Research by King’s College London claims that Covid-related disruptions in 2019/20 and 2020/21 could mean a lack of experience in staff trained at the time, leading to higher levels of teachers who are early stages leave the profession. This could hit the academic performance of young people whose education has been affected by the pandemic.

The 18-month study, which began in April 2021, was based on two cohorts of King’s trainees, as well as 112 interviews with trainees, school leaders and teachers.

It found that the two cohorts that trained during the pandemic had “markedly different experiences”, with the first starting in relatively “normal” circumstances until February 2020, when there was a “rapid and abrupt” transition to working mostly online.

The second cohort started their studies in the midst of the pandemic and, although they could complete their studies, were limited in terms of movement between schools – while their university studies were almost entirely online.

Some aspects of learning during the virus crisis have been positive; the report said trainees were able to develop their IT skills, while school and university staff praised trainee teachers for their “resilience”, which would make them better teachers overall.

But the pandemic has also limited opportunities for face-to-face meetings with students and parents or for providing pastoral support.

The trainees said their lack of opportunity to meet their parents or write reports during the pandemic “led to feelings of isolation and self-doubt”.

“The experience was captured by one ECT (early careers teacher) describing her first parent/teacher evening alone in her kitchen at home, rather than at school with colleagues where she could observe and receive support,” the report said.

The document says limited “opportunities to interact with students outside of subject-specific learning” are affecting teacher-student relationships.

While some interviewees said there was a greater sense of school community during the pandemic, some trainees felt “isolated from the wider school community … and therefore potentially less invested”.

The report says early career teachers should be given more opportunities to be involved in wider school life to develop pastoral skills, such as acting as a tutor.

Schools should also look for opportunities for trainees and new teachers to gain a better understanding of mental health, for example through online training with the charity Place2Be.

The study also found that some trainees decided to leave the profession after graduation due to financial problems.

“This is particularly acute for those studying and working in expensive cities (such as London), with transport costs, living costs and rising costs of living contributing to the financial burden,” the report said.

The paper from the School of Education, Communication and Society and King’s Policy Institute also says that the prescribed content of induction programs is sometimes too general to adapt to the demands of the pandemic and calls for individualized continuing professional development for new teachers. .

Lead researcher Simon Gibbons, director of teacher education at King’s College London, said: “The pandemic has affected every new teacher differently, so the current blanket approach is not what was needed.

“It is vital that we provide more personalized teaching that reflects the unique challenges and opportunities they face so that we can support them to continue teaching – particularly with the dramatic shortage of teachers in the UK.”

Elizabeth Rushton, from UCL’s Institute of Education, added: “Those who have become teachers during the pandemic have made an important contribution to the learning and lives of young people in their school communities.

“However, for this group of teachers to thrive, they need ongoing support, particularly with the pastoral elements of teaching, so that they can develop their skills and experience alongside more experienced colleagues.”

And researcher Sarah Steadman said: “Despite the challenges, teachers who trained during the pandemic showed incredible resilience. Their unique experience and skills need to be exploited to the full as they have so much to offer.”


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