Pearl Gibson, Commissioner for ITT, Essex Teacher Training

There has been a lot of research recently into the mental health and wellbeing of teachers which has led to us reflecting on whether we are doing enough to support our trainees.

In a survey carried out by the Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health at Leeds Beckett University in August 2018, it was reported that “trainee teachers are suffering from anxiety and depression before they enter the classroom”. The sample was only small, 106 trainees, but of those 88.6% said that their course caused them stress, 66.9% said it caused anxiety and 19.8% said it caused depression.

The Education Support Partnership’s Teacher Wellbeing Index, published in November 2018, reported rising levels of stress at work with 67% of the educational professionals surveyed describing themselves as being stressed: the key triggers being high workload and the need for a better work/life balance. One of the recommendations of the report is mandatory provision of personal mental health and wellbeing guidance within Initial Teacher Training (ITT).

Within our provision, we are seeing an increasing number of trainees needing to withdraw or defer from their programme due to mental health related issues. So we have asked ourselves: what are we doing to support trainee wellbeing?

Initially taking into account the issue of workload we looked at introducing an e-portfolio system to streamline the collection of evidence for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) along with a reduction in the paperwork associated with evidence gathering. This has been well received across the board, but it is not the only solution.

Looking at individual cases of withdrawal we considered the usual questions: did we miss anything at interview?; is there more we could have done to support the trainee; did we act quickly enough? Some trainees declare mental health issues at interview or on their Fitness to Teach declaration but there are many who do not.

If trainees do declare a health issue, we refer them into the occupational health service to seek advice on how to support them during their time on the programme. However, the bigger issue is one of trainees not declaring. Some trainees are very self-aware and can recognise the triggers and seek support but, for others, what can we do to make all involved in the programme more aware and able to support trainees?

As a regional group we organised two days of mental health first aid training for us as providers, which was delivered by Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA). The training was excellent and has sparked several conversations back at the office. All administrative staff have also had the opportunity to attend either ‘MHFA awareness’ training (half day) or ‘MHFA champion’ training (one day).

We are now going to introduce aspects of the training into our wellbeing programme with trainees and we will also be delivering awareness training to our mentors and tutors. In addition, we have revised the collection of emergency contact details for our trainees to include an optional mental health emergency contact and are clearly signposting trainees to appropriate sources of support and advice. We are also looking into providing training for our trainees to support the pupils in their classrooms.

These may only be small steps but with an increasing number of trainee teachers struggling with mental health we already feel more informed and confident to support our trainees.

Provider details: Essex Teacher Training


Twitter: @EssexTeacherT

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