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‘Teachers are blamed for all of society's ills – but it’s still the greatest job in the world’

Workload, endless reform, behaviour problems, funding cuts: put them all to one side. Here’s why, given the chance, I would still choose to train as a teacher, says one former head

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It has been revealed that the advertising budget to attract new teachers has now reached £6 million, presumably because of a lack of interest in becoming a teacher.

Fundamentally, this raises two questions which underpin the recruitment and retention crisis.

Firstly, why do we want to become teachers in the first place? Secondly, why then are our aspirations shattered?

It is a national disgrace that nearly a third of new teachers leave the profession within five years. What a waste in talent and resources, and all those shattered lives.

Part of my role at present is to encourage young adults to contemplate teaching as a profession. I attempt to win them around with five key thoughts:

  1. What a privilege it is to be able to work with young people and truly make a difference in their lives;
  2. The job is never boring. The variety in every day is there to be enjoyed;
  3. Teaching should and must be fun: this is how we learn. There should never be a day when this is not evident;
  4. You have the chance to be that inspiring teacher who can create a passion in another and transform them either for a subject or a skill;
  5. You work with many different individuals who all influence you in some way. You certainly are not locked in an office.

But too often I also find myself talking to teachers who are on the point of leaving the profession. Their complaints also fit into five categories:

  1. Teaching carries with it a massively heavy workload for what is insufficient pay;
  2. The role seems to receive a "bashing" from all sectors of society. Perhaps "teacher-bashing" should become an Olympic sport;
  3. Change is almost constant – and for no reason – which, inevitably, is unsettling;
  4. Pupil behaviour has become more challenging.
  5. Ofsted now appears to be a millstone around the neck of all education professionals.

To this list, we could also add large classes, lack of support and lack of resources.

What makes teaching such an amazing job?

One crucial thought, however, that I constantly need to revisit is that, if I had the chance to roll the clock back 39 years, would I become a teacher again, knowing what I know now? YES.


  • We still empower young people and help them to realise their potential;
  • Every day we have one little success which can keep us going;
  • Teachers, despite the endless bashing, are positive good people changing our society for the better;
  • Every day you will be gifted by both humour and love;
  • Being surrounded by young people allows – those who want it – to remain young inside both physically and mentally;
  • You can still (apart from the occasional observation and Ofsted) close your classroom door and forget the mayhem outside;
  • There is still an element of job security in an uncertain world;
  • If you can achieve a little work-life balance you can enjoy that long summer holiday with your loved ones.

OK, we will still get blamed for all society's ills and still lack respect from almost everyone, but it is still the greatest job in the world – and I would do it all over again. Happy Easter.

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsteds were 'outstanding' across all categories

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