Wellbeing and the benefits of SCITT buy-in from current and prospective partnership schools
The latest Teacher Wellbeing Index, launched by Education Support in November, suggests that teachers are suffering from more severe psychological problems than at any point this century. Teacher stress, workload and wellbeing are also the focus of research recently published by Ofsted (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-well-being-at-work-in-schools-and-further-education-providers).
I would support further research into the impact rather of the mental caseload of those working with children since it seems this is worthy of clearer definition and understanding and allows us the progressive gift of considering, and collaborating more, with other professions who work to support children as they develop to adulthood.
Those training to teach are given increasing study and reflection time to consider their own wellbeing when faced with assessing their impact on pupil progress and the barriers to doing their bit to ensure children reach purposeful adulthood in the norm-referenced value-system, which ultimately defines our assessment procedures at each stage of public examination.
The What Works Centre for Wellbeing framework looks at factors such as physical and mental health, relationships at work, purpose (autonomy), environment and security. It seems we are more akin to the children in our care during the school day than we might have thought.
But what about beyond the school day? Teachers currently report working an average of a 51-57 hour week. You do not go into teaching for the money. Working evenings and weekends is not an exception.
In this most recent report (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/teacher-well-being-at-work-in-schools-and-further-education-providers/summary-and-recommendations-teacher-well-being-research-report) teacher dissatisfaction is broken down into the following categories: volume of administrative tasks; volume of marking; staff shortages; lack of support from external specialist agencies (behaviour, SEND); challenging behaviour of pupils; changes to external exams; frequently changing government policies and regulations; and lack of skills or training.
Having worked alongside experienced colleagues as they engage increasingly with SCITT partnerships, I have personally witnessed positive effects in all these areas and therefore in wellbeing. In so many cases, SCITT mentors report back positive impact on their own teaching practice in working with initial teachers on placement. Watching someone else teach your class allows you time to reflect.
Becoming a partner with SCITT colleagues gives you access to enhanced training opportunities e.g. mental health first aid to combat mental caseload fatigue; breakthrough conversations to try on colleagues; a boost to staff recruitment and energy through salaried trainees and retention of homegrown yet highly innovative NQTs and beyond; increasingly energy-efficient approaches to marking, recording, reporting and feedback; behavioural strategies which work for children living with significant challenges – an increasing number of trainees come into teaching as parents of children with autism/ADHD; strategic disengagement routines which restore dignity to teachers as humans; Wellness Recovery Action Plan where individuals retain ownership and responsibility of their self-care; 5 ways to wellbeing role-modelling; promotion of seeking support from a range of colleagues and professional services and increased confidence in framing and owning the support required; and access to the latest audio-visual resources for classroom instruction through engagement with subject specialist support all leading to counteract the reported de-professionalisation experienced through increased lack of autonomy.
Those colleagues in partnership schools, from ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Requires Improvement’, who open their minds to engaging with the wealth of opportunities available through understanding and engaging with school-centred initial teacher training, are in turn opening their schools to a re-professionalisation which rejuvenates and restores low-mood and brings about a fresh collaboration between experience and innovation, between confidence and experimentation.
If colleagues report a current lack of support from leadership in schools, buying in to local SCITT partnership allows for this support to be bolstered from colleagues who work with (rather than do to) teachers in need. 1. support with workload through sharing approaches between local schools; 2. recognition of achievement through co-analysis not judgement; 3. sourcing meaningful feedback on work through joint reflection; and 4. providing support and development through ready-forged links with organisations and thinkers who have time to support schools to make a specific difference.
Sally Price works at Oxfordshire Teacher Training as central trainer, wellbeing coach and youth and adult mental health first aid instructor. Her book in the Essential Guides for Early Career Teachers series, Mental Well-being and Self-care, edited by NASBTT Executive Director Emma Hollis and published by Critical Publishing, is out now.