One in seven NQTs drop out in first year

EXCLUSIVE: Almost 4,000 NQTs are dropping out of state schools every year - at a cost of £90 million in lost training costs

Teacher leaving

A total of 15.3 per cent of newly-qualified teachers who started work in 2017 were no longer in service last year, according to DfE statistics.

That means, of the 25,600 newly-qualified teachers who started teaching in 2017, around one in seven dropped out of state schools – almost 4,000. 

NQTs throw in the towel partly because “schools are getting more pressured”, and partly because there’s lack of support, said Suzanne Beckley, policy specialist at NEU teaching union.


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She said: "There may be some teachers within the figures who are moving into the independent sector, but we’re not talking a great many,” she said.

“For any teacher, the feeling of coming back after the summer break is like Sunday night nerves multiplied by a hundred – but for NQTs it’s even worse than that.

“NQTs don’t have the resilience and experience which more experienced teachers can draw upon.”

The first term has been described as the “NQT slayer” by English teacher Julia Toppin who herself struggled as an NQT, and is sharing her tips for NQT survival.

Tes estimates that lost training costs could be around £90 million, based on figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which says the average total cost of initial teacher training (including costs to central government and schools) is currently around £23,000 per person.

Economist Jack Worth, of the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), said: “Having spent around £20,000 training each NQT, plus up to £30,000 for bursaries in key subjects, the government has a value-for-money interest in making sure that many of them stay.

“School leaders also have a big role to play in valuing and supporting teachers early in their career: NFER research has shown that recognition and reward are key to staff engagement and retention.”

He added: "There is not enough data about the destinations of those who enter training but do not make it into teaching. People may be teaching in other sectors or in other countries and they may also enter teaching later on in their careers."

According to DfE statistics, the retention rate for 2017 (for the 24,355 NQTs who qualified in 2016) was slightly higher at 85.1 per cent. But that still amounted to 3,628 teachers who left state schools.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of NAHT headteachers’ union, said schools were not supporting NQTs properly.

He said: “The harsh environment of the classroom can knock the hopes and dreams of an NQT in the first term or year.

“We need scaffolding around new teachers through mentoring and support in areas such as personal development, pedagogy and behaviour management.” 

A DfE spokesperson said: “We launched the Early Career Framework to ensure newly qualified teachers are provided with early career support and development, including mentoring.  

“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.

"Where teachers are struggling, we trust headteachers to take action to tackle the cause of stress and ensure they have the support they need."

How to save a teacher

In the 20 September issue of Tes magazine, there is an in-depth look at the international research around why teachers leave in the first five years of the profession. Written by teacher Jamie Thom, it identifies three areas schools have to get right if we are to stop huge numbers of new recruits leaving. You can subscribe to Tes magazine here.

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