Written evidence submitted by Professor Frances Maratos

Executive Summary

This short brief is a response to the problem of teacher recruitment and retention, and how this can be addressed. Factors leading to difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified teachers include working conditions (e.g., high workloads, poor psychological capacity, diverse pupils and behaviours) outstripping resources/funding (e.g., organisational features and good psychological capacity).  When demand outstrips resource, the inevitable result is a reduction in mental and physical wellbeing and an increase in those leaving the profession [Response 1]. To address this, a team of experts from the University of Derby have created a 6-Module psychoeducation and skills based CPD training program for teachers that seeks to promote longevity in the profession by increasing psychological coping/well-being and reduces burn-out [Response 2 & 3]. In brief, CMT-Teachers has been developed with teachers as collaborators, over a five-year period, and has, to date, been trialled with over 600 teachers across the UK and Europe. This programme, which can be embedded as Teacher CPD, has been found to: i) improve job satisfaction; ii) improve psychological capacity/health (e.g., improve positive affect and compassion, and decrease vulnerability to anxiety and depression), iii) improve emotional regulation (e.g., closure and work/life balance); and iv) improve physiological health (e.g., heart-rate variability). As CPD, CMT-Teachers could therefore serve as one cost-effective and tangible solution to addressing the teacher recruitment and retention issue in England.  Of note, this issue of teacher recruitment, training and retention is not unique to England, as demonstrated by international utilisation/interest in our CMT-Teachers CPD [Response 4]


Response 1 - The current situation regarding teacher recruitment and retention: Factors leading to difficulties recruiting and retaining qualified teachers:

Teacher retention is a key issue facing schools, with stress, student behaviour, a culture of competition in relation to implemented policies, and practices, all contributing factors.  In the UK, Carmichael (2017) reported that 30% of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years of qualifying, citing excessive workload and bureaucracy. Additionally, the Educational Support Partnership (2018) in its review of 1,076 UK education professionals working in primary, secondary or further education found that a staggering 57% considered leaving the sector within the past two years because of health pressures; with these pressures leading to a 35% increase in teachers calling their emotional support helpline. Similarly, Ofsted (2019) found that 76% of teachers reported their job had a negative impact on their physical (33%) and/or mental health (54%), with occupational wellbeing and general life satisfaction low, and educators generally disappointed by the profession. Sadly, the recent case of the Berkshire headteacher Ruth Perry (e.g., The Guardian, March 2023) appears to exemplify the profound damage a culture of competition (likely combined with teacher stress and student behaviour), can have.

Added to this, teacher/educator mental health and retention problems have been exacerbated by Covid-19. During the period of Covid-19 factors included: fear of infection (Nabe-Nielsen et al., 2021); closure of educational centres and the need to adapt to different teaching modalities (Ozamiz-Etxebarria et al., 2021); and the challenges of remote working (Tronco-Hernández et al., 2021). Post Covid-19, factors include the challenge of closing the learning loss gap, maintaining standards as compared to typical school years, implementing COVID-19 safety protocols, and teaching to grade/key stage standards (e.g., Pressley et al., 2022). In our conversations with teachers, the challenges of learning loss appear to be greater in areas of deprivation (schools with low MID scores), which is supported by recent international research (Betthäuser et al., 2023). However, all these burdens combined not only negatively impact teacher psychological health, but also their physiological health (Zhong et al., 2009), and the pupils they teach (Glazzard & Rose, 2020).

In respect to pupils, effective management of classroom behaviour has been shown to be difficult when staff are burned-out or suffering with stress/mental health issues (e.g., Split et al., 2011). To expand, when staff are burned-out, or in poor mental health, they have limited psychological capacity (including reduced emotion regulation abilities and cognitive abilities of attention, concentration and memory) to effectively respond to, or deal with, the needs of their students. Added to this, problems of pupil mental health are on the rise. For example, in 2018, the NHS reported that one in ten primary-aged, and one in seven secondary-aged pupils suffered from a mental disorder. This first new data on the subject for 14 years showed a rise of almost 15% in mental health disorders since 1999. Again, problems of pupil mental health have only been exacerbated by Covid-19. In particular, increases in depression and anxiety in adolescent cohorts (Nearchou et al. 2020). Notably, our published (e.g., Maratos et al. 2019) and unpublished research (e.g., focus group data) has revealed that teachers do not feel they have the resources, skills and/or training necessary to effectively manage classroom behaviour, especially with increasing levels of neurodiverse students and students with mental health issues.


In sum, utilising the ‘Job Demands-Resource (JD-R) model’ (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007), teacher job-demands, such as high work pressure, emotionally demanding interactions (e.g., with pupils), and/or challenging physical environment are outstripping resources. Resources include psychophysical, social, and organisational features of a job and workplace (e.g., a high degree of autonomy, proper feedback), but also an individual’s physical and psychological resources/capacity (e.g., greater resilience, emotion regulation, tendency towards self-compassion, etc.). When demands outstrip resources, a profession is not desirable, can lead to broad issues with mental and physical wellbeing and overall poor health (e.g., emotional exhaustion/burn-out and chronic health problems). In time, the cumulative effects of such are a strained and unhappy workforce and broader issues of staff retention.


