What proportion of teachers are leaving the profession?

National data shows higher numbers of teachers leaving the profession in Scotland, but overall teacher numbers are also up

Henry Hepburn

What proportion of teachers are leaving the profession?

A report by The Herald newspaper today highlighted figures showing a rise in teachers leaving the profession in Scotland, with "workforce casualisation" suggested as one possible factor in the five-year high.

But what do the figures look like as a proportion of the overall teaching workforce over that period?

Tes Scotland requested that information, which confirms that the latest figures do mark a recent high in departures from the profession, in both number and as a proportion of all teachers. However, the 2020 data also shows a high point in the overall number of teachers over the same five-year period.

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Tes Scotland asked the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) for the total number of teaching registrants over five years, and the proportion of teachers that left the register each year; this has been combined below with the previously reported figures showing the actual numbers of teachers leaving the profession.

31 March 2020: 76,756 registered teachers (5.69 per cent, or 4,367, left the teaching register)

31 March 2019: 75,784 registered teachers (4.60 per cent, or 3,485, left the teaching register)

31 March 2018: 74,297 registered teachers (4.11 per cent, or 3,054, left the teaching register)

31 March 2017: 74,016 registered teachers (5.19 per cent, or 3,844, left the teaching register)

31 March 2016: 73,788 registered teachers (4.84 per cent, or 3,570, left the teaching register)

The GTCS said that the figures cover all reasons for leaving the register (eg, lapsed, fitness-to-teach removals, removal for non-engagement with professional update) but do not include teachers who have subsequently re-registered or teachers for whom we have received a notification of death.

The GTCS has also shared figures the number of teachers who, between 2016 and 2020, had gained full registration in the previous five years and whose registration had then lapsed. This amounts to 11 in total across those five years, and only two in 2020.

Over the same five-year period, the total number of teachers no longer on the register includes 92 who were removed following GTCS fitness-to-teach processes.

Tes Scotland has published a number of pieces recently highlighting teachers' concerns about insecure employment, and this has been cited as a potential factor in a higher numbers of teachers leaving the GTCS register in 2020.

In comments reported by The Herald, EIS teaching union general secretary Larry Flanagan said: “This apparent rise in the numbers deregistering from the GTCS is worrying, therefore, and should be investigated, but the EIS is aware also of many new and recently qualified teachers desperately seeking permanent posts, and employing this cohort should be a priority for both national and local government.”

A GTCS spokesperson said: “Over the last five years the number of teachers on the register has steadily increased and today stands at 77,659; the number of teachers leaving the register has also increased. Over the last five years, between 4.11 and 5.69 per cent of registrants left the register annually. It’s important to note that this figure includes teachers who are registered with GTC Scotland but work outside Scotland.

“There are many reasons why teachers may leave the register, including retirement. The recruitment and retention of teachers is a complex issue which requires targeted and coordinated action.

“GTC Scotland is involved in work to help recruit and retain more teachers. This includes working with universities providing initial teacher education to develop new and innovative routes into the profession, as well as ensuring support for those within the early-career phase.”

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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