Why do so many teachers leave teaching?

 

Apparently 50% of  teachers leave the profession within their first 5 years.

I’ve heard this statistic bandied about for quite a while, and while you can argue the exact figure back and forth a bit (some estimates put the figure at 40%) either way it’s a bloody big number.

Here’s another perspective: 404,600 fully trained teachers under the age of 60 are no longer teaching, compared to around half a million still actively working in English and Welsh schools. So that’s almost half of the qualified teachers in the country not actually teaching. And it’s getting worse: some 47,700 teachers left their jobs in the year 2010-11, up from 40,070 in 2009-10. That’s a lot of teachers.

This begs two immediate questions: what are they doing? And, more importantly, why aren’t they teaching?

As to the first. I’ve no idea. Maybe all teachers leaving employment should be asked to complete an exit questionnaire stating their reasons for leaving and details of what they’re going to do instead – this, I’m sure, would make fascinating reading.

Neither am I sure why they leave. It’s something of a cliché that teaching’s a tough gig: yeah sure, it’s stressful at certain points in the year, and the workload can sometimes seem overwhelming, but is it really that bad? Of course I’ve read some of the horror stories on the TES forums, but are these really representative of most new teachers’ experiences?

Maybe they are: a recent NASUWT survey showed that 84% of teachers felt demoralised and de-professionalised and that over 50% of teachers had seriously considered leaving the profession in the previous 12 months. I’ve heard countless tales of burn out, appalling student behaviour and workplace bullying, but without hard data any solution will be based on the twin devils of hearsay and rumour.

And if these are the sorts of reasons teachers are abandoning ship in droves, this is surely a savage indictment of the profession, and something of which we should be collectively ashamed. This kind of attrition can be ill afforded – training and recruitment surely outweigh the costs of retention? It’s all very well Michael Gove wringing his hands, but if we’re forcing decent teachers out, this is something which needs to be urgently addressed. Gove does at least help himself to a large potion of blame saying, “The Government must take responsibility for driving so many experienced professionals out of the classroom by tying their hands in red tape and watering down their powers to keep order.” Quite so, except that this was an attack on Labour back in 2010!

It seems that the pressure on new teachers to be ‘outstanding’ immediately is enormous and that those who struggle in the early years are all too often chewed up and spat out rather than nurtured and supported. Speaking for myself, I was an atrocious teacher in my first few years; I can’t look back on the bewildering array of all the things I had no idea about without wincing. These days I consider myself to be an at least halfway decent teacher but it took me at least 5 years to get to that point. I had a pretty rubbish experience as a trainee and NQT and put a fair amount of effort into leaving teaching. I spent a year as a supply teacher before landing a job in a school which promptly went into Special Measures. Thankfully, causation is not the same as correlation, and this was the first time in my career that I really felt that anyone was investing anything in my development as a teacher. It was a slow process, but this was the start of my journey towards being good at what I do.

But maybe teachers’ reasons for leaving have nothing to do with dissatisfaction. Maybe they leave because they see teaching as a stepping stone to something better? This certainly seems to be the philosophy behind Teach First, who look to “provide participants with a development programme that will be respected and valued by employers should they decide to move on to work in another area or profession.” In other words, participants can keep their options open. Of course they don’t all go on to bigger and better things after their two-year tour of duty, but how many do?

Are there teachers who leave the profession only to return a few years later? Certainly a lot of women must do this, but does anyone keep any data on teachers returning (or not) from maternity leave?

Possibly many of the teachers deserting the classroom are a bit rubbish, and maybe we’re better off that they’re doing something else? It’s a bit of a long shot but perhaps this level of wastage is a good sign?

I’m afraid I don’t really have any answers and am unable to provide any kind of solution, but whatever the reasons, I’m concerned. It strikes me that if we agree that teacher quality is the most important factor in school improvement and student achievement then it behooves us to do something about it. Maybe the first 5 years of teaching need to have a much more structured approach to professional development with teachers expected to take part in continuous critical reflection of their practice? What if teachers were given opportunities to work in a variety of settings in order to gauge what suited them and where they would be best placed? This is all taken for granted during a PGCE course, but the moment you’re branded a Qualified Teacher, you’re left pretty much to the mercy of school you work in as an NQT. You might be lucky, but then again, you might not. Leaving teachers’ careers to chance in this way can’t be good.

Anyway, I’d be very interested to hear the story of your first 5 years, as well as any suggestions you might have for reducing the turnover of new teachers.

UPDATE 20th Oct 2013 : this has become my most viewed post by far (about 20,000 hits and counting!) so it’s very clearly touched a chord that resonates with many teachers feeling under the cosh. I wrote a follow up a few months later which might also be worth your time: How can we retain the best teachers?

Related posts

Stress: how much is too much?
Why aren’t we supposed to teach anymore?
When independent learning meets high stakes success

184 Responses to Why do so many teachers leave teaching?

    • TA says:

      Secondary Science. I am a good teacher. Just been graded “inadequate” after a 20 minute observation of a 1 hour lesson. Failed to show adequate progress quickly enough. Am I a teacher or a snake-oil merchant. Progress so rapidly demonstrated is superficial and rapidly annulled. I’m in this for progress over 5 years, not 290 minutes. Thus, after 13 years in teaching (following 7 as a teaching assistant) I just think this is effing stupid. I want to do anything else.

