Understanding the wellbeing of post-14 education workforce

The Society for Education and Training (SET) has released a report into the wellbeing of the post-14 education workforce.

The report advises there are three work-related areas which SET members have said would enhance their wellbeing and benefit them in their roles as practitioners across further education, vocational training and teaching:

  • Collegial and effective leadership and management
  • Autonomy and trust
  • Additional support for newly-qualified teachers and Further Education (FE) professionals changing roles

The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) commissioned Education Support to investigate the current levels of wellbeing of SET Members who represent a broad spectrum of practitioners in the post-14 education sector.


Identifying and measuring staff wellbeing in the sector

Education Support surveyed over 1,000 SET members through an online survey with 31 of the respondents also taking part in focus groups. The aims of the research were to identify and measure current levels of staff wellbeing in the sector; to identify specific groups of staff at different career stages who have the highest risk of poor wellbeing; and to understand the work-related and personal factors impacting on wellbeing.

The survey incorporated the use of the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) - a scale of 14 positively-worded items for assessing a population's mental wellbeing. The WEMWBS found that the overall wellbeing score for FE teachers and trainers (46.02) aligned with that of school teachers (scores of 44.7 and 46.81 gained in other studies). However, both groups of teachers scored lower than the population generally (England was 49.85).

There are three WEMWBS categories where post-14 staff scored relatively highly:

  • "I’ve been able to make up my own mind about things"
  • "I’ve been feeling interested in other people"
  • "I’ve been feeling loved"

However, there are two categories which scored relatively poorly which were "I’ve had energy to spare" and "I’ve been feeling relaxed".


'Pinch-points' in professionals' careers

The research details two key ‘pinch-points’ in professionals’ careers when mental wellbeing is more likely to be at risk - newly-qualified teachers when starting out in their careers and post-14 professionals undergoing a change of role. The report advises providers to consider offering additional support to these two groups to have a positive impact on their wellbeing and increase the likelihood that they continue to work in the sector in the future.

The report states that staff highly value having a supportive line manager and benefit from working in an organisation where its management displays good leadership, creates a supportive working environment and communicates more effectively across their organisations.

Having the freedom to decide how to carry out their work and feeling trusted was considered to have a positive impact on respondents' mental wellbeing as well as having opportunities for creative thinking in their roles.

Teresa Carroll, National Head of Inclusion at the ETF, said: "The findings from our SET members give us a wealth of valuable data. It is clear, for example, that practitioners in the sector receive a great deal of satisfaction from the work they do and enjoy working with their colleagues.

“It’s important that we look after teachers and trainers in our sector. We need to make sure that they are supported at ‘pinch points’ during their career, and that leadership and management have the skills to ensure that the workforce is able to flourish.”


"Cultivate the empathy required for effective leadership"

Mark Wright, National Head of Leadership and Governance at the ETF, said: “Effective leadership and governance is key to positivity and the success of the Further Education sector and everyone who works in it.

“This research highlights there is still work to be done to help to further improve the relationship between leaders and managers, and practitioners. However, through the ETF’s leadership and governance programmes we are supporting leaders in FE to develop the people skills required to lead people effectively. The programmes focus on inclusive leadership and emotional intelligence to challenge participants to cultivate the empathy required for effective leadership.”

The main work-related factors which the report found impacted on staff wellbeing are:

  • Good working relationships with colleagues and working in teams
  • Opportunities to develop, expand knowledge and progress
  • Graded lesson observations evoked the most negative response

In general, there was much similarity discovered between the factors which negatively impact on wellbeing and the wished-for changes shown in the word cloud above.

The report found that the most positives groups in the sector are:

  • Staff who worked for Independent Training Providers, Employer Providers and Third Sector/Charity Training Providers
  • Staff who had been working in their job for less than one year, and those who had been working for between 10-15 years
  • Staff identifying as gay or lesbian (men and women) gave more positive responses
  • Staff from the Black African, Black Caribbean and British Asian groups