Promoting VET Teachers’ Mental Health and Wellbeing

vet-well project

The problem of teachers’ wellbeing has been recently brought to the forefront of the agenda for improving quality of vocational education and training in Europe. There is a growing recognition that for teaching and learning to be effective, teachers should have high levels of wellbeing (OECD, 2018). The latest research, however, proves that teachers’ wellbeing is an issue of concern. In the UK, more than 75% of educational professionals, including those in the VET sector, experience work-related behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms. 57% of teachers and 63% of senior leaders have considered leaving the profession within the past two years (Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018). The numbers are not much different for other European countries. If unaddressed, the issue of poor wellbeing in schools would leave the educational systems in the EU without qualified and motivated staff, so needed for the development of the younger generation in the age of rising global competition.

When national VET systems are struggling to recruit new teachers and retain their existing staff, VET teachers’ wellbeing has been an unfairly neglected topic (CEDEFOP, 2004, 2016; Boldrini & Sappa, 2017). In addition to the stress factors common to all levels of education, VET teachers face specific adversities, which have negative effect on their wellbeing. These include: undervalued image of the VET sector; unattractive career pathways for teachers; poor vocational motivation of students; ongoing changes in national VET systems due to harmonization processes at EU level; continuous changes in VET content due to rapid development of science & technology. The analysis of existing teacher wellbeing support schemes in partners’ countries, however, shows a lack of professional development opportunities for teachers to build the skills they need to deal effectively with adversities in the workplace.

The VET-WELL project seeks to address this issue and sets the overall objective to equip educational professionals in the VET sector with resources and skills to deal effectively with the challenges of their work environment and to create a positive mental health and wellbeing culture in their schools.

The specific objectives of the project are:

  • Develop a conceptual framework for teachers’ wellbeing in VET
  • Design a comprehensive professional development programme aimed at strengthening skills supporting VET teachers’ wellbeing
  • Create an interactive self-reflection and e-learning environment supporting professional development of VET teachers
  • Facilitate wide adoption and implementation of the wellbeing support programme in various VET contexts
  • Raise awareness among education stakeholders of teachers’ mental health and wellbeing in VET

During the project life-cycle, the following major results will be achieved:

  • Output 1: Framework for Teachers’ Wellbeing in VET that will identify specific skills supporting teachers’ wellbeing (incl. life skills and pedagogical skills)
  • Output 2: Professional development programme, aimed at strengthening skills that VET teachers need to effectively manage their own wellbeing and to improve their self-efficacy in the classroom
  • Output 3: Interactive Self-Reflection and E-Learning Tool allowing VET teachers to reflect upon their “wellbeing skills” and to create a personalized professional development pathway
  • Output 4: Guidebook for improving VET Teachers’ Wellbeing in VET that will provide precise recommendations for improving mental health and wellbeing of teachers in VET schools through implementation of a dedicated professional development programme

The project is targeted at: VET professionals (teachers, lecturers, trainers, mentors, senior leaders) and school psychologists; Professionals in initial teacher education and continuous professional development of teachers; Aspiring teachers and student teachers; Representatives of organisations dealing with/ promoting mental health and wellbeing in VET.

About 600 VET professionals and experts in the fields of VET, teacher training, mental health and wellbeing will be involved directly in the project activities and events, such as surveys, focus group interviews, pilot training workshops and promotional conferences. In addition, we intend to reach at least 5000 project stakeholders through targeted dissemination of the project results.

We hope the new professional development programme delivered by the VET-WELL project will help VET teachers to strengthen their resilience and to improve their self-efficacy in the classroom. This, in turn, will help to create positive learning environment, improve students’ engagement and learning outcomes, and contribute to the culture of wellbeing in VET schools. Improved self-efficacy and wellbeing of teachers will eventually result in improved job satisfaction and retention – a social change from which VET systems in European countries stand to benefit greatly.