Wilshaw: Teachers leave because Ofsted pressure makes profession a 'tougher game'

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The high numbers of teachers leaving England’s state schools is due to the job becoming “tougher and tougher”, Ofsted's chief inspector said today.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said that growing expectations on schools to improve – from his own inspectorate and from the Department for Education – were partly to blame for many teachers walking away from their careers in the state sector.

Speaking at the launch of his fourth annual report, Sir Michael warned that staff shortages were being exacerbated by the number of newly-qualified teachers leaving to teach abroad or in the independent sector.

And, in response to a question, he said that a key reason for this was the increased pressure on state schools.

“Retention in many ways is more important than recruitment,” the chief inspector said. “I don’t know what the figures are in terms of teachers leaving the profession but it is sad if the numbers really are higher than they ever have been. I think that’s because teaching is becoming a tougher and tougher game. It is.

“Ofsted wants higher standards, the government wants higher standards, the pressure is going to increase. But if you’re in a school that is well led, you will continue to do well.”

The only way to stop the exodus of teachers from the state schools was to ensure every school was rated good or better, he said.

“If we can create a system in our country where children go to good schools, you will see fewer and fewer teachers leaving the profession because they will enjoy what they do. If we create a system that is flourishing, where teachers feel happy because they are in a good environment, then fewer teachers will leave.”

The watchdog’s annual report stated that teacher recruitment was a “very real problem” for headteachers, and it warned that the country risked becoming a “two-tier system” in terms of hiring staff.

A survey by the inspectorate found that half of headteachers in more affluent areas were struggling to fill posts but in more disadvantaged parts of the country, the poll showed that more than three-quarters of school leaders were facing difficulties.

"Challenging schools are trapped in a vicious cycle," Sir Michael said in his speech. "They cannot recruit because they are struggling, but they cannot improve because they cannot recruit. We are in danger of allowing a two-tier system to develop by default simply because we lack the strategies to prevent it. And this has to change."

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