Monday 18th of September 2017

More teachers leaving UK schools

A growing number of teachers are leaving UK state schools. New research by the National Audit Office (NAO), published on 12 September, has found that an increasing number of teachers are leaving state-funded schools in England before they retire.

In 2016, 34,910 teachers in the country left the profession for reasons other than retirement – that’s 8% of the qualified workforce, up from 6% in 2010.

The problem is acute in England’s secondary schools, which have haemorrhaged 10,800 teachers between 2010 and 2016 and where pupil numbers are expected to rise over 19% by 2025.

Many schools around the country – particularly in disadvantaged areas – are struggling to find good teachers to replace the ones who leave. Just 52% of teaching jobs in secondary schools and 46% in primary schools in 2015/2016 were filled by teachers with the required expertise and experience, according to NAO’s research.

It’s increasingly clear that the UK government can’t rely solely upon newly qualified teachers to plug the gaps in the workforce being left by teachers with years of experience under their belt, nor can policy makers currently look to the relatively small numbers of teachers who return to the profession after leaving.

Instead, the government needs to find ways to hold on to good teachers. At the moment, however, the Department for Education can’t demonstrate that it’s having any impact on teacher retention, deployment and quality, the NAO has concluded.

Schools also remain largely unclear about how the authorities expect them to retain and develop teachers while cutting spending at the same time. There are also wider questions over funding levels, with current government spending on teacher retention and development just a fraction of what is being spent elsewhere on education – £91,000 out of £35.7 million in 2016-17.

The NAO has urged the government to set out a clear plan to address the teacher retention. To be successful, such a strategy must examine the major issues thought to be driving teachers out, chief among them chronic overwork and a lack of opportunities to develop.

Policy makers might also consider initiatives to bolster the modest social status of teachers in the UK. Research by The Varkey Foundation has found that teachers enjoy only moderate levels of respect in the country relative to other professions and the rest of the world.

New research planned by the foundation will consider how teacher status is changing, as well as its associated impact on key areas in education – among them teacher retention. 

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