IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


COVID-19: Trainee TEACHers’ challenges and barriers to mental health and WELLbeing support

The TEACHWELL research project aims to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on trainee teacher's mental wellbeing and the types of support needed during this time of pandemic recovery.

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This project is funded by the Centre for Teachers and Teaching Research. It started in October 2021 and will end in July 2022.

Project leaders


Teacher attrition has long been an issue. The COVID19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. In a February Education Support (2021) survey, 80% of teachers reported high stress, of which 46% also voiced that their mental health has caused them to consider leaving the profession altogether. As the pandemic continues, these numbers have not improved. Over half of all education professionals felt their mental health had declined either considerably or a little. 60% of teachers reached out to family and friends for support (YouGov June-July 2021).

With the new year about to begin, it is clear that teachers need mental health support in order to maintain high standards of teaching, but also to continue to serve the children and families with whom they interact. Although traditional teacher training programs do teach trainee teachers about children’s attachment and socio-emotional development, cultivating mentally healthy environments by focusing on teacher’s mental wellbeing has rarely been achieved – this will be the focus of this project.

What mental health support do teachers need to maintain their own wellbeing, and where possible, to then support children is an under researched area. In White’s (2020) review of workplace support for mental health and wellbeing, a clear unanswered gap was how effective these methods were in education settings.

This further highlights the much-needed detailed investigation of trainee teacher’s mental health needs and a co-produced a set of support tools/resources with potential to be shared and tested more widely. Specifically, trainee teachers in the early years sector where staffing is notably unstable (11%-15% turnover rates), may need the most support, especially post-pandemic (Social Mobility Commission, 2020). 

New trainees are entering settings for the first time and those with some experience may fare slightly better yet may still find new post-pandemic challenges difficult to handle. 

    The project builds on existing research led by Dr Wong et al. (2021) - see written evidence submitted by UCL Institute of Education (PDF) - showing that young children experience mental health issues early in development and if identified early, can prevent lifelong negative outcomes. 

    This evidence was submitted to the recent UK Government’s call for children and young people’s mental health. Of relevance are two key recommendations:

    1. schools should be better supported to provide a central part of mental wellbeing provision and 
    2. teachers should be equipped with mental health first aid knowledge. To strive for mentally healthy schools and healthy children, tackling teacher’s mental wellbeing – a gap in the literature – is essential.

    Related links:

    Research questions

    This project addresses the following research questions:

    1. What mental health support and resources do trainee teacher with zero to some experience need?
    2. What are the challenges faced by the trainee teachers and how have they overcome them? If they haven’t overcome them, what resources do they need?

      Existing IOE early years trainee teachers who choose to take part in the study will complete: 

      • Time one: 10-15 minute online survey measuring their baseline mental health, supported needed, and teaching experiences (October - December 2021). 
      • Time two: a 1-on-1 online interview and focus group on the challenges faces during term 1 of teaching and what mental health support they would need. Participants will also complete the same set of mental health surveys from time 1 (January 2022).
      • Time three: A focus-group reflection discussion of how the placement year went and what a short completion of a a mental health survey online (May 2022).