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'Exhausted’ teachers blame workload for predicted exodus

Union survey finds 40% of teachers expect to have left profession by 2024

workload

Two-fifths of teachers say they will no longer be working in education in five years time, almost one-fifth (18 per cent) expect to be gone within two years - and the main reason for leaving is workload.

That’s according to a survey of more than 8,000 teachers, school leaders and support staff from across the UK carried out by the NEU teaching union.

The research, released at the start of the union’s annual conference, in Liverpool, yesterday show that the main reasons for leaving were workload (62 per cent) and the accountability regime (40 per cent.)


Need to know: The recruitment and retention strategy

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Read: Job stress higher for teachers than other professions


One typical response from a teacher said they were “exhausted and fed up with the hours I have to maintain in order to keep abreast of paperwork demands". "I love the teaching but have grown tired of how relentless the job has become,” they added.

Calling for “drastic action,” Kevin Courtney, joint-general secretary of the NEU, said: “It is clear from our survey that the Government is doing a far better job of driving teachers out of the profession than they are solving the issue of excessive workload.

“Damian Hinds has made many of the right noises about fixing the problem, but he and his predecessors have achieved very little.

“The fundamental problem, as the results of our survey shows, is one of excessive accountability brought on by the DfE and Ofsted. The blame is at their door. So long as the main drivers of a performance-based system are still in place, schools will continue to be in the grip of a culture of fear, over-regulation, and a lack of trust.”

When it came to respondents with less than five years’ experience, 77 per cent gave workload as the reason as wanting leave while 45 per cent said it was accountability.

Portsmouth primary teacher Amanda Martin told journalists at the NEU annual conference that one example of increasing workload was that heads were now having to act as special educational needs coordinators. She said: "You 're now doing everything in the job, because of the lack of people.

"I've got three kids of my own as well and the workload massively impacts."   

The results of the survey show that a third of respondents see themselves working in the same role in two years time while only 11 per cent see themselves in the same role in five years time.

A total of 26 per cent of those with between two and five years’ experience intend to leave education in the next five years, according to the research. For those with less than two years’ experience, this drops to 15 per cent.

One respondent said: “My job is no longer about children. It’s just a 60-hour week with pressure to push children’s achievement data through.”

Another said: “With a young family, and despite working part-time, I have come to realise that a job in education is not conducive to family life.”

“Working 70 hours a week for many years has meant my health and family life have suffered.  I am getting out before the job kills me.”

Another said: "I am so tired.”

A total of 56 per cent of respondents believe their work-life balance has got worse or much worse in the past year, while 31 per cent believe it has stayed the same, while just 12 per cent think it has got better or much better.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The education secretary has set out his determination to help teachers and school leaders reduce their workload and we have taken a range of actions to do this. It is an important element of our recently published recruitment and retention strategy.

“We have worked with school leaders and teachers to create a workload reduction toolkit, which provides practical advice and resources that schools can use rather than creating new ones from scratch.

“We are also tackling excessive data burdens in schools; simplifying the accountability system to target the associated burdens and working with Ofsted to ensure staff workload is considered as part of a school’s inspection judgement.”

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