Supporting the whole teacher
by Andrew Hammond
Teaching requires heart, mind, body and soul; this is why it is known as a vocation, a calling. Contrary to the popular myth, none of us do it just for the holidays. If teaching requires all of you, then all of you needs to be supported.
While such a holistic view of teaching and teachers has not, perhaps, received enough consideration in some quarters yet, the same holistic approach to learning and learners is already out of the blocks. The Education Inspection Framework, May 2019, requires inspectors to consider the extent to which schools impact positively on their pupils’ behaviour, attitudes and personal development: ‘Inspectors will consider the extent to which: the curriculum and the provider’s wider work support learners to develop their character – including their resilience, confidence and independence – and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy.’
For teachers to be able to act as role models, embodying these positive character traits and behaviours for their students, they themselves need to feel resilient, confident and independent in school. Recent headlines around teacher retention rates, however, suggest that a significant number may not.
On 7th November 2019, The Guardian reported ‘Record levels of stress put teachers at breaking point.’ It featured excerpts from a teacher well-being index compiled by the charity, Education Supports, which indicated that ‘stress levels among teachers and school leaders have ratcheted up for the third consecutive year to the highest levels ever. Nearly three-quarters of teachers and 84% of school leaders now describe themselves as “stressed”, and more than a third of education professionals have experienced a mental health issue in the past academic year.’ The charity’s Chief Executive, Sinead McBrearty, described how teachers are ‘almost twice as anxious as the general population,’ and warned that, ‘If the situation continued it would result in burnt-out leaders on an industrial scale and schools would face huge problems recruiting and retaining staff.’
Such challenges around recruitment and retention have already begun. According to the Department for Education’s School Workforce in England Report (updated in June 2019), of the teachers who qualified in 2017, 84.7% are still in service one year after qualification. Of the teachers who qualified in 2013, 67.7% are still in service after five years.
The House of Commons briefing paper, Teacher Recruitment and Retention in England (February 2019), reports that in 2017 the number of teachers leaving the profession was higher than the number entering, for the first time on the current series (dating back to 2011); 400 more FTE teachers left the profession than joined. The number of FTE qualified teachers recorded as leaving the state funded sector for reasons other than retirement was 35,800 in 2017. The number of teachers leaving the profession has increased year-on-year from 24,750 in 2011.
So, more than 15% of teachers currently leave the profession after one year of teaching; a third of all teachers leave within their first five years; and, overall, more teachers are leaving the profession than are entering it. Whilst this may not be happening in the school you lead, it is an undeniable truth that it is happening across our country.
This attrition comes despite significant amounts being spent on CPD each year. Key findings from 2014/2015, summarised by David Weston (2016) of the Teacher Development Trust, found that ‘the total of all schools’ CPD budgets is around £255m.’
So will more CPD help? Does sending someone on a course help to keep them in the profession, or was that ever its purpose? Are there other ways of providing support and sustenance to teachers?
And what of now? Will these current times influence the way teachers are supported and appreciated in the future?
The phrase ‘new normal’ may have become an irritating cliché already, but will it herald the paradigm shift we’ve been waiting for: the Damascene moment for educational policymakers, when the invisible aspects of a teacher’s role – the immeasurable impact they have on their students’ wellbeing and motivation – are finally revealed and championed?
The vital pastoral support and counsel provided by teachers in addition to their curriculum teaching, especially due to swingeing cuts in social care and family support in the last decade, has been exposed during this lockdown, and sorely missed by children and their families. Teachers’ inability to reach out and support their students at a human level during this pandemic will have weighed heavily on their minds and caused so much additional anxiety for them. Teaching is a caring profession and there is only so much care you can provide on a video call.
As we gradually re-integrate, we will be reminded of the full impact of a teacher’s role and the real need to support their health, wellbeing and motivation, as they in turn support their students.
The aforementioned holistic view of teaching and teachers needs to be revisited, because to divorce professional development from personal development is to forget that on the receiving end of a CPD course is a human, a real person with not only professional development needs, but also motivations, aspirations and health & wellbeing requirements too.
Just as the pull into teaching for many extends beyond the opportunity to develop professional skills, towards the satisfying of deeper needs for meaning and purpose, so the quick propulsion out of it may be equally tied to a neglecting of the ‘deep down things’ that motivate and enrich us. Just as no one would advocate teaching a child from the neck upwards, neither should we develop teachers’ professional capital at the exclusion of their motivation and wellbeing.
The best professional development can be satisfying and hugely rewarding, perhaps even inspirational at times, but of equal importance is the teacher’s personal development too. When both are supported, a teacher is more likely not only to remain in the profession, but to positively flourish in it. A synthesis of professional and personal development can give back to teachers something that is often lost when the hyperaccountability and overwhelm builds – and that is their sense of empowerment, their agency in the job. We all need the confidence of knowing that we are having an impact, making a difference, moving the dial. But data-driven pupil progress meetings rarely enhance our agency (because they don’t measure the immeasurable things) and the wrong CPD can have you returning to school feeling that someone else is better at this than you are.
Teachers are cultural architects of their classrooms, setting the climate and the weather, modelling optimism and embodying a growth mindset. But besides this, they are counsellors and go-betweens, cognitive behaviour therapists, storytellers, entertainers, carers, coaches and confidants.
When spinning so many plates, it is easy to view CPD as another one to be spun.
The most effective development, whether it is professional or personal, requires a shift from the paradigm of having something done to you, or at you, towards a model of self-investment and reflection.
Previewed on 11th June and available from September, the NAHT & Discovery Education Pathway programme is a holistic online programme that supports the continuous professional empowerment of teachers and leaders in today’s schools, by bringing professional and personal development together.
Pathway is presented in three stages: Orientation, Navigation and Reflection, each designed to keep teachers and leaders on course in their careers.
Orientation includes: a comprehensive and interactive Guide to Motivation, a Teachers Skills Audit, a Leadership Competencies Audit and a Career Mapping tool, in which users can plot their future goals and aspirations: for professional roles, motivations and interests, and health and wellbeing.
Navigation includes: a suite of continuous professional empowerment (CPE) modules, authored and delivered by school leaders, teachers and lecturers, and comprising innovative films, online reading materials and coaching questions to prompt reflection and self-efficacy.
Reflection includes: a unique and engaging wellbeing programme by Professor Tim O’Brien and Dr Dennis Guiney, an Advice Hub powered by experts at the NAHT, and a Professional Learning Portfolio, in which users can keep track of their professional and personal achievements in teaching.
All this valuable information is captured in the Pathway Dashboard: a unique and individualised deck that presents to you something that is ultimately more important than the levels of attainment and progress of your students: your levels of investment in yourself.
Andrew Hammond is Lead Author and Series Editor of Pathway. He joined Discovery Education as Senior Director of Learning in September 2019, prior to which he served as a school leader, middle leader and teacher across maintained and independent schools for over twenty years. Andrew is an educational author, trainer and keynote speaker. He holds a BA (Hons) QTS from Bath, an MA from King’s College London and is currently an Ed.D student at the University of Buckingham.
If you would like further information about the Pathway programme or to register your interest please visit: www.discoveryeducation.co.uk/NAHT