The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 2nd June 2017

Teachers ready to quit

A “STAGGERINGLY high” proportion of teachers would like to leave their jobs but are afraid to face the economic insecurity this would involve, according to a general election briefing given by Rebecca Allen, director of the Education Datalab think-tank.

Allen said that teaching is now “just too big an ask” because of the long hours, mountains of paperwork and accountability tasks that leave them exhausted.

But it is not good for pupils to be taught by teachers who just do not want to be there.

Ms Allen said that teaching in England is now “an incredibly difficult job” with school workers “putting in hours in excess of anything that people could imagine”.

She said: “It’s something that is essentially a performance job and I think as a profession they’re exhausted. I think they’re exhausted not just by the day to day of delivering lessons, but more importantly everything else that they’re expected to do.”

She added: “When you look at surveys of the profession that say what proportion of people are thinking about leaving, the numbers are staggeringly high.”

Figures published last Octoshowed nearly a third of teachers who began work in England’s state schools in 2010 were not in the classroom five years later. About one in eight had left after just a year.

Ms Allen continued: “They don’t all walk out the door but they don’t walk out the door in part because they can’t. We know that when teachers leave, they often go into the labour market and end up earning less, at least on day one as a consequence.

“But I don’t want my children to be taught by teachers who are there in the classroom but want to leave and are being trapped by their economic circumstances, and I think we’re getting into that situation because the job is just too big an ask.”

Ms Allen said that there is a need to look at improving the experience of teachers at the start of their career, which could include measures such as mentoring, smaller teaching workloads, or extending the teacher training period.

Professor Becky Francis, director of the UCL (University College London) Institute of Education (IofE) said the prospect of taking longer to achieve QTS (qualified teacher status) may be off-putting to some would-be teachers, and suggested there could be a scheme where initial QTS is awarded at the end of teacher training and then further stages of development, which recognise a teacher’s work and progress.

Ms Allen’s report is borne out by research from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), which found that maths, science and language teachers have high rates of leaving the profession, particularly in the first five years of their careers.

Researchers found that particularly high leaving rates of teachers in these subjects might make it difficult for the Government to achieve its objective for 90 per cent of all pupils to be entered for GCSEs in English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects. The number of trainees for these subjects has also been consistently below the Government’s entry targets for the last few years.The analysis, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, also found that the amount of curriculum time spent on science and languages has not increased since 2011. The lack of growth in curriculum time could be due to reduced teacher supply constraining schools from expanding provision in these subjects. But school and pupil preferences may also be influencing these trends.

Researchers also found that curriculum time for technology subjects (a non-EBacc subject) has fallen dramatically since 2011. The leaving rate for technology teachers is higher than average, which might be driven by schools’ reduced demand for teachers as well as teachers’ own career decisions. The analysis shows that non-EBacc subjects have all seen reductions in teaching hours since 2011.