1 in 8 college staff leave within a year, survey finds

Poor college management and unmanageable workload are among the reasons for staff leaving, according to new research

Julia Belgutay

One in 8 college staff changed jobs in the past year, with many leaving the sector

One in eight teachers and leaders left their college job within the past year – and half of them left education altogether, a new government survey shows.

The follow-up poll to last year’s staff survey reveals that 13 per cent of teachers and leaders had left the college that they were surveyed at as part of the main stage survey. That is significantly lower than churn in primary and secondary schools, where it is 18 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively. It is, however, higher than in higher education, where it is 9 per cent.


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A third of teachers and leaders told the survey last year that they were dissatisfied with opportunities to develop their career within FE at the main stage college – and, of them, 17 per cent had left the college at the follow-up survey.

The most common reasons that teachers and leaders gave for leaving the FE sector were poor college management (58 per cent) and unmanageable workload (46 per cent).

Why college staff quit their jobs

Seven in 10 (71 per cent) teachers and leaders said that improved college management would have made them less likely to leave, while half said a more manageable workload would have decreased the likelihood of them leaving.

Better pay (21 per cent) and a better or more supportive college management (18 per cent) were cited as reasons that could influence teachers and leaders to return to FE.

The survey reveals that around a third of teachers and leaders who left FE moved to a job at a perceived lower level or a job with fewer hours, and 40 per cent of teachers and leaders who left FE entirely moved to a role with a lower salary. Half moved to a role with a higher salary.

The College Staff Survey 2019 follow-up invited all teachers and leaders who had agreed to be re-contacted after the 2018 main stage survey to participate in an online survey to better understand reasons why teachers and leaders move role within and outside of the FE sector.

Of those teachers and college leaders who had left their college, only around half (52 per cent) remained working in education – with 21 per cent moving to a different FE college, 14 per cent going to another type of FE provider, one in 10 moving to higher education, and 7 per cent taking a job in a school.

Around 17 per cent of staff who left were now working outside of education, while 18 per cent had retired, were taking a career break or were no longer working.

According to the survey report, around half (55 per cent) of teachers who left their main stage college but remained in FE continued in lecturer, teacher or tutor roles, “indicating horizontal movement within the sector”. Four per cent moved from a teaching role to middle or junior management, and teachers and leaders who stayed at their main stage college but moved role internally most commonly moved to junior or middle management roles (35 per cent), “showing opportunities to progress within their college”.

The report says teachers and leaders who had left their main stage college were more likely to be from a BAME background (10 per cent) compared with those who were working at the same college (5 per cent). Male teachers were more likely to move early in their time within a college, with 31 per cent of male staff leaving within a year of joining the college compared with 17 per cent of female staff.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "It is no wonder that one in eight college staff left their job within the last year when so many have to contend with poor college management and unmanageable workloads.

“This report shows that half of those who left their jobs left education altogether. When viewed alongside the government’s 2018 college survey, which showed over half of college principals found it difficult to recruit, this points to a hiring crisis. We need the government to invest in the sector and make further education an attractive and rewarding career, so that it can help lead our recovery."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This is one of the biggest surveys of the FE workforce ever undertaken and it illustrates the incredible expertise and experience within it.

“The quality of the FE profession is a crucial factor in ensuring the success of our reforms to technical education and we hope these findings will help show a wider picture and understanding of the demographics and views of staff that do such important work for young people and adults across the country.”

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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