Idealism alone cannot keep Amy

11th July 2008 at 01:00
Amy is described by her deputy head as "an amazing teacher", but is leaving the profession after only two years

Amy is described by her deputy head as "an amazing teacher", but is leaving the profession after only two years. Why? Because she cannot help but compare herself with her friends who work in the City of London, earn high salaries, go on fantastic holidays and have time to enjoy themselves instead of being buried in work.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem schools face in retaining talented new teachers. They start full of idealism, enjoy teaching and feel they are doing something that benefits society. Then, after a few months, they hit a wall, exhausted by the workload that continues to blight the profession, despite an army of support staff and the qualified successes of the workforce agreement.

For the Amys of this world, the news that four out of every 10 graduates who qualify as teachers are not working in schools after two years will come as no surprise. They are all too aware of the toll taken by coping with poor pupil behaviour and heavy workloads.

Clearly, losing 40 per cent of new teachers within such a short time of qualifying is wasteful and expensive. In comparison, 97 per cent of doctors remain in the profession 10 years after qualifying. Such a stark difference shows just how far the Government has to go in its ambition to raise the status of teaching to the level of other leading professions.

While the prospect of earning more outside the teaching profession may be a factor with Amy and her peers, it is the combination of having to deal with difficult pupils, time management and family pressures that drive many away. Schools can certainly help to retain newly qualified staff by offering training in the basics of behaviour management and pedagogy, as well as encouraging experienced staff to share best practice and offer top tips.

The Government's plan to require all new teachers to take a masters degree in teaching and learning could also bring benefits. Young teachers like nothing more than to continue learning how they can become better professionals. For that to happen, they need time and space away from the classroom to allow them to engage collaboratively with colleagues. Such training programmes do not come cheap, and the new masters qualification will need to be properly funded if it is to encourage more young teachers to remain in the profession.

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