      • David Didau says:

        This typifies everything that’s wrong about education. I’m so sorry. Read today’s blog post: http://www.learningspy.co.uk/blogging/judgemental-lesson-observations-end-nigh/

      • Jonathon says:

        Hi – am in the same boat. 12 years science and psychology, bit of maths all over the country, just graded “needs improvement” (bilious OFSTED Orwellian tripe) by HOD after a 50 minute ob of a 2 hr lesson. They said the lesson was “task” driven not “learning” driven, even though the task was directly linked to the learning in question and the students not only produced a great revision resource and presentation at the end of the lesson but demonstrated learning by answering a quiz at the end (all unseen by observer). I want to quit this job – after 9 good years (mostly) I see whats coming – performance related pay means heads can pick favourites at everyone elses expense and will effectively kill off the last elements of cooperation between teachers which is one of the main things driving standards upwards within many departments. The government will use the subsequent fall in standards as a platform to finish off what they started with academy schools, and privatise the education system to “improve” it. Out now – Australia beckons.

        • mark says:

          Don’t come to Aus looking for teaching jobs. We have the same situation here. I’m a teacher with 17 experience behind me. I’m making 2014 my last year. I’m tired of coming home feeling under appreciated, depressed, that no matter what you do, it’s not good enough. Well, I’m over it. If I stick this year out, then I’m debt free, I’ll have a psych degree behind me, and I’m OUT. I’ve seen a lot of others stressed to the max because teaching is all they’ve ever done and they’re locked in. At least I have lab and research experience and now psych behind me, so I can change. Look, I loved teaching the kids, but the admin bullshite, work place bullying, social isolation and cliques, not to mention being expected to work a >76 hour week, but paid for 38 hours. Enough is enough. Teaching here, is the only place where physical and emotional abuse is something you just have to suck up. Well, I’m another casualty of the teaching profession.

          • Phillip says:

            Hi Mark

            I gained Permanent Residency to Australia and have come over here as a teacher from the UK but am simply unable to find work. Despite being BSc, PGCE and MSc qualified with 6 years experience as an ‘outstanding’ teacher I cannot even get an interview here for anything other than casual teaching. Australia just do not seem to offer permanent contracts. The instability of not knowing where the next pay cheque is coming from has already made me make the decision to return to the UK.

          • Judie says:

            hi Im the same with everything you said above. Ive been teaching for 9 years and its my second career so I know its not just that Im a new overwhelmed teacher. I have seen insidious changes creeping in over the last three years and more to come from the training we had last week in the evening about social services and no more statements for some kids, it has to be done in the school now -v alarming. Also Saturday and evening revision are becoming ‘expected’ and most weekends are marking or paperwork anyway. Every day another thing Ps me off and I arrive home exhausted annoyed fed up and stressed! I just cant separate myself from work. Recently i was off work ill for two days and got phonecalls and emails about work while I was actually ill. I also worked in industry as a psych (org change and dev) I would be v interested to hear if you have left where you are now and how you made the transition! thanks JG

          • Tom Staszewski says:

            As we approach American Education Week, let’s celebrate and recoginze our
            wonderful classroom teachers: This is a PRO teacher advocacy support of public school teachers:

            Tom Staszewski | author of Total Teaching…Your Passion Makes it Happen,
            published by Rowman & Littlefield.

            “Subject: teacher advocate defends today’s school teachers Teacher Advocate
            Defends School Teachers and offers tips to inspire today’s teachers! Handbook
            dedicated to helping teachers succeed and stick with it throughout the entire
            school year! Tom Staszewski tomstasz@neo.rr.com 814-452-0020 In this era of
            policy change and educational reform at the K-12 level, suddenly “everybody” has
            become an expert on our school systems. In my opinion, there is a great amount
            of unjustified criticism that is unfairly being leveled against our schools and
            our teachers. Most of the criticism is unfounded, baseless, undeserved and
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            to see what’s going on –other than their own experience as a former
            student–and their criticism is erroneous and counterproductive. If they
            (critics) would take the time to better understand just how hard the teaching
            profession really is, they would change their criticism to face the reality of
            today’s schools and society at large. I believe that most critics would find it
            difficult to even make it through even one day in the life of a typical teacher.
            The essence behind the book is that today’s teachers are under a lot of pressure
            and scrutiny and there is a need for more support, recognition and appreciation
            for the good that they are providing for society. So the point of my book is to
            inform the uninformed about how difficult it is to teach in many of today’s
            schools. And to provide recognition to educators and to thank teachers for the
            positive difference they are making in society. I’ve always said that our
            schools are a reflection of society and society at large has changed and
            undergone a dramatic shift from previous generations. The book also focuses on
            the success stories and “what’s right” with our schools rather than “what’s
            wrong” with our schools. Unlike previous generations…in many homes today,
            whether it be a single parent household or with both parents home…many parents
            send their kids to school unfed, unprepared and with little or no basic skills
            and often with no social skills, etc. In my previous work as a motivational
            speaker and professional development trainer, I have personally worked with
            thousands and thousands of teachers statewide and nationwide and I have found
            them to be hard-working, dedicated, industrious and committed to the success of
            their students. It’s about time that someone has taken a stand to recognize and
            acknowledge the value to society that teachers are providing and to thank them
            for their dedication. What is the theme of the book? In addition to thanking and
            recognizing the good that teachers provide to society, the book is also a
            handbook that can be used by the teacher as a means of providing coping skills
            and methods to succeed in the classroom with the trials and tribulations of
            teaching. It provides a means of offering tips, strategies and techniques to
            make it through the day and to have a successful school year. In many respects
            it is a personal growth and development type handbook. From the first-year
            teacher to the most experienced veteran, this book provides an inspiring message
            that yes, indeed…teaching is the most noble profession. It serves as an
            acknowledgement of the importance of teachers and recognizes that “teaching is
            the profession that has created all other professions.” This book provides
            real-life tools, tips and strategies to have a successful school year and to
            persevere beyond all of the challenges associated with the profession. Filled
            with insightful and meaningful stories and examples, it will provide a pep talk
            to help teachers stay focused. Readers are able to maintain the passion that
            brought them into the profession and to develop a plan to be the best that they
            can be. ”

        • Phillip says:

          Hi Jonathan

          Please think very carefully before coming to Australia. Schools here are very reluctant to offer permanent contracts and with that makes you unable to get credit card, tenancy, mobile phone contracts etc etc.

