Teaching has always been demanding – but it seems to be getting worse. Workload is one of the major causes of driving some 10% of teachers in the UK to leave the profession each year. In the last two years, 90% of teachers have thought about leaving, according to a survey of over 16,000 members of the National Union of Teachers’ (NUT).
Research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (Allen et al, 2016) also shows that around 40% of teachers leave the profession just five years after starting teacher training. So, of the 40,000 trainee teachers who will enter the profession this year and next, more than 16,000 will have left by 2023.
The road to retention
It seems that far more teachers than ever before are choosing to say goodbye to classroom life and what would once have been a life-long career. A 2016 report by the National College for Teaching and Leadership suggests that those in ethnic minorities are often the first to go. According to research by the Runnymede Trust for the NUT (2017), that may be because they often feel they face ‘an invisible glass ceiling’ that stops them being considered for more senior staff jobs. Or, because through racial stereotyping, they are given classes exhibiting the most challenging behaviour.
Of course, teaching isn’t for everyone and many graduates of all descriptions will naturally choose to explore alternative career paths. However, we cannot hide from what such statistics tell us. Nor can we ignore the negative impact this has on the profession, or the barriers it creates to improving teaching standards in our schools.
So, what can we do to improve teacher retention?
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