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Troubled by debt and bad behaviour

Two different but equally disturbing surveys were made public by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) this week (see page 4). Both paint a gloomy picture of being a teacher in the UK today.

The first gave a breakdown of Welsh results on the "rampant problem" of bad behaviour in the classroom and its effects on teaching staff. Admittedly, the statistics look good for Wales at a quick glance. Compared with England, the number of teachers in Wales who have faced physical aggression in their daily lives is considerably less. Gun and knife crime has not reached the Welsh borders, according to the ATL's Dr Phillip Dixon. But dig deeper and the figures tell a different story with a less happy ending.

Despite fewer instances of assault reported by ATL members - 13 per cent compared with 34 per cent in England - teacher members in Wales admitting mental health problems (14 per cent) as a result of persistent disruptions by unruly pupils is not a statistic to be proud of. Add to that the low percentage of teachers in Wales who feel their schools' risk assessments are good compared with England - just a quarter compared with 65 per cent across the border - and any rosy glow fades to grey.

But if teachers are not leaving because of poor pupil behaviour, and plenty are, debt may also be a cause for their early departure, suggests another survey released by the ATL this week. The findings show that money, or lack of it, is a reason why more than a fifth of newly qualified teachers may drop out. An alarming 25 per cent also regret becoming teachers because of their financial position.

The ATL has worked out that 40 per cent of those who took part in its survey qualified with debts of more than pound;10,000. It seems that debt is never a good start to any career, but is fast becoming the only route in many professions. However, add high levels of daily stress and threats of violence to the equation and suddenly it seems that teaching should not be touched with a bargepole.

But the rewards also speak for themselves - especially when your pupils are achieving, well-behaved and interested in your lesson.

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