Our research shows that these problems are not unique to the UK, as interventions we progress in this country to address problems of staff mental-health and capacity we have also trialled internationally (Maratos et al., 2020; Matos et al., 2022a, 2022b).


Response 2 - Action the Department should take to address challenges in teacher recruitment and retention


Since 2016 we have been scientifically trialling a Teacher Wellbeing CPD (Compassionate-Mind Training for Teachers - CMT-Teachers) targeted at increasing teacher psychological capacity and coping (including emotion regulation skills and intra/interpersonal competencies). Our reasons for this include that compassion-based initiatives have proved to be highly effective for improving psychological resources, resilience and coping. This includes reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as increasing individuals’ levels of compassion, mindfulness, and wellbeing (e.g., Kirby et al., 2017; Ferrari et al., 2019).


Compassion-based interventions are also generalisable and scalable. For example, even in 2016 we noted the broad applicability of Compassionate Mind Training (CMT) to a diverse range of populations including the armed forces (Lee & James, 2012), maternity nurses (Beaumont & Martin, 2016), and fire services (Beaumont et al. 2016). This is in addition to Compassion-Focused therapy being a widely accepted and accessible NHS treatment.


Finally, in the context of the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model, evidence is accumulating that compassion can serve as a resource protecting individuals from burn-out in high stress and demanding job roles (Tremblay & Messervey, 2011; Willems et al., 2021, Maratos et al., under review). Hence, there was/is excellent reason to believe that a compassion-based initiative may provide an effective approach to managing teacher stress, reducing burn-out, improving wellbeing and improving job satisfaction – and therefore increase teacher retention


As such, we developed a 6-Module CMT-Teachers CPD with teachers as co-collaborators, iteratively over a period of 5-years with over 600 teachers across the UK and Europe (e.g., Portugal and Poland). Core components of this 6-Module Teacher CPD include:

[See Appendix B for a more detailed CPD overview].


CMT-Teachers has been tailored to fit into UK mainstream teacher timetabling. To expand, to enable delivery as CPD, CMT-Teachers is conducted over the course of one term (every other week) with each module being approximately 1.5 hours duration. This is so that it can be delivered in school twilight sessions.


Our results (e.g. Maratos et al., 2019; Matos et al. 2022a; Matos et al., 2002b, Maratos et al., in prep) reveal that our 6-Module CMT-Teachers CPD is associated with:


In sum, given its favourable and sustainable effects on wellbeing and psychophysiological distress, and low cost to deliver (commercial cost is currently £225.00 per single teacher for online delivery), we would suggest the UK government considers wider trial and/or broader implementation and dissemination of CMT-Teachers across the UK/England Education sector.


Response 3 - How well does the current teacher training framework work to prepare new teachers and how it could be improved:

Our work with UK teachers and School SLT’s has demonstrated that NQTs and RCTs are not equipped with the psychological capacity to deal with the stresses of the teacher role, the diversity of some of their pupils (whether stemming from neurodiversity, mental health issues or adverse childhood experiences), nor the potentially confrontational/hostile interactions they may encounter with a minority of parents - yet these interactions can have profound and sustained psychological and physiological effects (the so-named ‘negativity bias’ overviewed above).

The Compassionate Mind Training for Teachers (CMT- Teachers) CPD we have developed addresses all the former. The practices and psychoeducation provided build good psychological capacity for educators to better understand themselves and others (including colleagues and pupils). Additionally, a focus on skills training in communication, as well as emotion regulation, enables for better prosocial skill development, emotion regulation and intra/inter-relational competencies in pressured environments (see also Gilbert et al., 2020; Maratos et al., 2022).

The current teacher training framework could be improved by embedding interpersonal and intrapersonal skills training as well as relevant psychoeducation into teacher training. Specifically, the CMT-Teachers CPD we have developed is one avenue to explore here.

Indeed, in further trial we (Professor Frances Maratos and colleagues), are currently working with the B.Ed (hons) Primary Education Team, University of Derby, to embed CMT-Teachers into their 3rd year teaching provision. Our aim is to embed this into the 3rd Year Teacher-Training curriculum from 2023/2024 onwards to investigate if those who undertake CMT-Teachers as part of their teacher training (compared to those who do not):

i)                    demonstrate increased longevity of retention during their NQT and RQT phases.

ii)                  demonstrate improved wellbeing and protection against issues of mental health during their NQT and RQT phases.

This will be unfunded research (with initial results expected in 2024/25), but with parliamentary support/recommendation, CMT-Teachers, could be progressed across several further Teacher Training establishments in England enabling larger-scale roll-out.


