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Zak Ashraf

Why do teachers leave the profession?

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I'm a student studying Journalism & Communication Studies at Middlesex University currently doing a Feature Writing module. As part of my feature, I am required to conduct an interview (interview will be used to provide quotes etc. to support my feature). I will be writing about the recent finding which explains that new teachers are quitting the profession within five years of being trained. I was hoping to do an interview with someone from here about their thoughts on why they think teachers may be quitting so soon, the issues caused etc. Since this forum seems to be full of people in the field of education, I was hoping someone can help. I preferably need to speak to someone in the UK. A short interview via e-mail would be fine.

Someone questions I'd like answered:

- Why do you think teachers are quitting so soon after being trained?

- What effects do you think this is having on schools as a whole?

- Is enough being done to keep teachers in the profession?

Edited by Zak Ashraf

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I'm a student studying Journalism & Communication Studies at Middlesex University currently doing a Feature Writing module. As part of my feature, I am required to conduct an interview (interview will be used to provide quotes etc. to support my feature). I will be writing about the recent finding which explains that new teachers are quitting the profession within five years of being trained. I was hoping to do an interview with someone from here about their thoughts on why they think teachers may be quitting so soon, the issues caused etc. Since this forum seems to be full of people in the field of education, I was hoping someone can help. I preferably need to speak to someone in the UK. A short interview via e-mail would be fine.

Someone questions I'd like answered:

- Why do you think teachers are quitting so soon after being trained?

- What effects do you think this is having on schools as a whole?

- Is enough being done to keep teachers in the profession?

Conditions of service for teachers are getting worse year on year. Policies introduced ostensibly to address work life balance issues have instead been used by Senior Management teams to get more and more out of teachers. The expectations of teachers in terms of planning, teaching and assessing and reporting have risen dramatically.

A fulll time teacher can expect to work a minimum 70 hour week and get scant financial reward or recognition for their efforts.

Schools are subjected to ridiculous inspection regimes and forced to compete with each other causing a great deal of paperwork and stress.

It is difficult to be creative or maintain intellectual integrity as a teacher these days as central government tells you what to teach, how to teach it and how to assess it. The other driving factor in curriculum choice is the market place. Teachers increasingly find themselves teaching sub standard courses because they artificially drive up the school league table position.

Management within schools is often extremely poor not at all helped by half baked National College for School leadership courses which have the highly undesirable effect of giving hopeless mediocrities the belief that they should hold senior positions. The contents of these courses is usually little more than self help off the shelf '10 secrets of successful leaders' type crap. Become a teacher and you can expect to be very badly managed by a line manager who will have a beautiful portfolio of evidence of what a good manager they are!

Promotion opportunities have been limited by the recent TLR fiasco.

The actual process of teaching is still enormously rewarding but it is my belief that within the now shambolic context they find themselves in young teachers who leave the profession today are exercising sensible judgement.

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I began my career as a schoolteacher in 1965. I taught in secondary education until 1971 – which was on the whole an enjoyable and rewarding experience in those far-off days when teachers were trusted to do a good job without the interference of central or local government. Local government in my experience was generally helpful, offering friendly advisers (not inspectors) and other services that made our job easier. I moved into higher education in 1971. It was a lot easier and less stressful than teaching in secondary education, e.g. discipline was not a problem, and I had fewer teaching hours and lots of time for preparation and marking. I could teach without anyone looking over my shoulder.

When the National Curriculum was introduced in 1988, I sympathised with the additional workload imposed on my secondary school colleagues and the interference of the Thatcher government that believed in control from the top – a philosophy that has continued and been developed further under Tony Blair. I considered myself very fortunate in still having considerable freedom. But then the same kind of top-down, control-freak mentality began to make its presence felt in higher education too. I found myself spending more and more time on admin and less and less time on preparation, teaching and marking. The new-style management was a disaster, culminating in the demise of the languages faculty in which I taught. Fortunately, I had been able to see the crunch coming and had taken an early retirement package in 1993, before the sh*t hit the fan.

