The Big Question: How can teachers be retained within the profession?

Each week, we speak to the people who count, people like you, and post their opinions on the big issues in the education world.  Read it and comment to make it a lively and insightful debate.

This week’s question: How can teachers be retained within the profession?

Around a third of new teachers choose not to go in the classroom, according to recent figures from the General Teaching Council for England. GTCE .  Some have delayed entry to the profession; while others have gone on to do other things. 

Furthermore, every year around 11% of teachers choose to leave the workforce to go into another type of career. The Teacher Support Network (TSN) claims that of all the calls from teachers wanting to leave the profession, nearly half were related to career changing.

Within two years, one fifth of all new teachers leave their jobs, according to a written answer in a parliamentary debate held earlier this year. Many cite stress, work demands, initiative overload, poor discipline and lack of support as the main reasons for resignation.   

However, a recent government study shows that teacher retention rates are improving.

If there was only one thing that the government could do to stop teachers leaving the profession, what should it be?

Here are some thoughts from the school community:

“Here’s an initiative that would be most welcome:  Every Teacher Matters Too.  The government should be concerned about the well-being of its teaching workforce. 

“Give us staggered holidays like they have in Germany and France so that we don’t have to spend our breaks with school children and their families, and we won’t have to pay high season fares for travel.

“We have Every Child Matters (ECM), but some classes accommodate 31 pupils so how can they matter?  We also have Assessment for Learning (AfL) which again is hard to implement with large class sizes.  Ideally, we should have no more than 20 pupils in a class.”

Ute Bretschneider, secondary grammar school teacher, in Watford, Hertfordshire

“Reduce the amount of paperwork teachers are expected to produce.  Yes, undoubtedly, we need to think ahead and plan what we’re going to teach, but do we really need to write a book?  Whatever happened to creativity and spontaneity?

“Any negligible energy we teachers have left at the end of the day is spent writing documents that only serve to tick a box and prove that someone is seen to be doing their job.  Teaching is what we do best, so let us get on with it!”
Sandra Clelland, primary school teacher, Gislingham, Suffolk

“Give us greater autonomy. I often feel like an office worker where someone tells you what to do and you just do it.  That’s how it feels working to a prescriptive curriculum. 

“In the old days, teachers could teach with passion as they were largely in control of how and what was taught in the classroom.  Children were probably more engaged and consequently became deeper thinkers and learnt more.  I think I read a news report recently that implied that children today don’t have the thinking skills developed by children from previous decades. That says it all really.”
Usma Bhati, primary school teacher, from Reading, in Berkshire