Start Well: Supporting resilience and wellbeing in early career teachers
Dr Greer Bennett, Dr Gavin Hazel
Hunter Institute of Mental Health
Research status - Completed
Teachers Health Foundation
About the research
Start Well is a research project conducted with early career teachers in NSW to understand the risk and protective factors for mental wellbeing, resilience and potential retention/attrition from teaching.
Led by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, and supported by the Teachers Health Foundation, the project studied ways in which relationships in general, and peers in particular, can positively influence teacher wellbeing, resilience, and retention.
The research was carried out in 2016 and aimed to examine the experience of early career teachers by looking at the role of peer support and considering what strategies could be implemented to improve their wellbeing. The study involved a literature review, an online survey of early career teachers in NSW and targeted interviews with leaders in the education sector.
Over 450 teachers in NSW, who were within their first five years of teaching, responded to the survey. Key leaders and influencers in the education sector were also interviewed and asked about what it’s like to be an early career teacher, what’s rewarding and what’s challenging about their jobs, what do they find stressful, and what supports they could use.
Early career teachers often mentioned that workload was a significant source of stress for them. A lack of desired work-life balance was equally an issue. They noted that challenges such as time management and managing parent-teacher relationships were some of the most difficult for them but that building professional relationships was often the skill early career teachers felt most confident in. Both early career teachers themselves and leaders from the education sector told us that mentoring from more experienced teachers and collaboration amongst other teachers was important for professional development, resource sharing, and peer support. Having a number of peers and keeping in contact with them regularly is an important factor for promoting early career teacher support and was associated with a commitment to staying in teaching. Providing guidance and support to other teachers is also important to early career teachers and this highlights the shared benefits that peer support can have.
The study has identified key aspects of the experience of early career teachers that may have both professional and health benefits, including perceived workload, work-life balance and levels of peer/social support.
Specifically, peers, both located within the school context and also those through social networks with other early career teachers, provide a viable mechanism for enhancing existing professional practices for the purpose of mental health promotion and prevention.
We believe there is an opportunity to support early career teachers in a more intentional, targeted and effective way than is currently available.
Using the findings of this study as a foundation, a Summary Report and Brief for Professionals has been developed, highlighting a number of recommendations for future action to support early career teacher wellbeing and retention.
Download Summary Report
Download Brief for Professionals
Brief For Professionals
Start Well infographic
Start Well Infographic