New figures reveal a worrying rise in dropout rates among teacher trainees, amid concerns that they are being put off by the unmanageable workload of teaching before they have even started the job.
Nearly half (44 per cent) of school-centred initial teacher training providers (Scitts) have seen an increase in the number of trainees who have dropped out of courses this year, according to survey results that have been shared exclusively with TES.
The news will come as another blow to schools struggling to cope with the worst teacher shortages for more than a decade.
The research also reveals that nearly a third (31 per cent) said that there had been a significant increase in dropouts.
‘Casualties of stress’
“In teaching, everybody accepts that the postgraduate year is going to be very, very difficult,” said Martin Thompson, executive director of the National Association of School-Based Teacher Training (NASBTT), which carried out the survey of 45 of England’s 119 Scitts.
“There will always be a number of casualties from the stress of that year. What I think is increasing now is that those who are entering the profession are looking at those who are already in schools and thinking, ‘It doesn’t get any better.’
“The general culture of workload and morale rubs off on these trainees.”
Anthony Hoarty, manager of the Tommy Flowers Scitt in Milton Keynes, said that a languages teacher trainee from Spain had dropped out and sent an email from the airport on her way back home, citing workload.
He added that the pressure came not only from trainees’ own workload but also what they saw of qualified teachers.
“Teachers have to be given time for planning and preparation,” he said. “It’s going to be tricky, but if it gets more teachers in, then there [will be] more of us around to share it. Improve teaching conditions and pay, and you attract more people.”
Scitts report growing dropout rates in maths, physics and chemistry courses – subjects that are already under pressure due to the under-recruitment of trainees. But a third of Scitts reported no change, and 23 per cent said that the number of drop-outs had fallen.
Paul Haigh, director of the Sheffield-based Hallam Teaching School Alliance, which trains 80 primary and secondary teachers a year, said: “The trainees we lost this year were not stressed due to lack of support and they were not stressed due to lack of capability. They all had the potential to qualify and become great teachers.
“But individuals were looking around them at the salary they will earn as an NQT and deciding they are not prepared to put themselves through it for such a small salary.
“They base this not on how hard it is to train but on seeing the long hours that other young teachers are doing.”
A TUC report published last year found that teachers were more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry – with some working almost 13 extra hours a week.
Malcolm Trobe, the interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is more problematic at the moment, and even experienced teachers are having to prepare lots of lessons, because there is a new curriculum, new GCSEs and new A levels.”
NASBTT said that it was working closely with its members on how to support new teachers entering the profession.
Lizana Oberholzer, director of partnership, for the Buckingham Partnership Scitt and NASBTT spokesperson, said: “It is vital to address the challenges of workload for teachers from the very start of their training programme, to ensure that they develop resilience but maintain, above all, a passion for the profession. We must retain those excellent trainees for the future.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We know unnecessary workload is one of the biggest frustrations for teachers. We are doing more than ever to tackle this issue and have published the results of the three workload review groups on marking, planning and data collection. The reports should empower teachers and school leaders to challenge unproductive practices.”