'We can't afford to lose teachers with experience'

Experienced teachers have had enough of being underappreciated - we need to listen to them, writes Colin Harris

Colin Harris

Every school must have a career leader - but who are they?

The term “experienced teachers” once had such a positive ring to it. Experienced teachers were often celebrated and used well within schools. Sadly, now the term “experienced” is often linked with “expensive”. They form the middle management, who lack the respect they deserve and are underappreciated and underused.

No school, however dynamic the head may be, can be a great school without great middle leaders. Having a vision for your school is absolutely fantastic, but who puts this into practice? Who encourages young staff, and sets the standards for others to follow? Who translates the talk in the staffroom into reality?

Too often, these dedicated individuals are overlooked. Often, they just get on with the job and, because they have very high teaching commitments, they do not get the management opportunities they deserve. They do not continually knock on the headteacher's door, and so others far less experienced seem to get these leadership chances instead. 

Teachers overlooked and underused

But what we are now seeing is that these experienced teachers have had enough of being overlooked and underused. They are now leaving the profession, and they are leaving in droves.

According to Department for Education figures, 50,000 qualified teachers left the state sector in 2016, which represents 10.5 per cent of the profession. These were not just the newest teachers, but those from all levels. Even more worryingly, 80 per cent of all teachers seriously considered leaving teaching over the course of a year. Their reasons for thinking in such a way are an indictment on our profession at present:

  • Lack of genuine support from government and parents;
  • The workload is too high;
  • Over-testing;
  • Pressure to continually meet government targets;
  • The focus is on high achievers with not enough support for SEND;
  • Ofsted controls education;
  • The pupil is not at the centre of education;
  • They feel burnt-out.

Experienced core

The teachers who feel like this are the profession’s experienced core. But we have a government and successive education secretaries of state who have done so little either to listen to or to support them. To make these teachers feel valued and supported once more requires a listening ear and a salary commensurate with being a teacher in 2019.

Lest anyone forgets, teaching is a difficult job at the moment. To stop the avalanche of teachers leaving, we need a new, positive approach to education, from whoever is in charge. If this doesn’t happen, we will lose those teachers who we can least afford to lose: those with experience. 

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

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