From education to employment

How a hybrid learning model has revolutionised our staff development

Can staff development be delivered to a large and geographically disparate workforce in a way that is personalised and engaging? 

A survey conducted by City & Guilds Group found that eight in ten UK employees found it difficult to access learning and development, and only 30% deemed the content to be engaging. 

Recently, I was presented with the challenge of delivering training to around 1,700 colleagues across the Luminate Education Group. The brief was to ensure further education colleagues received training on the principles and application of Trauma Informed Practice (TIP). 

Like other colleges, we’ve seen a rise in emotional wellbeing and mental health referrals for our learners, which can present a significant barrier to education. We were keen to ensure that all staff had access to scientifically-grounded knowledge of how to create a culture of inclusion which is aware of and responsive to those who have been affected by trauma. 

We want to create an open and emotionally aware environment to enable an environment and culture that realises that trauma can affect individuals, groups and communities, recognises the widespread impact of trauma, responds by embedding knowledge into policies, procedures, and practices, and prevents re-traumatisation. 

Creating a culture of trauma aware behaviours impacts on how colleagues experience work and our learners experience their education. Our commitment to relational practice is backed by organisational policies and behaviours and training for all staff is vital to ensuring staff feel able to support those around them.

Trauma informed practice training usually takes place in small, intimate groups, and we wanted to retain this aspect of the training. It was the need to deliver small-scale training across a large-scale organisation that led to developing this hybrid learning model. 

The idea was to fuse together two training methods that we already employ across the group – a one-day conference where all staff members participate in training together, and team ‘away days’ where content is tailored to suit individual departments and colleagues are working in familiar teams with established relationships . 

The delivery on the day was a live broadcast from the TV studios at Leeds Conservatoire.  I was the anchor for the day, setting the context and introducing each speaker, reaching our staff who were spread across colleges in Leeds, Kaighley and Harrogate. 

Part of our rationale was to make training more accessible to staff by reducing travel time, disruption to routine and the uncertainty of being in an unfamiliar location which can be challenging and can cause logistical difficulties, particularly for colleagues with disabilities or reduced mobility.

But most importantly, this model meant staff felt comfortable and in familiar teams. Each team was led by a facilitator who was trained to guide staff members through the subject matter, generate discussion and capture feedback. 

Using a hybrid approach to this particular staff development day, with an emotive and challenging topic, helped to deliver on increased flexibility, improved connections and communication, and a more team-focused intervention to enhance the learning experience for all attendees.

The West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership sourced and funded the trainers, for a comprehensive introduction to trauma informed practice from national experts, including Lisa Cherry, Andi Brierly and Sheila Mulvenney. 

Lisa’s introductory session set out the Case for Change, which highlighted the experiences and environmental factors which can lead to experience of trauma. Andi’s session focused on how intersectional adverse childhood experiences can activate children’s stress response system and how this can impact on wellbeing and attention. 

He said, “For someone experiencing trauma in their personal life, each everyday interaction has a tremendous impact on their mental state and sense of resilience.

“From the classroom to the canteen, it’s important that all staff are able to recognise the signs of trauma response in students and colleagues, which is why whole-organisation training such as this is vital.”

Sheila’s session dived deeper into the importance of relationships particularly in education, in helping individuals feel safe and able to learn or work. For Sheila, our hybrid model represents a positive cultural change. 

She said, “For organisations, staff wellbeing should always be considered a priority when decisions are being made as to how this training is offered. 

“The hybrid approach used by Luminate Education Group allowed for the relevant information to be disseminated to all, but in an safe and engaging way, which encouraged conversations within natural working environments. 

“The model is not something I have previously worked with, but overwhelming positive feedback from participants suggest that it was a success.”

Indeed, our session evaluation and social media feedback revealed that colleagues had a productive day. Of 685 surveyed colleagues, 96.5% rated their confidence with trauma informed practice as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ after the event.

Staff also engaged well with the learning model, as 85% of colleagues felt that having a facilitator in the room enhanced their experience and made it easier to engage in discussions

One staff member shared, “The day featured great guest speakers and was really informative. It was the most useful staff development day I have attended.”

I firmly believe that hybrid models offer a different approach to delivery of staff development, and represent an important paradigm shift which integrates training that is both engaging and empathetic to individual wellbeing into our staff teams. 

By Andrea Cowans, Director of Student Life at Luminate Education Group

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