This post is written for March #blogsync. March has come around pretty quickly and I can barely believe we’re on our 3rd #blogsync. I have thoroughly enjoyed this initiative from Chris Waugh @edutronic_net and I’m honoured to be included in such a prestige gathering of bloggers.
So here we go. Just why do so many teachers leave the profession?
According to BBC news, official figures suggest the number of teachers who left their jobs in English state schools rose by almost a fifth in a year. Approximately 47,700 teachers left their post in 2010-11 according to David Laws, Schools Minister.
Teaching unions cite low morale as the main cause for the exodus. The NASUWT said that 84% of teachers reported feeling demoralised and de-professionalised. The NUT reported similar findings. The NUT also cited pension cuts, workload, Ofsted and Government criticism.
The official reasons seem many and varied. I contest a different theory based on my work with Trainee teachers and NQTs and also my own experience. i will explain more fully by detailing my own career path.
I have been a teacher for 12 years. Six of those years have been as part of SLT. I began my career in education as a Teaching Assistant at the school where I have spent my career. I enjoyed every minute of my time as a TA. It taught me to have compassion for poorly children who struggle on a daily basis with life limiting diseases. These children are so brave and I began to wonder if I could offer them more by teaching them. Right on cue along came the GRTP. I was sponsored and funded to do this by my incredibly supportive Head Teacher. A third of my PGCE year was spent in the school where I had been a TA and 2/3 was spent in tough mainstream schools to give me much needed experience of the mainstream sector. I remained firmly in the SEN camp and longed to return.
My mentor for the year was the Deputy Head. I cannot praise her highly enough. The GRTP itself was highly structured. Everything was done at break neck speed to cram all that learning in to one year. The Deputy Head taught me everything she knew. I was observed daily by various teachers and all subject leaders. I was allowed to observe as many teachers as I wished to further my own learning. My planning was scrutinised weekly and I became a subject leader before I qualified. I was encouraged to suggest any CPD I felt would further my learning. I was given peer mentoring and was coached before coaching became trendy. To put it simply I was supported. Incredibly so. The whole experience shaped me in to the teacher I have now become. On the final week of my training year Ofsted came. They visited me 19 times in the 4 day inspection and even apologised for the number of times I was observed. Trainee teachers weren’t meant to be observed I was told. I was totally unfazed by their presence as I was completely accustomed to being observed. I even had the temerity to ask the inspector to roll his sleeves up and work with a group. He dutifully obliged. I’m not sure I would be so confident now.
My HT believes that new teachers should be supported for 5 years including NQT year. Support would be less formal than in the NQT year, fewer observations and planning scrutiny but much peer mentoring and support. He maintains that it takes 7 years to develop a good teacher and teach them how to progress in their own career and be the best teacher they can be. His support for me has been outstanding. He went on to sponsor and fund my MA for which I’ll always be grateful.
The point I am making is that I believe many teachers leave the profession due to lack of support. Once the NQT year is over teachers are often left to cope on their own. Their support network disappears and teaching can suddenly become lonely and overwhelming. Due to the support I was given I became ITT NQT Trainer/Mentor. I wanted to be sure that any trainee teacher who crossed my path received the best support i could give them. i also became CPD leader due to the extensive CPD I have received. This is the level of support that I had and it made me stronger and more confident to cope with the lows when they came.
I agree that workload, Ofsted, Government criticism and pay freezes all have a part to play. These things lead to stress and overwork. I also think that as teachers we all need to stick together and support each other. Together we are stronger. That said, I’m preaching to the converted. If you’re reading this there is a high chance that you’re on twitter and are part of my incredibly supportive time line! :))