          I gained Permanent Residency to Australia and have come over here as a teacher from the UK but am simply unable to find work. Despite being BSc, PGCE and MSc qualified with 6 years experience as an ‘outstanding’ teacher I cannot even get an interview here for anything other than casual teaching. Australia just do not seem to offer permanent contracts. The instability of not knowing where the next pay cheque is coming from has already made me make the decision to return to the UK.

      • ian swift says:

        oh don’t start me on that progress crap- i remember doing interviews and being told in the uk there was no progress in my lessons, this was even after i had gotten professional help in teaching and preparing the lessons from a man who trains teachers himself and is very high up in education. When I asked for feedback in the schools over the progress I was refused, the manners and ethics in these schools are an absolute disgrace and certainly does not portray the uk system nicely to people being interviewed from overseas. The same thing happened to several of my friends.

    • Nic says:

      This is an interesting post. I’m going into my 5th year of teaching this August and I’ll admit I’ve been thinking of leaving for a while. I came into teaching as an NQT in 2010 after my 4 years honour degree and loved it! I was full of enthusiasm and excitement- my very own class that I could ‘test drive’, if you like. I had so many ideas for lessons, topics and behaviour management strategies. My class were just lovely- perfect kids. The school was amazing- big, so lots of staff to go to in times of need and ask to help out with resources. Perfect. I passed all my observations with flying colours and qualified at the end of the NQT year as a fully qualified teacher- whatever that is. I work in Scotland and don’t know about the rest of the UK, but jobs are thin on the ground here. Over 200 applications for one job etc. It is so competitive. I fell to part time in the same school and everything changed. Looking back, maybe it’s because I felt undermined- as one of 4 NQTs (the only one to be kept on) I did feel a bit let down that I only got part time over people who had never worked in the school before. It was hard to keep up with the pace of the school- I wasn’t working days when important meetings were held, I ended up working in 3 different schools because I needed to pay the rent and, well, just live! I had primary 6s, primary 2s, and did McCrone cover from nursery to primary 5 in another school. Because I was spinning so many plates, quality of lessons dropped. I couldn’t keep up. I was offered more part time the following year but took nothing extra on- I was frazzled. I took the brave decision to leave the amazing school I was in to take a full time job. In Scotland, you have to have two years continuous service to be granted a permanent contract and I knew if I stuck around as part time, I’d only be offered part time permanent- I couldn’t survive on that salary. Continuous service will break if you happen to have one week off- not sick, I might add, but lets say your contract finishes in one school on a Monday and you don’t get a new teaching job until the following Tuesday with the same council but different school, it counts as a break and you go back to the beginning again, building up your two years. I’ve ended up in a school that is quite frankly in chaos. The HT changeover has been ridiculous- 5 HTs in 5 years. There’s no consistency. There has been no leadership and so the staff have become rather negative and now, with a new HT in place, quite resistant to change. The class I took on halfway through the year were…. well, made up of thugs!! Two of them had a criminal record at the tender age of 12. The school had no control. I felt supported and I knew the teachers were empathic but nothing ever seemed to be done about these 5 children who were quite frankly out of control! I have a lovely class this year, but again the attitude of these primary 7s is something else!

      I think there are a lot of reasons to leave teaching. There is an unrealistic expectation about what a teacher can do. You start off full of enthusiasm and slowly it’s sapped away. There is so much to keep on top of, the workload takes over your life and leaves you thinking ‘there must be more to life than this’. It can take about 45mins to plan one maths lesson- you have to ensure you are differentiating for all children/groups. How many different lessons do you have in one day? How many in a week? That’s a lot of prep time required. There’s a lack of money in education which means a lack of teaching resources- try doing your job without all the tools required to do it. This leads to you spending your weekends creating and making resources which sucks away at your free time. Then there’s marking, planning, evaluating and often I’m left wondering: who cares? Does the child actually read what you’ve said and take it on board? Does the HT actually read your plans and comprehend how difficult it is to deliver high quality lessons without the resources and the time to create the lesson? What exactly are the evaluations for? I know my children inside and out- I can tell you what they can and can’t do, what their strengths are and what they need to improve on. It’s all there, programmed in my head. There’s a serious lack of training. I do believe my 4 year degree could’ve been done in 2- most of my time was spent napping on half days or having glorious days off in the pub. What a joke. Nothing prepares you for being in that classroom on your own with a bunch of kids. Not any of the courses provided in your NQT year. Not any of the placements you’ve done in uni. I agree with your point about varying what an NQT does to see what they prefer. You’re just kind of thrown in at the deep end and expected to be an excellent teacher with very little input from anywhere. Due to a lack of jobs or support in getting one, you do feel like what’s the point. A 4 year degree for some crappy part time nonsense. I feel there’s a terrible attitude towards teachers in my council- your job is treated like it’s nothing. It is everything- it’s what clothes me, feeds me and keeps a roof over my head. Just because I’ve had a one week break in my contract does not mean I should no longer be entitled to a permanent contract. In what other profession would you be treated like that?! In our council, the title of Principle Teacher is going and in its place, Trainee Deputy Head- in other words, an underpaid lackey. There appears to be no hierarchy- nothing to advance your career towards and even if you are thinking of going in to management, there’s another massive workload of paperwork to wade through which of course you have plenty of time to do as a busy class teacher. In Scotland the pay scale has been frozen, so no one is gaining from an increase in salary. Older teachers are reluctant to change their ways and this negative attitude drags new teachers down. Children’s’ behaviour and attitude is another issue and depending on the area you work in, it’s not considered a major problem which can lead to teachers feeling very alone. feeling that the work they are trying to do is not worthwhile.