Response 4 - How does teacher training in England compare internationally:

As we have already been approached to progress CMT-Teachers in Wales, Ireland, Portugal, Poland, Italy and Australia, this suggests that problems of teacher recruitment and retention are endemic across the teaching sector internationally. For example, interest in our CMT-Teachers CPD is widespread and, following initial funding of £6,000 and £106,920 from the University of Derby in 2016 and Reed Foundation in 2017-2021 respectively (which enabled us to develop CMT-Teachers and its sister course ‘CMT-pupils’), we are now working with international partners to:

i)                    Deliver CMT-Teachers and related programmes in Ireland (a 4,000,000 Peace Plus Bid is in preparation, after a concept note was submitted and approved).

ii)                  Deliver CMT-Teachers more widely across Portugal and Poland, and also Italy as a new EU arm (a €400,000 Erasmus bid has been submitted).

iii)                Deliver CMT-Teachers in Wales (here a small research project of £1,500 supported by has enabled three suitably qualified Welsh educators to train in delivery of CMT-Teachers, and those individuals are now delivering CMT-Teachers to Teachers in Welsh schools).

iv)                Develop a research bid with colleagues at the University of Sydney, Australia, to train individuals in CMT-Teachers and its sister programmes CMT-Pupils (a PSHE curriculum to improve pupil wellbeing, inclusivity and tolerance of others).


All of the above demonstrates the global interest and reach of our CMT-Teachers wellbeing CPD, which we originally developed to address the issue of poor-teacher retention in the UK education sector. 



(bolded originated from our research team)


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Beaumont, E., & Martin, C. (2016). Heightening levels of compassion towards self and others through use of compassionate mind training. British Journal of Midwifery, 24, 777–786

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Betthäuser, B.A., Bach-Mortensen, A.M. & Engzell, P. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence on learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nat Hum Behav 7, 375–385 (2023).

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Ferrari, M., Hunt, C., Harrysunker, A. et al. (2019) Self-Compassion Interventions and Psychosocial Outcomes: a Meta-Analysis of RCTs. Mindfulness, 10, 1455–1473.

Gilbert, P., Matos, M., Wood, W., & Maratos, F. (2020). The compassionate mind and the conflicts between competing and caring: Implications for educating young minds. In, M.I Coles & Gent. B (eds). Education for survival the pedagogy of compassion (p.44-76). Institute of Education Press University College London.

Glazzard, J. & Rose, A. (2020). The impact of teacher well-being and mental health on pupil progress in primary schools. Journal of Public Mental Health, 19, 349-357.

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Maratos, F.A., Montague, J., Ashra, H. et al. (2019) Evaluation of a Compassionate Mind Training Intervention with School Teachers and Support Staff. Mindfulness 10, 2245–2258.

Maratos, F. A., Matos, M., Albuquerque, I., et al. (2020). Exploring the international utility of progressing Compassionate Mind Training in School Settings: A comparison of Implementation Effectiveness of the same curricula in the UK and Portugal. Psychology of Education Review, 44, 73–82.

Maratos, F.A., Parente, F., Sahota, T.J. & Sheffield (under review). Wellbeing and burnout in schoolteachers: the psychophysiological case for self-compassion.

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Appendix A – Example Feedback (from UK research data)


“As Safeguarding Lead, I regularly receive information about students which is upsetting or incidents which I feel are out of my experience. In the past I have become far too emotionally moved by incidents beyond my control. Following the training I now allow myself a few minutes to compose myself, accept my own feelings but also think about ways forward. This makes me feel more in control and less likely to take my feelings home.” Senior Teacher, 2017


“The education sector are currently facing a recruitment and retention crisis. It is well known that many teachers feel overworked, under-appreciated and stressed. The partnership work carried out with the University of Derby has enabled us to invest in our staff’s mental health and well-being. This project has come at the right time for us. Never has it been more important or needed. I cannot thank the University enough” - Head Teacher, 2018


I have a greater realisation of work/life balance being important to my personal well-being. I can allow myself 'down-time.” Teacher 2018


My senior leadership team… are developing in their own experiences and abilities, but this (CMT) has… helped me to reflect on my own practice when advising them of theirs.”

- Head Teacher, 2018


I do find that I’ve changed, …I’m looking after myself a little bit more in addition to trying to see things from another person’s point of view” Teacher 2019


“CMT exercises enhance my wellbeing by enabling me to engage with self-dialogue that is far more supportive and encouraging (both on terms of tone and content). They help me to feel good about myself” Teacher, 2019


“I really enjoyed the sessions in school. I have learnt new techniques and just need to put them into practice.” Teacher 2020


“The PRU is really struggling at the moment with a lot of staff absence and stress and their SLT is in shreds due to various things. CMT-T is certainly helping. …people have told me how the first 2 sessions have given them food for thought. Your work is helping people, just as it was designed to.” Welsh CMT-Teachers Trainer 2023


Appendix B – CMT-Teachers CPD Overview (overleaf)