Dr Brian Marien, founder and director of Positive Group

Dr. Brian Marien, Founder and Director of Positive Group, specialists in evidence- based programmes to improve psychological wellbeing and build resilience enabling individuals and teams to fulfill their potential, discusses teacher retention and how to halt the exodus from the profession.

The House of Commons Education Committee recently concluded that “the shortage of teachers is a continuing challenge for the education sector in England, particularly in certain subjects and regions.” It added: “Although the Government recognises that there are issues, it has been unable to address them and consistently fails to meet recruitment targets.”

In response to this, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) proposed in its 5 point plan that the government should:

  1. Consider committing to pay off the annual repayment of tuition fee and maintenance loans owed by teachers for undergraduate courses
  2. Consider constructing a recruitment and retention offer for teachers in geographical areas where there is significant difficulty in recruitment, particularly in high needs subjects.
  3. Review and modify the Teacher Supply Model and the allocation of initial teacher training places
  4. Support local partnerships, in areas where there are severe teacher supply issues and to examine the specific factors which are creating the problem
  5. Consider developing a career strategy of teaching from pre-entry to executive leadership, with progression points at appropriate stages

…..and that more must be done to tackle the issue of teacher workload cited by 76% of school and college leaders as the most common reason for considering leaving the profession.

While workload and deadlines are, with good reason, cited as the major factor at play in the recruitment and retention crisis facing colleges, we also need to look closely at the constant changes in terms of policy, curriculum and assessment. The impact of constant change and uncertainty is a leading risk factor in psychological wellbeing. We have created the perfect storm of individual and organisational risk factors to reduce psychological wellbeing and increase the chance of burnout/ and loss of teachers from the profession.

A longitudinal study on health status and health behaviour found that, over the past 20 years, inequalities in what causes mortality have widened, and correlated with decreases in both job security and financial security. The Whitehall 2 Study found that those who felt insecure around their financial status had significant correlations with long standing illness, depression and their self-rated levels of general health.

What we suggest, instead, is that we should be creating more supportive stable environments where teacher wellbeing is highly valued and placed at the forefront of a college. Cotton and Hart (2003) research found that psychological wellbeing is a key performance indicator for teachers, especially in those who score highly on levels of conscientiousness and compassion for others.

If they are supported and developed, there will be an increase in performance for themselves and also the students, as there is a direct correlation with student achievement and teacher morale (Raines, 2011). This increase in morale at teacher level first, could then stem to an increase in students’ social and emotional learning and, furthermore, their longitudinal wellbeing.

In the current climate it is vital that we create a more supportive stable environment where teacher wellbeing - the best predictor of performance - is highly valued and placed at the forefront of a college’s priority. Teachers are driven and dedicated people with great purpose in their work. It is vital that they are supported and developed if we are to see an increase in retention, performance, student wellbeing, social and emotional learning and character development.

Dr Brian Marien, founder and director of Positive Group

positive logoAbout Dr Brian Marien, Founder & Director, Positivegroup.org: Dr Brian Marien is a Founder and Director of Positive Group, a Doctor of Medicine and a health psychologist. He studied cognitive and behavioural psychology at Kings College London and wrote his master’s thesis on occupational stress and ‘burnout’.

Over the past 10 years he has worked collaboratively with a highly experienced team of psychologists and neuroscientists at Positive Group to combine research-based knowledge, practical cognitive techniques and adaptive behaviours that are readily integrated into day to day life. He has worked with senior leadership teams to embed ‘Positive Programmes’ in Asia, USA, Australia, UK and Europe.

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