      Teaching is incredibly hard. It’s draining. Often it feels like there is no reward, just another pile of work to do. I can totally understand why teachers leave and I can understand why teachers who’ve been in the profession for donkeys are always complaining! Something needs to be done, but what that is, I don’t know. I can tell you this- when I speak to friends etc and I hear they are planning on going in to teaching, I tell them not to bother because all that hard work isn’t worth the effort. What a horrible way to feel about something I’ve wanted to do all my life!

      • Sam says:

        Hi Nic

        Wow. Your email really sums it all up so well and I couldn’t agree more with the points you make! Although I am not in Scotland, I work a .5 contract teaching biology. I’m 32 an been in teaching 6 years now………tomorrow I will be resigning!!!!!! It has taken such a long time to come to this decision however I cant go on like I have been with the unworkable workload marking 100 assignments every 6 weeks throughout the whole academic year as well as all the prepping, planning and making or resources, paper work to track students grades etc etc. And all this on a .5 contract!!! When you work it all out with the hours you spend on it all your hourly wage rate is less than the minimum wage…all that after years of training! Well after much deliberation and very hard decision making I have had to make the sad decision to leave the profession. Life is too short and there definitely has to be ‘more to life than this’.

        I really hope your situation gets better but if not, you are still young there are many other avenues you could explore that would utilise your skills well. I for one do not want to continue leading a life with no social life or free time because that is no life at all!! Good luck!

        • Judie says:

          Sam good on you!!! it is great to come on here and read your comment. I left a comment above but then realised it was to teachers in Australia I think. Im v interested in if you left -how you are doing now and what the experience of moving (back) to industry was like?! I am at the point of leaving after 9 years. My friend says stick it out til May for the paid summer hols but Im not even sure I can continue that long

    • I am a Mum who trained as a primary teacher in the 80s. I left the profession after three years to work in Marketing and PR and returned 14 years’ later, in 2005, so that I could have a job that was compatible with my kids’ school holidays. I am now planning an escape route again. I love working with children. This aspect of teaching is incredibly rewarding. But I loathe the crap that goes with it, the hours of planning, preparing and marking in the evening and weekends, the general negativity of my teaching colleagues, the bullying managers, the incessant paperwork. We are constantly being told by Gove and the media that we are rubbish (imagine treating doctors or nurses in the same way?). Non-teaching friends show no understanding of how overwhelmingly exhausted teachers feel at the end of term. I NEVER felt this tired in all my years as a marketing exec. I am tired of all the lost hours with my OWN children that I have sacrificed because I’m too busy preparing lessons for other people’s kids. So, I am working on various exit strategies, some of which involve a more peripheral teaching role, perhaps tutoring and writing. I know that I am not alone. I know also that I am a good teacher. My pupils tell me this all the time. But I cannot see myself working in this role until I’m 50, never mind 68, which is the new retirement age. Does this answer your question?

    • Kirsty says:

      I looked up articles like this a I am really shocked how many of my amazing teacher friends (primary) have dropped out of teaching-especially when they had never planned to leave. Two friends who have both had outstanding observations from OFStED, have suffered from stress and despite being very strong minded people, had to leave for their health and happiness. Similarly, others just have had enough with mountains of paper work and VERY long hours.

      I too am a teacher and decided to move abroad to teach full time again after having my child (I have taught abroad before, 7 years ago and loved it). The prospect of working full time in the UK, in my school with a bullying head teacher, was too much! If I moved school I would have had to take on more responsibility because I am now an ‘expensive’ teacher. It was the best move ever! My enthusiasm for teaching had been fully restored! The kids are great, FAR less paper work, far more autonomy, no observations unless you want one, MUCH better pay and amazing staff and kids to work with. Plus the fact we have one lesson off a day which is taught by a specialist language teacher and I day off every 2 weeks which is for ourselves, means that nearly all our meetings are done during school time and I don’t usually have to bring work home! Plus I leave by 4:30 at the latest! Report writing is still a busy time of the year, but still more manageable. As a mum, we can also afford a nanny, so no stress every morning trying to get my son to nursery- she lives with us and takes him where he needs to go! I Love it and can leave school at 3pm if I want to take him on a play date. A great work/ home life balance. I would of course love to be a stay at home mum, but as we can’t afford that, I don’t feel stressed working full time and still spend time with my son after work. In addition, the teachers I work with are amazing and I’ve learnt a lot about a very forward thinking curriculum and way of teaching. I love it and have encouraged several friends to apply! ( two have done just that this year!)

      • Charlotte says:

        Sounds amazing! Where abouts are you teaching? Is this a private school?

      • Phillip says:

        Hi Kirtsy

        Where are you teaching? I have moved to Australia but am finding it much the same as the UK.

        Thanks

        • David Graham says:

          Australia like the UK? Excuse me? Chalk and cheese! I have been given a permanent contract and although up to my eyeballs in study – doing M.Ed Leadership – going well. Where are all of these paranoid Heads going into classrooms and performance managing teachers out of their. Enlighten me.

