Covid-19 and the classroom: what has been the impact on NQTs/trainees?

Last month the Education Support charity published a new report on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of education staff which revealed “a profession feeling unsupported and unappreciated”.

The report, Covid-19 and the classroom: working in education during the coronavirus pandemic, found that half of the UK’s school teachers (52%) say their mental health declined during the first stage of the pandemic. Whilst the majority (58%) accessed the support of family and friends to help them cope, a quarter (24%) said they had not gained any support.

We have subsequently worked with Education Support, and YouGov who undertook the survey for this charity, to further drill down into the responses provided by NQTs/trainee teachers. Whilst there were only 61 responses from this group we wanted to better understand what those undertaking initial teacher training and NQTs were reporting in order to inform our own efforts going forward. Here is what we found:

The extent to which NQTs/trainee teachers feel their work has been appreciated by:


Appreciated                                                                                                                 83%

Not appreciated                                                                                                           7%

Senior management teams

Appreciated                                                                                                                 74%

Not appreciated                                                                                                           12%


Appreciated                                                                                                                 70%

Not appreciated                                                                                                           17%

Teaching unions

Appreciated                                                                                                                 50%

Not appreciated                                                                                                           11%

General media

Not appreciated                                                                                                           71%

Appreciated                                                                                                                 10%

UK government

Not appreciated                                                                                                           62%

Appreciated                                                                                                                 16%

General public

Not appreciated                                                                                                           61%

Appreciated                                                                                                                 23%

Department for Education

Not appreciated                                                                                                           32%

Appreciated                                                                                                                 30%

The impact of the pandemic on NQTs/trainee teachers’ mental health and wellbeing:

It has declined a little                                                                                                  39%

No difference                                                                                                               29%

It has improved a little                                                                                                 12%

It has considerably declined                                                                                        9%

It has considerably improved                                                                                      5%

Don’t know                                                                                                                  5%

Prefer not to say                                                                                                          1%

The major concerns expressed by NQTs/trainee teachers about making the transition back to work at their normal institution:

Pupils/students’ learning loss                                                                                      61%

Possibility of my being exposed to Covid-19                                                              59%

Possibility of the virus returning                                                                                  49%

Examinations process e.g. A Levels, GCSEs                                                             37%

Ensuring pupils/students are safe                                                                               32%

Organising/managing teaching and learning                                                              30%

Ensuring staff are safe                                                                                                27%

Supporting families who might need emotional and/or financial support                    24%

Supporting pupils/students who may have suffered loss/bereavement                      24%

Backlog of work                                                                                                           14%

Travelling on public transport                                                                                      9%

Re-building relationships with colleagues                                                                   7%

I am not concerned about transitioning back to work                                                  7%

The attributes/skills that NQTs/trainee teachers feel they need (or need to develop) in order to support their pupils to adapt positively back to school life after lockdown:

How to help pupils/students who may have experienced bereavement/trauma         53%

Ability to adapt curricular to pupils/students’ different learning needs                        52%

Ability to quickly adapt to new circumstances/new routines                                       49%

Mental health/wellbeing training                                                                                  43%

Positive outlook                                                                                                           43%

Resilience                                                                                                                   42%

Self-efficacy (belief in one’s own ability to perform tasks)                                          34%

Good listening skills                                                                                                    28%

Knowledge of the available sources of support                                                          27%

Ability to know where to refer for counselling                                                              20%

Safeguarding refresher                                                                                               15%

We have also compared NQTs/trainee teachers’ responses to the 1,939 school teachers (including teachers, supply teachers, teaching assistants and those working in SEN with classroom responsibilities) who completed the survey.

In summary, these are my main observations:

  • Nearly half (48%) of NQTs/trainees felt their mental health and wellbeing had declined as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic – this increased to 52% for all school teachers – and re-emphasises the need for effective approaches to mental health collaboration across the sector, and our own role within that.
  • The majority of NQTs/trainees did not feel appreciated by the general media (71%), UK government (62%) and general public (61%). This is, in part, why we are currently undertaking some work to gather the stories of ‘hero trainees’ who have played an important and effective part in supporting schools during the 2019-20 summer term and now also for the 2020-21 academic year.
  • Internally whilst 12% of NQTs/trainees did not feel appreciated by senior management teams, this rose to 22% for school teachers; and externally whilst 32% of NQTs/trainees did not feel appreciated by the Department for Education this increased to 47% for school teachers. This highlights a perceived gap in the appreciation of the job done by school teachers, as well as NQTs/trainees, throughout the pandemic.
  • Some of the most interesting differences are in relation to the concerns about making the transition back to work after lockdown:
  • NQTs/trainees are more likely than school teachers to be concerned about pupils/ students’ learning loss (61% v 39%), the possibility of my being exposed to Covid-19 (59% v 53%), examinations processes (37% v 25%), organising/managing teaching and learning (30% v 24%) and supporting families who might need emotional and/or financial support (24% v 11%).
  • School teachers are more likely than NQTs/trainees to be concerned about the possibility of the virus returning (49% v 61%), ensuring pupils and staff are safe (32% v 45%) and ensuring staff are safe (27% v 42%). All this does, perhaps, indicate greater pressures overall on NQTs/trainees in terms of areas of anxiety.
  • Also significant is the thoughts on the attributes/skills that are needed to support pupils to adapt positively back to school life:
  • NQTs/trainees are more likely than school teachers to want development on how to help pupils/students who may have experienced bereavement/trauma (53% v 41%), self-efficacy (34% v 23%) and a safeguarding refresher (15% v 8%). These, and the other key attributes/skills pinpointed by NQTs/trainees present valuable intelligence for ITT providers and early-career support teams in schools.

Emma Hollis is Executive Director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT)