Poor mentoring within FE providers is having a devastating effect on teacher trainee morale

11 Jul 2022, 6:00

Mentors without the time or skills to do a good job are leaving new entrants to the profession feeling angry, upset, stressed, lost and sad, writes Kayte Haselgrove

As we wave goodbye to FE teacher trainees who have achieved their qualifications and are off to their first year of teaching, it’s time for us to reflect on this year.

Research carried out by my post-14 team this year into the impact of poor mentoring has highlighted the devastating impact this can have on a trainee’s development and wellbeing.

We asked a diverse range of former trainee teachers from nine different providers across the UK if they would be willing to share their negative experiences of mentoring when they were trainee teachers.

The results identified that poor mentoring had made the contributors feel “unsupported, angry, upset, lacked focus, stressed, lost, sad” and, in worst-case scenarios, “close to suicidal”.

The cause of these emotions could be placed in two main categories: the mentor either didn’t have enough time to work with the trainee, so communication was poor. Or, the mentor lacked knowledge about the subjects being taught, or in relation to mentoring itself.

The results were that many of the trainees who had these negative experiences didn’t go into teaching. The few that did said they were “determined to never do the same and to protect others” from encountering what they had experienced.

What’s important to note is that none of the participants had been mentored by people who intended to make their lives harder.

But those who didn’t have time or knowledge to mentor were having a hugely negative impact on the experience and the wellbeing of the mentees they were supposed to be helping.

So, what can we do?

Considering the two main causes (lack of communication and inadequate knowledge) we addressed the issues where we could through the actions below.

Mentors for post-14 trainee teachers at the University of Derby have always been provided with regular contact throughout the year which ensures they have the knowledge they need to support trainees effectively.

We have regular interactions with mentors, both through our central placement liaison (a member of our core team) and through interactions and tripartite milestone reviews with trainees.

Mentors are sent regular newsletters to provide timely information regarding where the trainee is in their studies and how they can support the trainee to integrate theory to practice.

New for this year, we have introduced certificated training in the form of a ‘mentor journey’. This is where mentors complete training on the expectations of the role and on evidence-informed approaches to mentoring.

This includes how to identify your own areas for development, the needs of your mentee (where they stand on the novice-to-expert continuum) and to provide tailored support in order to aid their success.

Please, just give mentors more time

Additional sessions have been offered throughout the year, inviting mentors for question-and-answer sessions with the post-14 team, as well as further training on evidence-informed methods of mentoring and coaching.

Conscious of the need for adequate time to support trainees, we were aware the training and guidance offered above could increase the issue, so all training and communication was designed to be as succinct as it could be.

The feedback was positive. We have taken great strides in working towards ensuring our mentors had the knowledge they needed to effectively support trainees.

But the barrier for us still lies in the issue of time.

I want to ask providers who welcome teacher trainees in September 2022 to consider the level of investment made in their mentors.

It’s particularly important given the Association of Colleges warned this year that the staffing crisis in colleges has hit a two-decade high, with the average college reporting 30 job vacancies.

We can’t afford to lose new talent.

 Please, just give mentors time.

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