    • Anonymous says:

      Primary teacher on maternity leave. In my 6th year of teaching. Completed Early Years PGCE. It took me 5 years to really feel like I was having an impact and I feel I made the most progress when I was nurtured by a couple of very experienced teachers who took me under their wing. I’ve been graded consistently good or outstanding for the last 3 years but almost left the profession after my NQT year because I found myself in a school with very challenging behaviour, was ignored when I asked for help and made to feel that I was incompetent. I resigned and later retracted my resignation after the head of early years took me under her wing, told me I had great potential and that I should stay. I knew, as I think she did, if I left then that my confidence was completely shattered and I’d never return to teaching so I stayed and left the following year on a high with the head asking me to stay (the previous year he had not bothered to acknowleged my resignation). I then ended up in a school, which was far more suited to my teaching style and I have thrived. However, I am deeply concerned about my future in the profession when I see how older, more experienced teachers are being treated. We now have a new head who is systematically pushing out these teachers by aggressive performance management procedures, looking not at their results (which are good btw!) but by failing them in lesson observations and being down right nasty and dismissive the rest of the time. The result? They leave, not because they chose to but because they feel they aren’t wanted. (They are only in their early 50s) This depresses me because it is precisely these teachers who have actually taught me how to teach (not just jump through the hoops for a lesson observation). They are also crucial to keeping new teachers in the profession by providing invaluable insight into how to work effectively with parents and manage behaviour. Note that the former is rarely touched upon in any teacher training scheme, yet is essential for any teacher to survive! I wonder if some of this is down to money, or some (please note I don’t refer to all!) heads dislike for a healthy level of debate over new policies and teaching programmes, which often comes with experience because out of 10 teachers who left our school last year, 8 NQTs were hired to replace them. You ask in your post if good teachers are leaving. I am certainly wondering how best to plan my exit in the next 20 years (I am 33) as I fear that though branded as ‘outstanding’ now I may too fall victim to this business of being pushed out as times change and I either get too expensive or my ‘style’ and knowledge of ‘what works’ falls out of favour with the latest new trends.

      • Andrew says:

        This happned all the time at the academy where i used to teach in Clacton-on-Sea. Many hard-working exerienced teachers were forced out and replaced by younger NQTs who basically stepped all over teachers and became heads and senior staff after just one year.

        • ian swift says:

          what hAPpens to the old teachers that are pushed out? Do they get the pension or what? How do they live if they being pushed out in their early 50s? I’m 28 and i’m working with a lady in her 60s who urges me everyday to get out when i still can.

          • Andrew says:

            Some are pensioned off, many others just find work elsewhere in a different field. I left (I’m 36) to begin my MA and PhD and do supply. My line manager was given early retirement as a way to get him out of the way. A younger and very inefficient member of staff from the PE department wanted his job as Head of Sixth Form.

    • Rebecca says:

      I work in ‘Leafy Lane’ and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. A parent was aggressive towards me today because her little princess had to stay in at break. I stood my ground and didn’t take her rubbish but went home very upset. (Bottom line: If Princess did as she was bloody well told, we wouldn’t have a problem!) This happens every week.

      The school I work in is lovely. The management are very supportive, the children are generally well behaved and the support staff go above and beyond. I’ve been graded as Outstanding/Good with elements of Outstanding on my last 3 observations… and yet I still consider leaving the profession daily. It’s mainly because of the way parents speak to me. Something has changed in the last ten years or so. I’m 25 and I know that if I’d told my parents I’d been in trouble at school, I’d have been in more at home! In my experience, (many, not all) parents take the word of an eight year old over that of a professional adult. Plus, a lot of them think they can speak to you like you’re something on their shoe, yet we have to remain professional at all times.

      I find myself wondering why I stay up working until 8:30/9pm on a night when my friends are at the pub/cinema/out for meals, just to go in on Monday to a torrent of abuse. I don’t want “thanks”, just to be backed up.

      ps. Does anyone know what other jobs can you do with a teaching degree? As we all know, there are a lot of transferable skills but in what other areas are they actually recognised? Thanks.

      • ian swift says:

        wow I had the exact same problem, I detained a very troublesome kid and his mum too rang me up challenging me saying he said ”he did nothing”-like why would I lie?? Wasn’t she ever 12 herself-kids lie to their parents you silly woman! Though in fairness the other parents I ever rang were very supportive. And i’m the same as you-im 28 but had I got in trouble at school and came home and said it i’d have got in more trouble. I for one pretty much hate teaching now and the big problem is the discipline and bad management. If I go to my ‘support’ over behaviour her ‘solution’ is to blame me for it…

      • Really sorry to hear this, my daughter is in reception and I have a massive admiration for all teachers, you do so much and has a parent I really appreciate all thet you do.
        If my daghters teachers has said shes been bad I back yhe teacher up and have words with my daughter.

    • I’m an Australian teacher, I graduated with ‘High Distinction’ and in my fourth year won a ‘World Teacher’ Award. I was continually sent to schools with violence issues and got assaulted not once, but twice – not my fault! I was asked by the Principals not to press charges, so I didn’t. The kids who attacked me got massive support but not me, I had to take time off with ‘Workcover’ ( equivalent to three months pay). I was then told that I wasn’t allowed teach anymore as they had a ‘duty of care’ to make sure I wasn’t attacked again – so what was I supposed to live on? I actually had started another teaching job and they pulled me out of the classroom like I was some sort of criminal. I was a brilliant, enthusiastic teacher, and I went beyond the call for my students and school, I put in so many extra hours, time, resources…I still have kids ‘Face-booking’ me ‘thanks’ – what did I get from the Education Department? NADA, they made me feel sub-human, inadequate, unsupported, anxious, stressed and totally without value. I am sick to death of ‘the system’ picking on teachers and making us the ‘whipping boy’ for all the ills in education. Stats show that teachers need support, not criticism – the majority of teachers I know are stressed, unappreciated and bullied by their administrations. You ask why do teachers leave!

