5 reasons why teachers have had enough

The recruitment crisis is becoming ever-more acute, and new teachers are leaving. Colin Harris asks: what's happening?

Colin Harris

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Yet again, for the seventh year in a row, the government has failed to reach its recruitment targets for secondary teachers. 

Just 85 per cent of the required number applied this year. The situation can therefore now be called acute, especially as pupil numbers continue to rise


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Of course, some subjects are hit worse than others. And we must add to this the fact that a third of those joining the profession leave in the first five years.

Making a difference

I speak regularly to prospective teachers, and there seems to be a common theme as to why they want to become teachers. 

It will not surprise any of us that they don't enter for the money, or the so-called long holidays or the numerous benefits offered. 

Instead, they talk about “making a difference” or how much they “love working with children”. Very few now join because their parents were teachers (any who were will almost certainly have put them off) or because they don't know what else to do. 

Reasons for leaving

But what about the reasons for leaving? According to recent research by the NEU teaching union, there appear to be five main reasons for making this decision.

1. Heavy workload 

Some 76 per cent of those interviewed talked of the sheer unrelenting amount of work they were expected to do. Add to this the lack of opportunity to reflect on their practice, and of course the inability to establish a functioning work-life balance.

2. Continued teacher-bashing 

There is no doubt that morale in teaching is at an all-time low. So, teachers feel both undervalued and underpaid. And there is also a feeling that the media shows a lack of love, understanding and respect to the profession.

3. Constant changes 

From the national curriculum and teacher methodology to inspection and terms and conditions, it seems teaching is always changing. Far too often, there is no reason for this change.

4. Challenging student behaviour 

There is no doubt that behaviour is a major issue. Developing the skills necessary to cope with such behaviour takes time and support, which very often is not given.

5. Ofsted 

And what can we say about the system of relentless oppressiveness, apparently driven by a desire to grind all good teachers into the ground? 

A profession to be proud of

These are just five reasons, but they underlie the issues of recruitment and retention we face at the moment. 

These are issues that need to be tackled quickly, in order to make teaching once again a profession we are all proud of, and which people still want to join.

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were 'outstanding' across all categories

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