A model for wellbeing provision: Oxfordshire Teacher Training

Initial Teacher Training (ITT) provider Oxfordshire Teacher Training share their best practice, tips and advice with us to help other ITTs prioritise wellbeing.

Articles / 8 mins read

We know that entering the teaching profession can be an exciting journey for many trainees, but also nerve-wracking.

And with the teaching profession still facing some of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic, it’s so important to show compassion for trainees and protect their mental health and wellbeing.  

With our 2021 Teacher Wellbeing Index revealing that 74% of teachers do not think their ITT prepared them to manage their own wellbeing, how can we address the wellbeing challenges that trainees face?

We spoke to ITT provider Oxfordshire Teacher Training, who are working hard to support the mental health needs of all their trainees - and have shared their best practice, tips and advice with us to help other ITTs prioritise wellbeing.

If you’re a training provider that prioritises mental health, let us know via our social media channels, we’d love to hear what you’re doing! @EdSupportUK

We really value the mental health and wellbeing of school colleagues. It’s vital if our alumni are to lead long and happy teaching careers.

What’s your perspective on the main challenges trainees face?

People deciding to train to teach tend to care passionately about making a difference to young people and their life chances. Accepting that things won’t be perfect; that training requires mistakes and small steps work more sustainably than huge leaps, are the three main reasons why self-doubt can creep in and why a supportive School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) team who check in to boost belief is essential on a regular basis.

74%

of teachers do not think their ITT prepared them to manage their own wellbeing

What do you do to support trainees’ mental health and wellbeing?

To ensure we address wellbeing at the beginning of each trainee’s Rapid Development Programme, we meet them all 1:1 before Term 1. This gives us the opportunity to talk through the health and wellbeing needs of each trainee individually, as well as putting strategies in place and discussing reasonable adjustments. 

From here, we signpost trainees to a range of wellbeing support available through our ITT - including buddies; the Education Support helpline and online resources. We also offer 1:1 wellbeing coaching and working groups.

We also run some great groups and workshops on wellbeing and classroom issues. One is focused on managing anxiety - looking at how trainees can step back when feeling overwhelmed and tips on avoiding burnout.

Our working groups are guided by our Wellbeing and Support Officer who facilitates online meetings attended by guest-speakers from across our partnership of schools and beyond. We invite a range of speakers - authors, activists, school leaders, health-care workers - all of whom have ongoing experience of working with young people in schools and the wider community - social justice, autism acceptance, pupil mental health and celebrating inclusive communities are some of the topics popular with associate teachers today. Inclusivity and self-empowerment are prerequisites for us.

From the induction week onwards, we host professional learning sessions. They cover subjects like emotional awareness, overcoming difficult feelings in challenging situations, conflict resolution. To further promote wellbeing techniques and practices within the training, we provide yoga sessions, heartfulness meditation and self-care strategies to strengthen self-empowerment amongst trainees and to embed wellbeing into the heart of the programme.

We are passionate in supporting trainees to focus on their mental health, to keep ECTs teaching and to embrace the teaching profession as a positive and attractive career – where current and future generations want to become a teacher.

What are you doing to support ECTs to manage their work load?

We run cluster sessions in line with the Early Career Framework entitlement and each time we meet, we allow time for ECTs to exchange tips, resources and challenges around workload. Some helpful tips include: simple to-do-lists, being organised for future deadlines and planning assignments ahead. We encourage our trainees to manage their time in a way that prioritises tasks so that they can focus on completing the main ones. We draw our key messages from our ITT wellbeing resources and other organisations/services such as Education Support and teaching union guidance, to ensure trainees feel supported and are aware that they can turn to us if they are struggling with the workload.

This all sounds great! Why do you do it?

We really value the mental health and wellbeing of school colleagues. It’s vital if our alumni are to lead long and happy teaching careers.

From our induction week onwards, we encourage all associate teachers training with us to check in regularly with their core beliefs and values, in order to ensure their motivations and clear sense of purpose align with those of their developing identity as teachers.

Through the early, mid, and late phase of their full or part-time programmes, we integrate wellbeing across the professional learning sessions, looking in-depth at self-awareness; how to overcome inevitable challenges and learn from them; how to maintain a healthy attitude to workload through the Department of Education toolkit to strategic disengagement techniques; to role-modelling self-care.

Without addressing wellbeing and mental health, it is inevitable that trainees will lack the knowledge, confidence and techniques to look after their own wellbeing.

Why should other ITTs providers prioritise mental health and wellbeing?

Wellbeing is a crucial element to all of our curriculum. Without addressing wellbeing and mental health, it is inevitable that trainees will lack the knowledge, confidence and techniques to look after their own wellbeing. We are passionate in supporting trainees to focus on their mental health, to keep ECTs teaching and to embrace the teaching profession as a positive and attractive career – where current and future generations want to become a teacher. We also ask the questions - how can teachers support the mental health and wellbeing of children if they have no explicit experience of supporting their own? And how can children really learn from the classroom and foster a love of learning if their teacher is facing mental health challenges? We agree with Education Support when they say ‘better mental health leads to better education’.

 

What are your top three tips to help other ITT providers to get started on prioritising mental health and wellbeing?

Our top three tips are:

1. Ensure every trainee develops further a support network so they feel heard and understood - embed peer active listening (listening to understand, not to fix) and coaching skills first through modelling.

2. Provide a variety of support programmes that champion self-reliance and boost empowerment.

3. Prioritise knowing when, and where to, seek support and advice – and ensure trainees understand this as a sign of professional strength, rather than an indication of weakness. For example - mentors model this in their relationships with colleagues.

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