'A quarter of teachers leave the classroom in their first three years. Isn't it time we asked why?'

It's a sad truth that the idea of all new teachers being supported in schools seems beyond our wildest ambition

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So we now have the highest teacher leaving rate in the past decade. Last year, one in 10 teachers left the profession. A quarter now get out of classroom in their first three years.

This is of real interest to me as I have recently taken on a role to try to stem this tide of teacher resignations. What a problem it is. Even schools minister Nick Gibb has recognised that it is a "problem", although not quite a "crisis" in his opinion.

What is not acknowledged, however, is the effect on both the school and the individuals involved, with many having their dreams and lives ruined.

So what are the facts? Well the number of teachers leaving the profession has increased 11 per cent over the last three years. We also know that government is falling well short of its own targets for the supply of new teachers. As a result, we are looking abroad for more teachers to fill the void. We also know that teachers are leaving the profession faster than at any time in the recent past.

With what feels like inevitability, this has led to a 10 per cent rise this year in the numbers of unqualified teachers employed and an increase in the numbers of support staff in schools.

Both, of course, are because schools need to plug the increasing number of gaps.

Thus, in a system with ever-increasing demands, we have more schools with staff less equipped to meet these expectations. I fear it is the children who will be the ultimate losers.

Low pay and long hours

So why are new teachers leaving? Well certainly there are few perks.

For starters, the low pay, long hours, high workload leads to a genuine sense that teachers are undervalued.

The expectations placed on new teachers by school leaders are often just not realistic. Planning is phenomenal, plus marking, plus all the rest: the result is each one hour-lesson taking three hours of extra work. Why can't we all realise this situation is just not acceptable? But sadly this is the norm in far too many schools.

Too often heads fail to recognise the telltale signs that their young teachers are struggling, and correspondingly fail to support them adequately. How sad that young intelligent people are affected in such a detrimental way so early in their working lives.

Valuing all staff

Thankfully there are a few people who actually think this is a national scandal. Earlier in the year, the Commons Public Accounts Select Committee slammed the Department for Education, saying there was a lack of "leadership or urgency" in tackling teacher shortages. Perhaps this committee should have widened its remit and looked at what is happening to so many teachers when they arrive in schools.

Young teachers are, as they say, exactly what it says on the tin: they are young and inexperienced. They are often tenacious, enthusiastic, funny and full of love – wonderful assets that if harnessed can be so beneficial to our profession.

Indeed, new teachers do very well in schools that support them with good management and behaviour structures in place. These are schools that value all staff and pupils and recognise their individuality. They have systems and structure which support not hinder. And they smile and laugh a lot.

Why does it too often seem beyond our wildest ambition that all new teachers should be well supported in schools? Perhaps we all need to remember what it felt like when we all started.

Colin Harris is a former primary head and is now supporting teachers and headteachers

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