    • I’m going to quit teaching this year. I was marked outstanding on every observation by an administrator. Almost all my students that I’ve been with for two years would score gifted on a maths and English test. My lowest students now score markedly above average on all exams. However, that wasn’t enough for my international school. They decided to increase my workload 33.3% this year by making me responsible for both Grade 1 and Grade 2 English and Maths and additionally, took away two preps a week so I could “tutor” the new low students they accepted who failed the entrance exam and are failing my classes. The school has also done nothing about a set of parents that is consistently bullying me and my coteacher… for the last two years. I’m tired of being thrown under the table, being unsupported, receiving no professional development, and making less than I would if I worked at McDonald’s. I NEVER finish my day at 3:30 and usually weekends are full of marking, making required detailed lesson plans and tracking students, and creating units. Personally, I don’t even believe children in young primary grades should be marked for most assignments, but I do it because it is required. I love kids. I actually love teaching. I HATE being a teacher. What will I be? A nanny. I used to nanny while at uni. I will make more money and have a better quality of life (ie at least when the clock hits 6, I can go catch up with friends or go to the gym) and I’ll have only one set of parents to please and if I can hit six years full-time nannying, I’ll be able to call my own shots on my contract.

    • T101 says:

      I have been teaching for two years, and have never been graded anything under good. Following a recent Ofsted inspection (during which I was graded good, despite the poor outcome of the institution) the senior management team have decided to observe everyone in an attempt to justify the institution’s poor rating. Subsequently I have been told I ‘require improvement’. It is hard enough offering yourself up to students to be emotionally mauled on a daily basis, never mind management and peers. I feel that living up to outstanding expectations whilst trying to have a life is impossible, and this is why I am seriously looking for doing anything other than teaching. It is the most exhausting and soul destroying job I have ever worked in (and I’ve worked in some awful places). This mixed with the, often, overwhelming workload does not make for a very happy or balanced lifestyle.

    • Secret Trainee says:

      http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/mar/15/working-hours-teaching-profession-secret-teacher

      http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/14/teachers-life-inside-the-exam-factory

      I’m a trainee who worked as a Cover Supervisor/unqualified teacher before embarking on ITT this academic year. These two articles, not to mention the crippling lack of support I’ve received from my base school, effectively summarise the reasons for why I’ll not be returning to teaching at the end of my SCITT course.

      Sad, but true.

    • Disillusioned after 17 years says:

      I’ve been teaching for 17 years and have previously been graded “excellent” three times under the old Ofsted system. I have always enjoyed successful and happy lessons and relationships in my class and am considered conscientious and hard-working by my peers and line-managers. In October Simon Rowe and his Ofsted team put our school into Special Measures. I have found another job (for less money and significantly less holidays, pension etc.) but will be taking it no matter. The job just isn’t sustainable any more. At forty years old I am going to leave before it’s too late to retrain.

      • Andrew says:

        I’m sorry to hear this. Considering that Ofsted is nothing more than failed teachers themselves, do you think maybe they are trying to damn the outstanding schools? So many outstanding schools have been rated unsatisfactory over the last five years. However, ones that are poor are SUPRISE…. been given good ratings. Also, the school where I used to work at in Clacton-on-Sea got a poor rating but appealed and it was changed apparently. That isn’t right.

        There is a move to weed out older teachers and replace them with young eager beavers. I only teach two days a week and attend university the rest but one way they get more experienced teachers out of the school is by hounding them. They are given warnings about certain things, such as being disrespectful to other members of staff but aren’t given the specifics about what you supposedly did.

    • Sarah Gates says:

      Some of you people on here have done amazingly well to get through 5, 10 or even 35 years of teaching. I couldn’t even make it through 2 terms in a secondary school despite having successfully taught in a Sixth form College beforehand. It’s ridiculous, as far as development went I was progressing exactly how I should have been if the bar hadn’t been raised, but now it has, I can’t even get to be good enough to meet the teacher’s standards. As my line manager said to me (before I handed my notice in) “We only take Outstanding teachers here.” Well If I was so crap, why did you hire me in the first place? Looking for another achievement to put under your belt? Another NQT you managed to make outstanding in only 2 terms? Not going to happen. I swear some of us need more than a year to get through our induction, but instead I am quitting. I just need something else to do instead, but I’m not qualified for anything else…

    • Keith Gandor says:

      I left teaching two years ago and I’ve never looked back. Despite always making more progress than the national average it was never enough. Praise for working to near exhaustion every year was very very rare. To read my full story visit my blog: http://howtoleaveteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/introduction.html

  1. […] Week 6 Reflection: The Learning Spy Why Do So Many Teachers Leave Teaching? […]

  2. willgourley says:

    Thank you for taking the time to craft this post David. It seems like yesterday when I stepped into the classroom for the first time in 2009. As a man old enough to be the parent of most of my colleagues, It is interesting to observe prevailing anxieties that get shared among vocational peers.

    Here in Ontario, there has been a glut of teacher candidates. It seems like the government granted licenses to so many universities in order to flood the labour pool. The result here has begat rancorous discord,anti-union legislation, imposed contracts and ultimately a widening sense of distrust aimed at the current provincial government. Talk about distraction, disdain and discouragement for a profession that has to bend to the whims of all day kindergarten and standardized testing.

    Factor into the job, an integration of more students with special needs into the everyday class, helicopter parents, under-funding (no text books, no options for tech replacements either), and a generation of anxious learners who want to know how their learning is relevant to their future.
    Thankfully, I love this job. Talk about laying out a challenge for the mind, a battle to be my best and the opportunity to do it all over again the next day.

    True, newer colleagues tread on pins and needles their first years. There are 2 assessments by admin. and most days you leave so exhausted that you’re falling asleep on the way home.
    Coupled with meetings, ongoing training, assessment, reporting and clubs, it is no wonder teaching in the first 5 years is more like a war of attrition than an exciting step into the best job on the planet.

