Nurturing mental resilience with trainee teachers

Building mental health and wellbeing support into the ITT programme with Kent Medway Training.

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In 2021, trainee teachers across the UK were only a short way into their initial teacher training when Covid lockdowns were introduced. This posed challenges for teaching professionals across the board, having to adapt to new ways of working and student teachers faced shortened and disrupted placements as well as having to navigate applying for jobs during this unsettled time. However, students at Kent Medway Training (KMT) were able to benefit from a unique addition to their package of support, which ironically, was made possible because of the pandemic. 

For 2 years Bounce Forward and KMT had grappled with finding a way to build mental health and wellbeing support into the ITT Core Curriculum content. The barriers were to do with trainee time, workload and location. Stuart Russell, Senior Director of ITT knows only too well the importance of trainees’ mental health in what is an intensive programme of development. But the balance of wanting to deliver something that felt supportive and not just another ‘add on’ to be completed was so vital. 

Stuart said, “I wanted trainees to feel as if this was a time and space for them to just ‘be’, to relax, and feel supported. I didn’t want to burden them with an already crowded timetable.”

Bounce Forward has traditionally delivered training face to face. So, when the pandemic struck it was a worrying time. We are a small charity, and it was a difficult moment as our work with schools stopped suddenly. We had to rethink and adapt quickly. We knew that mental wellbeing and emotional resilience was going to be needed, perhaps more than ever, but everyone was in lockdown. We had to apply everything we knew about being resilient to the situation and we worked hard to bring our training offers on-line to replicate the high standard and quality of the approach. KMT had recruited their largest cohort of 240 trainees in placements across Kent, Medway and South-East London. Lockdown meant that trainees were at home, and so this gave us an opportunity to overcome some of the challenges we had grappled with previously. 

The programme 

An online programme was designed to fit in with the core training. The content included ‘live’ issues that trainees could relate to. This made the skills and competencies relevant and offered a safe way to discuss concerns with peers in a general way. The ‘chat’ function allowed trainees to share issues and support. Activities were used for skill practice and more individual learning discussions. ‘Homework’ was set in between sessions providing the opportunity to practice the skills in ‘real time’ and then return to ask questions or share what worked/didn’t work. This is key to building resilience in an authentic and useful way. 

Impact and evaluation 

As this was an addition to the usual package of support it was important to evaluate the impact and to get feedback from trainees. This was achieved through an online data portal provided by Bounce Together that enabled trainees to respond with ease and anonymously to the chosen measure developed by The What Works Centre for Wellbeing and The Department for Work and Pensions. Trainees were asked to provide a base, mid and end measure to produce snapshots of how they were doing with respect to different aspects of wellbeing at the time of responding to the questions. The ‘end’ survey included Bounce Forward’s four standard impact questions and one open question as an ‘optional’ response. 

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Trainees were asked to comment on any feedback they would like to give to KMT about Nurture Your Resilience being part of the overall trainee development package. Some representative comments included: 

  • It was a wonderful “pause” from our busy lives, with extremely useful information that we can apply to ourselves and others.
  • I have found this to be an extremely useful addition to my training, it has helped me process the more difficult situations that I have faced.
  • Mental health and developing resilience in challenging and unusual circumstances is paramount for our wellbeing, moreover in the present situation we are all living due to covid-19. So, this training was very helpful to point out strategies that we can use to overcome those challenges.
  • The Bounce Forward training is a lifesaver for many of us, self-care and resilience is a must at times like these. Thank you so much for the opportunity. Once again, I feel very fortunate to have chosen KMT as my trainer provider. Everyone has been supportive and helpful.  

Overall Nurture Your Resilience was seen as a supportive and helpful addition. On receipt of the full evaluation report.

Stuart Russell said“I don’t know quite where to begin, but I think I am very safe in saying that the partnership this year has been a huge success and has certainly exceeded my own expectations. This summary evaluation is so positive and really demonstrates the impact that it has had on our trainees. Even in a global pandemic, we have had our largest cohort ever this year but at the same time, less trainees have left the course than ever before. Our retention rates have been the best ever with 95% at secondary and 98% at primary and I have no doubts that the Bounce Forward input has had a direct impact on this. I am sharing this evaluation with my staff and key stakeholders as I think it is fundamentally important to share the outcomes with all. We are continuing to implement significant changes at the moment in relation to our curriculum for next year. We had already planned to build the Bounce Forward project into our programme again. This evaluation absolutely confirms that we will want to do this again next year.”

Next Steps

This model will be showcased at the National Association of School-Based Initial Teacher Training Annual Conference in November.

We are also set to deliver the model again with the 2021/22 KMT cohort. 

If you are interested in finding exploring this model please contact us to set up an informal discussion.

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