More than half of teachers ‘have thought of quitting’

Lucy Powell: 'Worryingly, more than half of teachers have considered leaving the profession.'
Lucy Powell: 'Worryingly, more than half of teachers have considered leaving the profession.'
Have your say

THE MAJORITY of teachers have considered leaving the profession in the last six months, according to a new report published today.

Three-quarters (76 per cent) said workload was the main issue, while a quarter (24 per cent) said they thought about quitting because they disliked the culture of their school.

The findings are part of a new report into what motivates people to teach and what can be done to attract and keep them in the profession.

It includes recommendations on how to ensure teachers want to work in areas where they are needed. This is a key issue for Yorkshire where a lack of outstanding school leaders in deprived areas has been highlighted by Ofsted’s director for the region Nick Hudson.

The report has been commissioned by think-tank LKMCO and education company Pearson UK. One of its authors Loic Menzies, LKMCO’s director, told The Yorkshire Post that policy makers in the region need to tap into local Labour markets to ensure local people enter the profession.

He also said “commutability” was one of the key factors in where a teacher decides to work meaning an area’s transport links would have an impact on its ability to attract and retain teachers.

In the report he said: “If policy makers and school leaders can reduce teachers’ epic workload, build a school culture that teachers believe in and provide opportunities for development and progression, then teachers will be more than willing to give their all.”

The report says three in 10 (29 per cent) do not feel they get enough support while 27 per cent said poor pupil behaviour was putting them off. Being unhappy with the quality of leadership and management (43 per cent) and insufficient pay (43 per cent) were also heavily cited as reasons for considering leaving.

The poll of both primary and secondary school teachers found 59 per cent had thought about quitting, with much-needed science teachers among those most likely to have considered doing so (67 per cent), with only art and drama teachers more likely (75 per cent and 69 per cent respectively).

The findings are based on a YouGov survey of more than 1,000 current teachers in England, focus groups and interviews.

Teachers said they primarily stay in teaching when they feel they are having an impact, with 92 per cent saying the opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives was an important motivation.

Making a difference to the pupils was listed as the main motivation for people’s decision to work in Yorkshire, followed by the job being at a commutable distance. The ethos of the school and making a difference to their local community were also said to be factors in teachers’ decision to work in Yorkshire.

The report also identified four overlapping teacher types, which it said could help policy makers, educationalists and school leaders better understand the school workforce.

These are practitioners - teachers who are particularly motivated by a love of their subject and a desire to teach children, and make up around a fifth of teachers.

Around a third are idealists who want to make a difference to society, while moderates make up a quarter of the profession and are moderately influenced by a broad range of factors.

Just over a fifth of teachers are rationalists and tend to carefully weigh up a combination of pragmatic, personal and social justice-related factors.

Pearson UK president Rod Bristow said: “This research points to a simple conclusion: teachers want to make a difference for our children; when they feel they can’t for whatever reason, we risk losing them from the profession.

“We need nothing less than a call to action to give them the support they need to make that difference. The Government is taking the issue of teacher supply and retention seriously.

“But the larger conversation about what inspires teachers to join - and stay - in the profession will require hard talking in Whitehall, in teacher training institutions, and in every staff-room across the country.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “This latest report bears out what NUT surveys have found. Teachers love their jobs but the profession has become so unattractive and unworkable that more than half of teachers are considering leaving the profession.

“Endless pontificating on the merits of academies and free schools, alongside the energy and money that is ploughed into flogging this dead horse need to stop.

“Parents, carers, children and teachers all deserve better. Teacher morale is low, curriculum and examination reforms have left schools with a stifling syllabus, while the over-testing of children from the age four upwards is taking the creativity and joy out of learning and teaching.

“Nicky Morgan needs to wake up to the fact that it is her Government’s policies that have created this crisis of teacher recruitment, retention and morale.”

Labour’s shadow Secretary of State for Education, Lucy Powell, said: “The Tories are overseeing a teacher shortage crisis in this country which is threatening standards in our schools... Worryingly, as this report shows, more than half of teachers have considered leaving the profession in the last six months. The Government are in danger of failing to deliver an excellent education for all children if they don’t recognise this pressing issue.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Latest figures show the highest number of people joining the profession since 2008 and the rate of former teachers coming back to the classroom has continued to rise year after year – from 14,720 in 2011 to 17,350 in 2014. While the vast majority of teachers stay in their roles for more than five years, we know unnecessary workload can detract from what matters most: teaching.

“That’s why we launched the Workload Challenge, and are working with the profession to understand and tackle the top issues that teachers said caused the most bureaucracy, with leading education experts taking action on key areas such as marking and lesson planning.”

Comment: Page 12.