    I think that the more we edify each other when times get tough, the easier it becomes to face tough(er) times when they happen.

    I look forward to reading more here and via Twitter. Thank you for your encouragement and wisdom from across the pond.

  3. Paul M says:

    Thanks for this blog post, it’s a really important topic and I pretty much agree with what you have said. However, stats are deceptive they lack the human factor.

    Some PGCE students are just doing it and “banking” the certificate. It is, after all, a good back up. Some do it to teach overseas because they want to travel and having the proper PGCE adds to the salary they can command. Some just drift into it and find out they are not cut out for it when it gets hard. Some really want to teach and just find they can’t do it. Every one of these examples I draw from real experience.

    That said, even removing those people from the stats you are left with the same problem: lots of people leave. It’s not only an easy job but more importantly it’s a job that does not get the respect it deserves. If you look at the big international surveys you see that the countries which do best are the countries where teaching is regarded as a high value profession socially.

    I don’t think it is the NQT year that is hard, it’s the year after when all the support drops and that’s it, you are left on your own. The prospect of that stretching out before you for the rest of your life is so intimidating that many just quit a few years in. We need to work on a supportive school community to keep people in the profession. Sadly, the pressure of performance does not help at all. Teachers are seen as akin to nurses rather than Doctors. We need to elevate the perception of the profession to retain the talent, to give them opportunities to develop.

    I really wish I has an answer. I thank you for provoking the debate.

    • I’m London based and I’ve just interrupted my secondary PGCE due to a very stressful second placement were I was bullied and received no support from my university . NO one goes on the PGCE to ‘bank’ the certificate. it’s a very demanding course

  4. learningspy says:

    Will- I understand the drop out rates are similar in the US so clearly it would make sense to look for common causes.

    Paul – I’d agree that people leave for all sorts of reasons but I feel a bit stumped at the thought that trainees go through PGCE just to bank a qualification – it’s not like many post grad courses in that it’s so demanding in terms of time! I’m amazed that they can be bothered.

    As the NQT+1 being the crunch year, I completely agree. Hence my suggestion that we extend the NQT period over these first 5 years.

    The problem with elevating the profession’s status is often to do with how teachers see themselves. All too often there is a lack of responsibility for our own professional development – teachers need to raise their game and be supported in this endeavour. Maybe it should be expected that teachers take part in research and further professional qualifications?

  5. Ben King says:

    Could it be that some teachers will LEAVE teaching because they LOVE teaching; as the reason why I am in the job, it is the non-teaching aspects that are less interesting than the interaction during lessons (and, in my subject, on fieldwork, for example). From the outside, and from our own experience as a child at school, a teacher Teaches. The reality of the job, however, is that much of one’s time does not involve teaching. In many schools, the emphasis on classroom management, as a proportion of teacher time (and energy) in a typical lesson will lead to some teachers leaving teaching because what they actually love DOING is TEACHING. Hopefully this makes sense. Must dash – no more Teaching to do today, but still six hours of work to do, if you catch my drift.

  6. learningspy says:

    Ben – you suggest that teachers might leave teaching due to frustration with the lack actual teaching they get to do but if that’s so, what do they do instead? Do we count state school teachers who leave to work in the independent sector?

    Obviously some jobs may be comparable but for the most part leaving teaching co you love would appear to be self defeating. Or am I confused?

  7. Ben King says:

    David: My point is that what some teachers may expect from the job is not what they will actually experience. Especially if they have not experienced other jobs, simply having moved straight from school through University and teacher training, they may leave teaching believing that there is another job/career that is more ‘what it says on the tin.’ I think many may be mstaken, regretting the leap of faith.

  8. […] @LearningSpy where David Didau has a post about why so many teachers leave the profession.  So if you’re thinking about doing this, perhaps don’t read this!  Or perhaps do! learningspy.co.uk/2013/02/27/why-do-so-many-teachers-leave-teaching/#.US6B_ZIxi8A.twitter … […]

  9. Paul M says:

    I admit it’s quite strange that some people enter into it wanting to “bank” a qualification. The thinking seems to be “If I don’t like it I can always leave and if I ever need a job in the future teaching is always available to me.” Yes, sounds crazy but people do think that way. They tend to be people like Ben was talking about who come straight from Uni, frequently with no idea what they actually want to do with their lives.

    I think extending the NQT to 5 years is a bit much perhaps, 3 might be better. I would like to see teaching schools like teaching hospitals where you do the PGCE and get a feel for the day to day responsibility for classes. Not just the very contained placement experiences they get now.

    As to the profession, it’s a tough one. There would have to be a big shift as who really has time to do extra work on top of teaching? Some people manage it but it can’t be that many. I had quite high hopes when Scotland introduced Chartered Teacher status, even though it was more money and pension enhancements it was openly admitted that the uptake was very low. Probably because people didn’t feel they had the time.

  10. Uphill Struggle says:

    I think many teachers also experience problems when trying to move up the career ladder. What might have been perceived as excellent in one school may be perceived mediocre in another, depending upon the differing circumstances of the schools. Such is the subjective nature of our profession.
    Personally, I felt incredibly supported in my first 4 years of teaching, and was provided with excellent CPD opportunities. Within the supportive environment of my first school, I was well respected by colleagues, successful in the classroom and repeatedly told that I should look for a promotion. Yet when I sought that promotion – in another school – I found that the expectations of my new employer were wildly different, and ended up in a situation where I was belittled and bullied to the point of handing in my notice. Under those conditions I went from outstanding to inadequate, simply because the support structures fell away as I moved up the career ladder. Combine that with persistent poor behaviour from the students, and it’s no wonder that people leave in droves. It seems that in teaching, because each school is run independently rather than all being run as one organisation with the same levels of support, it is easy to fall foul of inconsistent professional development.

