More than 1 in 3 teachers 'plan to leave by 2026'

Workload, lack of government trust, accountability and pay cited as the main reasons for leaving by teachers in a poll

Catherine Lough

Teacher wellbeing and workload: More than a third of teachers are expecting to leave the profession by 2026, a NEU union survey shows

More than a third of teachers are "confident" they will not be working in education in five years’ time, a survey suggests.

Two in three teachers say the status of the profession has worsened over the past year, according to a poll from the NEU teaching union.

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The leader of the UK’s largest teaching union has called it “a scandal” that “so little effort has been made by government to value the profession”.

In the survey, of mainly teachers, school leaders and some support staff, more than half (55 per cent) of respondents said their work-life balance is now worse than before the first lockdown, while 68 per cent have seen their workload increase.

Some 35 per cent of respondents were confident they would no longer be working in education in 2026.

The most common reason given for leaving teaching was that the education profession is not valued or trusted by government and media (53 per cent), closely followed by workload (51 per cent), then accountability (34 per cent) and pay (24 per cent).

The findings were released on the second day of the NEU’s annual conference.

'No surprise' teachers are thinking of leaving the profession

Members were asked to compare aspects of their job with a year ago to assess what had improved or worsened over the course of the pandemic, as part of the survey of nearly 10,700 NEU members.

One in five respondents said their work-life balance is now “much worse” than before the first national lockdown.

One respondent said: “I think that the expectations placed upon full-time teachers during the pandemic are immense.”

Another added: “The pandemic has highlighted a high expectation on teachers whilst a total lack of respect from government.”

The only significant improvement has been staff relationships with pupils’ families, the poll suggests.

Thirty per cent of respondents had seen their relationships with parents improve over the past year, with just 15 per cent seeing a drop.

The research shows that:

  • 66 per cent of respondents thought the status of the profession had got worse over the past year.
  • 95 per cent of respondents said they worried about the impact of workload on their wellbeing.
  • 61 per cent of respondents said their wellbeing had worsened over the past year.
  • When asked, “What could be done to improve your wellbeing in the coming year?”, 56 per cent said the government listening to teachers would help, 
  • And 39 per cent said the government trusting the profession would help, while 51 per cent said reduced workload would improve wellbeing. A further 50 per cent said reducing the stress of external accountability measures would help to alleviate stress.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “It should come as no surprise that so many are thinking of leaving teaching.

“These findings come after a year in which the education profession, as key workers, have been provided few safety protections, had to improvise solutions where government had simply left a void, and were met with a pay freeze for their troubles.

“To create an environment in which so many are overworked and looking for an exit, it is a scandal that so little effort has been made by government to value the profession.

“Instead, they feel insulted, and for many, there comes a point where enough is enough.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We are enormously grateful to teachers and other school staff for the resilience and commitment they have shown in supporting children during the pandemic.

“We have taken a wide range of action to address teacher workload and wellbeing, and invested millions in mental health charities to support teachers.

“This includes our £8 million Wellbeing for Education Return programme, which is supporting staff in schools and colleges to respond to any wellbeing issues they or their colleagues may be experiencing.

“We are also improving support and professional development for teachers at all stages of their career. This includes providing additional support for teachers who are at their least experienced and at most risk of leaving the profession, through our Early Career Framework reforms.”

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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