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Boosting trainees' resilience could help solve teacher shortages

Project to target pastoral support on key areas of wellbeing improves drop-out rate

We need to make teaching more varied to attract today's graduates, says Sam Twiselton

Project to target pastoral support on key areas of wellbeing improves drop-out rate

Boosting trainee teachers’ personal resilience – or even assessing the resilience of would-be teachers – could help solve high early drop-out rates from the profession, according to a personnel expert.

A project in Bradford has already seen fewer people dropping out of initial teacher training after tutors helped trainees to improve their resilience.

And George Madine, an expert in employee engagement, who ran the project said that assessing graduates’ ability to cope with the pressures of the job, could spur more people to apply for training.

Dr Madine, who is also an associate lecturer in Human Resource Management, at the University of Bradford, told delegates at the Westminster Education Forum in London, that nationally around 31 per cent of people who started teacher training were not teaching in state schools five years after qualifying with 20 per cent dropping out after completing their initial teacher training.

“That’s a fair old attrition rate and we wanted to know why,” Dr Madine said.

He said that he was particularly interested the link between people’s ability to cope with the pressures of the job, known as their resilience, and the probability that they would leave teaching.

Dr Madine worked with the Bradford Birth to 19 School-Centered Initial Teacher Training (Scitt) to assess trainees’ resilience using a combination of 17 different measures, such as perseverance, self-efficacy or how meaningful they found work.

By rating whether trainees scored high, average or low on these measures, Dr Madine then devised a profile for each trainees showing what type of help might be helpful – and he trained the tutors on how to support people.

Katie Waring, head of initial teacher training for Bradford Scitt, said that trainees were selected through its usual process and worked with Dr Madine to create their profiles after they had a place on the course.

The profiles were shared with the trainees and their tutors. Trainees could share the information with their school-based mentors if they wanted to, but the Scitt did not do so.

“What Dr Madine gave us was additional information to help support the trainees pastorally," Ms Waring said. "Trainees have a personal tutor throughout the year and that personal relationship is still the most important thing but this is an additional piece of information.

“It gives people a shared language to talk about resilience and wellbeing,” Ms Waring said. “If they take that into their NQT year and early career I think that is a good thing."

This year, using the resilience profiles, just one of the Scitt's 45 trainees has left the course and that was in order to move abroad. In the previous year, 74 trainees started the course and four left.

Dr Madine told Tes that he thought there could also be a role for such a resilience profile in careers advice for new graduates. It could give information to those who were unsure what to do next about whether they had what it took to make it as a teacher.

“If we could pick graduates who will survive in teaching and go on to thrive - and work with those in training to increase resilience, then we could get a workforce that doesn’t leave,” he said.

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