to ensure retention within the profession. In line with the DfE teacher recruitment and retention strategy (2019), we will continue to support our trainee teachers through the early career framework. For example, we will provide them with access to high-quality curriculum and planning resources. Our hope is that as well as creating resilient trainees, they will also be able to support their students in becoming resilient learners. This ties in with the Ofsted school inspection handbook, which refers to ‘developing pupils’ confidence, resilience and knowledge so that they can keep themselves mentally healthy’ (2019b, p. 59).
April K, Dharani B and Peters K (2012) Impact of locus of control expectancy on level of well-being. Review of European Studies 4(2). DOI: 10.5539/res.v4n2p124.
Baqutayan S (2011) Stress and social support. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine 33(1): 29–34.
Department for Education (DfE) (2019) Teacher recruitment and retention strategy. Available at: assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/786856/DFE_Teacher_Retention_Strategy_Report.pdf (accessed 17 March 2020).
Kobasa SC and Puccetti MC (1979) Personality and resistance to illness. American Journal of Community Psychology 7(4): 839–850.
Ofsted (2019a) Teach SouthEast ITE Partnership: Initial teacher education inspection report. Available at: files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50049408 (accessed 19 March 2020).
Ofsted (2019b) School inspection handbook, November 2019, No. 190017. Available at: assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/843108/School_inspection_handbook_-_section_5.pdf (accessed 17 March 2020).