Andy’s contribution to this discussion summarises nicely the main causes of the problems that are causing our profession to bleed to death

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I left teaching five years ago. I started late and had skills I could sell outside of teaching. Most teachers do not have this option. From my experience, most teachers would rather be doing something else. At its best, it is the most rewarding of all jobs. However, because of government interference and a decline in parenting skills, the job has become much more difficult. As a result of government over-regulation, creative people find it difficult to stay in teaching. Although I still know a lot of amazing people who remain in the classroom doing the best to make schooling an exciting process.

Why do people leave? It depends when they joined the profession. If you were a teacher in the 1970s you probably left because of governmental interference and the decline in parenting skills. I suspect young teachers leave for other reasons. One major factor concerns young entrants to the profession comparing work and social life with their friends from university. In fact, young teachers cannot really have a social life during term-time. From my experience, that is the main reason why they leave teaching.

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We did some research on this a couple of years ago (for details, see chapters 3-5 of 'Recruiting and Retaining Teachers' Cockburn. A. and Haydn, T. London, RoutledgeFalmer. The biggest thing putting teachers off in our study was admin overload and bureaucracy, then pupil behaviour. In other studies, pupil behaviour comes top.

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Our Union surveys here always show workload and behaviour as the two chief reasons and probably if you fixed workload, behaviour issues could be better dealt with.

I think young teachers find themseklves in a position of all responsibility and accountability, but no power to change things. You can earn better money for less stress and frustration and greater promotion opportunities elsewhere so many do, which leaves only the devoted, but cynical about management and policy, hanging in till retirement.

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Thank you very much for the responses. I have some more questions I'd appreciate being discussed:

- What do you think can be done to stop teachers from leaving? e.g. should teachers be given more power in their roles?

- How do you think the government should go about attracting new teachers? Should more teacher-specific benefits be introduced?

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Some quick answers to Zak’s questions:

1. Scrap the National Curriculum. Give teachers back their freedom to teach their subjects in their own creative and imaginative way, i.e. go back to the situation that prevailed when I started teaching in the 1960s – and when I enjoyed the challenges and rewards it presented.

2. Cut the admin load.

3. Persuade the DfES, inspectorate and senior management in schools that it is not always possible to make judgements on the basis of check-list. Some things, e.g. inspired teaching, cannot be counted.

4. Scrap the performance tables.

5. Pay teachers more.

6. Sack our Education Secretary (whom the late Ted Wragg dubbed "Ruth Dalek" and "The Duchess of Drivel").

7. As for discipline and behaviour problems, I’m not sure what can be done. It’s largely due to bad parenting, I guess. It’s not a new phenomenon, of course. I recall having discipline problems in a large London comprehensive in the 1960s when I was a novice teacher. A friend of mine – also teaching in a London comprehensive - had a nervous breakdown as a result of the stress he faced every day coping with bad behaviour. I moved to Devon, where I taught in a middle-class rural grammar school, and my friend emigrated to teach in Canada. Neither of us had discipline problems in our new environments.

Edited by Graham Davies

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Of all the things Graham mentioned, probably key is the performance tables. So much nonsense follows from these, from abhorrent management 'techniques', to an admin system that knows no bounds, that their removal would in and of itself free us up to cope with everything else, including increasing the creative content of teaching.

Naturally, scrapping the tables would have a consequence for competition between schools, inspection and therefore the NC, making the latter obsolete.

Ruth Dalek and co all went to public school and have ABSOULTELY NO IDEA about education in the state system. If they really wanted to improve state education they could very easily compare conditions in the two systems: Public - no NC, tepid 'inspection', small class sizes, large financial resources, generally pleasant learning environments. Reverse this for the state sector.

Comments elsewhere about the life/work 'balance' hit the nail fairly and squarely. The demands of the current system do not allow 'normal' lives during term time. And then they have the temerity to reduce pay in real terms. There's a t-shirt available in the States titled "Meet the F***ers" (without the asterisks) - I could easily imagine a new UK-based one.

