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Staff dissatisfaction peaks

TES survey reveals that 41 per cent of primary teachers want to quit the profession.

The number of teachers leaving the profession has hit its highest level since 1990 with just one in eight retiring at normal age, according to an unpublished survey.

The survey of more than 8,500 schools by the Local Government Management Board discloses widespread levels of dissatisfaction among teachers and shows that resignations now outnumber recruitments.

Its findings coincide with a telephone survey of almost 1,000 teachers which shows that a third would leave teaching if they could get another job.

The survey, conducted in November for The TES, revealed that 41 per cent of primary staff and more than a quarter of the secondary and independent school teachers wanted to quit.

Levels of disillusionment were particularly high among primary heads with 43 per cent wanting to leave if a suitable opportunity arose, compared with 16 per cent of their secondary colleagues.

Would-be leavers told researchers from Sample Surveys Ltd that they wanted a complete change of career, preferably working for a charity or in writing, broadcasting or PR. But the most popular choices were posts in management, industry, commerce or retirement.

Last week, The TES published exclusive in-depth evidence from teacher focus groups showing that teacher morale appears to have hit an all-time low.

The combined evidence of the profession's collective job dissatisfaction comes at a time when the Government is under fire for its proposed changes to pension rights, which would make early retirement rarer, retaining many more teachers up to the age of 60. At the same time, ministers have scaled down this year's targets for initial teacher training by just under 5,000.

The School Teachers' Pay Review Body, which reports at the end of the month, is looking at ways to increase teacher recruitment and retention, but has been asked by the Government to keep any pay award low.

The LGMB study shows that in 1995 - the last available statistics - one in 10 teachers resigned. It reveals this was the first year in which retirements outnumbered moves to other jobs with a local education authority and may indicate why ministers are clamping down on pensions. Early retirements were the highest so far this decade, with 5,600 leaving the profession.

In the eight years it has been conducting the study, normal age retirements have fallen from 1,540 in 1987 to 1,170 while ill-health retirements more than doubled from 1,610 to 3,150 per year.

The study, which covers 373,000 full-time and 58,000 part-time teachers, provides a detailed picture which is used by the School Teachers' Review Body, amongst others. The survey, which was conducted jointly by the national employers and six teacher unions, has the backing of the Department for Education and Employment.

Data for the survey was collected from a random sample of a third of LEA primaries and all LEA secondaries - 8,600 schools including grant-maintained and sixth form colleges.

It identifies problems for local authority schools where recruitment ran at 1 per cent below resignations and in secondaries where there has been consistently higher than average turnover of foreign languages, English, RE and music teachers.

The overall level of wastage - teachers actually leaving the profession - rose to 5.4 per cent in 1995, up from 4.9 per cent in 1994 and the highest since 1990.

The trend is blamed on an upturn in the labour market. "It may therefore be expected that turnover will increase if labour markets and housing markets continue to recover," said the report. It warns that more should be done to safeguard teacher recruitment, including better career development and training.

The number of resignations was up on 1994 - from 9.5 per cent to 9.9 per cent - with turnover highest in local authority schools and lowest in sixth-form colleges.

Recruitment meanwhile was down from 6 per cent to 5.8 per cent and was highest in GM schools and lowest in sixth form colleges. Schools in London took on the greatest proportion of newly qualified teachers.

Almost seven out of 10 teachers who resigned in 1995 were women and more than a third of all staff who quit retired.

A third of teachers who resigned were aged under 35, more than half had no or one responsibility point and more than a quarter had been at their school for three years or less.

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