MORE than one in three newly-qualified teachers in one of England's most affluent counties may be considering quitting the profession, a disturbing new snapshot survey reveals.
In findings which will prove alarming to other London commuter-belt areas, researchers found the spiralling cost of living in Hertfordshire was a factor in many teachers' claims to be reconsidering their future, sometimes within months of qualifying.
Experts say the research suggests that the capital's well-documented teacher-retention problems may now be spreading to other districts with soaring house prices.
The survey of 143 Hertfordshire teachers who had qualified in the past five years found that 52 were either actively seeking a way out of the profession, or said it was something they would consider.
This is in addition to the one in 10 newly-qualified teacher who last year gave up their jobs in the county, in many cases because of high living costs.
One teacher now working elsewhere said: "I would like to teach in Hertfordshire again, but I couldn't do it on my wages. My rent alone accounted for more than half my wages, and that was for a one-bedroom flat more than 20 miles away from the school."
Ben Hooper, of the University f Hertfordshire, who compiled the report, said:
"More than a third considering leaving is a worryingly high figure, especially considering the teachers surveyed are only at the beginning of their careers.
"Hertfordshire has a very good reputation for teacher recruitment and support, so if there are problems here, it just illustrates the difficulties schools across the country are likely to be facing on retention."
The county has a 10-15 per cent turnover of teachers each year - a rate explained in many cases by the high cost of living. Almost 80 per cent of those surveyed who were still in the job but considering leaving cited excessive workloads. Some 60 per cent put their dissatisfaction down to poor pay.
The survey also suggests that a lack of support from schools during teachers' induction period was a factor in decisions to leave.
Although research on teacher retention nationwide is not extensive, the report's conclusions may not be exclusive to Hertfordshire.
The number of teachers leaving the profession across the country increased from 2,000 in 1993 to 3,000 in 1998. And a University of North London study of teachers leaving education in six London boroughs found that half were under 40.