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Some quick answers to Zak’s questions:

1. Scrap the National Curriculum. Give teachers back their freedom to teach their subjects in their own creative and imaginative way, i.e. go back to the situation that prevailed when I started teaching in the 1960s – and when I enjoyed the challenges and rewards it presented.

I am not sure our young teachers could cope with this freedom. After all, over the last 20 years they have been trained to do as they are told. We were trained very differently in the 1960s and 1970s. I suspect there would be complete chaos if the government did away with the National Curriculum, Schemes of Work, League Tables, etc. As Eric Fromm pointed out a long time ago, if you are brought up in an authoritarian system, you create a fear of freedom.

http://allpsych.com/personalitysynopsis/fromm.html

http://www.tamilnation.org/sathyam/west/fromm.htm

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I suspect there would be complete chaos if the government did away with the National Curriculum, Schemes of Work, League Tables, etc.

A little chaos never did anybody any harm, John...

Compared to the present debacle it might even be refreshing. I'm sure that teachers could work out which parts of the present 'system' are useful and which are unnecessary bureaucratic burdens, and thus improve the experience for all participants.

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Re: Scrapping the NC

I write as a language teacher. Most language teachers hate the NC - mainly because it is unrealistic and boring.

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The biggest thing putting teachers off in our study was admin overload and bureaucracy, then pupil behaviour.

The following quotations, from the QCA history report 2005, suggest that things won't be easing in this area for a while:

Ofsted concludes that ‘there is a need to rethink the history curriculum to ensure that it adequately meets the needs of current pupils and that its relevance and importance to young people is recognised

and understood’

Key recommendations for QCA

Curriculum reform

• Work with schools and other key players to explore the feasibility of reviewing and reforming key stage 2 history.

Reform the key stage 3 programme of study for history so that pupils develop a more coherent overview of the past and to ensure that its content is relevant to the 21st century.

Reform 14–19 history, in particular the breadth of study offered by current specifications and the quality of assessment within these.

• Develop and pilot a GCSE qualification linking history to related vocational areas.

• Continue to develop the history curriculum so that it is relevant to the early 21st century.

Curriculum guidance

• Develop guidance for primary teachers on developing pupils’ chronological understanding and their enduring knowledge of past.

• Publish additional British history units for the DfES/QCA secondary history scheme of work to complement the guidance already commissioned to help teachers develop pupils’ chronological understanding and their enduring knowledge of aspects of the past.

Develop guidance on teacher assessment, along with additional optional tasks for primary and secondary history.

• Publish a national bibliography of resources to support the teaching of black and multi-ethnic aspects of British history.

• Continue to develop strategies for the effective dissemination of curriculum guidance materials and examples of good practice in history.

I wonder if they will publish additional funding specifically targeted so that we can buy all the new books or develop the resources we require for all of this... I wonder if the moon IS made of green cheese...

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I'm sure most teachers at least once thought of leaving due to stress, workload and

low salary. Another reason for young teachers to quit early can be the realisation of the difference between the perfect teaching job in their dreams and the reality. Soon after they enter the classroom

they feel they won't be able to cope with the needs of the students and the administration. This gives

the young teacher the feeling of being trapped. They find themselves struggling with exams, observations, paperwork and problematic students.

Although I've been teaching for more than ten years and find it a rewarding profession, I still think of

leaving from time to time.

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I'm sure most teachers at least once thought of leaving due to stress, workload and

low salary. Another reason for young teachers to quit early can be the realisation of the difference between the perfect teaching job in their dreams and the reality. Soon after they enter the classroom

they feel they won't be able to cope with the needs of the students and the administration. This gives

the young teacher the feeling of being trapped. They find themselves struggling with exams, observations, paperwork and problematic students.

Although I've been teaching for more than ten years and find it a rewarding profession, I still think of

leaving from time to time.

Just have fun. Let go a little bit of making a difference and try to get everyone involved in fun. A lot will flow from that. You can be so much more. Nurture yourself first till you have an abundance to share.

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