Ministers this week confirmed the official new resignation rate for teachers. Of the 24,100 state school teachers who qualified in 2010, 30% had resigned by 2015, with 13% resigning within the first 12 months. The government defended itself by saying teacher retention rates have been broadly stable over the last 20 years. Surely though, this statistic raises alarm bells. Year in year out, the government misses its target for the number of new teachers entering the profession, especially in key STEM subjects. Now we are being told that the retention of those that do enter the profession is far too low. We not only face a recruitment crises, but a retention crisis! The effects are there to see for everyone: larger class sizes, more teachers teaching out of their specialist subject, more unqualified teachers etc. Journalists and experts are pointing fingers everywhere: Michael Gove, the economy, Ofsted. Who better to speak to though than a current trainee teacher?
I asked my old school friend Tom (26) for his insight. Tom is a trainee History teacher at a London academy
Michael: What do you think is the single most difficult issue facing trainee/newly qualified teachers today?
Tom: The relationship of pay to workload, work could never stop and it is very hard to gauge how much work to do or how much is enough.
Michael: What other factors are there besides that, would you say?
Tom: The taxing relationship of lessons. Planning, marking, behaviour management, pedagogy. This all feeds into workload really.
Michael: Do you think schools are doing enough to support their trainee/newly qualified teachers?
Tom: Some schools do, but most do not know how to deal with the various routes to QTS. There are many different ways to train now, as there should be. Some schools are more unfamiliar with others and can struggle to support people enough.
Michael: What do you think might put people off applying to teaching?
Tom: That initial workload, and the chance you could be put in a struggling school with very little professional support.
Michael: Have you ever considered leaving the profession?
Michael: What one thing would you change if you could to help improve the retention rate?
Tom: Greater formalisation of the support offered to new teachers, fewer contact hours for them and a greater focus on effective CPD directed by both the school and NQTs. Also, progressive building of skills and the ability to remain training a skill if you do not master it.
Michael: Our recruitment and retention rates for teachers in Britian are far worse than lots of other OECD countries, do you think there’s a problem specific to this country?
Tom: Because of the huge disparity in school experience it’s hard for the UK to come to terms with what schooling actually is, and what teaching actual entails. Many people assume teaching is easy because they know a teacher who does little work outside school and visits Tuscany twice a year. Many people have a very pessimistic view of it too from what they saw as a pupil.
Michael: On a more positive note, what initially attracted you to teaching?
Tom: It is a very dynamic, social and exciting job. More so than all my previous jobs.
Michael: What have been the highlights of your year so far?
Tom: The gratification from both students, the results they obtained, and the other teaching staff. Most teachers are wonderful people and the ‘lifeboat mentality’ of all being in it together really helps to build solid relationships.
Michael: What would you say to anybody considering a career in teaching?
Tom: Take your time, do loads of school experience and consider the routes and decide which is best for you.
I would say Tom’s feedback is quite typical. Workload is unsurprisingly seen as the main factor in teachers leaving the profession. This surely needs to be addressed and workload needs to be looked at. This is relevant for all types of schools: independent, state, grammar. We also need to be doing more to help teachers manage their workload; this feeds into the CPD and support element mentioned by Tom. We can’t have a situation where so many of the profession’s bright young things, who in theory should be the most energetic and enthusiastic, leave at this rate.
Independent Schools Recruitment Team Leader
Telephone: 0203 405 3202