  11. Xris32 says:

    It is true: there are a few PGCE students who saw teaching as a stepping stone. A handful of people on my course had a career mapped out as a literacy advisor or in publishing resources for schools while they were studying. They saw teaching as the starting point of something else. Sadly, I don’t know whether they made it or not. Surprisingly, I didn’t keep in contact as they devalued what I was doing.

    Why are so many teachers leaving schools? Teaching can be a thankless and unending task. It is never finished, completed or resolved. You rarely step away from teaching thinking I have done my best. There is always so much more you can do. You never finish on a Friday and rush off and forget everything until 9 am on a Monday. Plus, you rarely see the benefits of your hard work immediately. Think of the praise we give in lessons. Do we see that praise reciprocated? At times, teaching can seem like a lighthouse – you stand alone against a dangerous storm. It has rewards. It is a selfless task, but every now and again you need a positive comment. The media attacks. The politicians attacks. Where are the people praising teachers for what they do? Don’t get me wrong – we do have supporters but they are not as loud as those who think they know better. We need reassurance in some form. If you haven’t got a supportive environment, then you are more likely to move.

    The rate of change. Most businesses do not make major structural changes on a weekly or daily basis. In teaching, each week focuses on something new. As a teacher, that is soul destroying. As soon as you get used to one thing, something new appears and you have to change all your planning, teaching and resources. If you like routine, order and structure, then avoid teaching. It is like water. It doesn’t sit still.

    Before teaching I sold bricks, now I teach and I’ll never go back, because I was bored. I have never been bored in teaching, but as soon as it gets boring I’ll consider changing career.

    Loved the blog, David. Lots of food for thought. There is a real problem here, I think.

    Chris

  12. […] view on the teaching profession : February 28, 2013 This post was sent to me in response to yesterday’s post by an NQT considering leaving teaching and wishing to remain […]

  13. cherrulkd says:

    Hi David,
    I’ve been a teacher for 12 years now. 6 of those years have been as part of SLT. I completed my PGCE year in the school where I have spent my career. The deputy was my mentor. My PGCE (GRTP) year was immensely structured. I was observed daily by various teachers and allowed to observe as many teachers as I wished. I was encouraged to suggest any CPD I felt would further my career. I was given peer mentoring and the whole experience shaped me in to the teacher I have now become. On the final week of the year Ofsted came. They visited me 19 times in the 4 days and actually apologised for the number of times I was observed. I was unphased by their presence as I was used to be being observed.

    My HT has since told me that he believes that new teachers should be supported for 5 years including NQT year. He argues that it takes 7 years to train a good teacher and teach them how to progress in their own career and be the best teacher they can be. I had this level of support and it did me no harm. It made me stronger and more confident to cope with the lows when they arrive.

    (This would have made an excellent #blogsync).
    I should also blog my own career path :-))

    • Lee Arden says:

      Where on earth did you get all that support you lucky person. I have been trying to get my first NQT year in a primary school. Its nearly 2 years since I qualified for my PGCE at Carlisle University and I am finding teaching is well oversubscribed and may have to give it up before get started due to lack of money. So far I only get relief work through agencies and this is not going towards that all important first year. If ou have any words of advise I would be most grateful.

      • same for me, i would like a teaching job to be able to judge if i want to leave. I am nearly 48 qualified in 2011 with a Primary Ed degree. Where i live in uk there are not many jobs of any kind, teaching being no exception. I was graded good to outstanding on all my placements, and enjoyed all of the job even the paper-work, but i just fed up with apply for jobs with not even a response in most cases. I am looking for admin work now, as I am fed up with being UE and blamed for britains big deficit however thats another story .

  14. Dave Stacey says:

    Great post, and a fascinating discussion.

    Speaking from personal experience, I was very lucky in that the school I ended up in was very supportive, although looking back now I too wince at some of the mistakes I made along the way.

    Another aspect of the five year point is that for many that is the point at which they get their heads around teaching and look to the future. But for many the pay scale means that they’ll struggle to get teaching jobs in other schools. So it’s management, or you’re stuck. And while management may suit some, for others it’s the thing that takes them away from the classroom which is the bit of the job they most enjoy.

    I love the idea of some kind of five year development programme. I’d also love to see a system which allowed teachers to do exchanges between schools, and even between sectors – for me if was the afternoons I spent volunteering in a local primary that reignited my love of teaching and kept me in the job. I wonder what’s worse – the good teachers who leave, or the ‘stuck’ teachers who stay without a love of the job?

  15. Catriona Stewart says:

    It’s no good Mr Gove wringing his hands; I love teaching having gone into it at 30 and until his new circa 1950 primary curriculum, have never wanted to leave the profession. It is hard to do a good job teaching without putting in ridiculous hours term time. Expectations from society to solve all its ills can be frustrating and irritating. However it is the rhetoric and misuse of data (eg. international tests) by Mssrs Gove and Wilshaw that really make me want to throw in the towel. Comparing us to Finland when Finns enjoy cross party agreement to keep education out of politics, a 50% tax rate to fund their world class education and a society who values and supports learning is an insult to our intelligence.
    I am a head now and we have a highly motivated, dedicated team of teachers and support staff. It is the lack of respect for our professionalism that gets our goat: 9 years developing a curriculum for our children in the locality repeatedly described as excellent by Osfted and the new government curriculum drives a plough through all our work. Each new government rips up what went before and talks it down in order to let their own ideologies which drive policy look good (evolution of humour: ridicule makes you look good without doing much at all). We have a team of newly qualified and highly experienced staff. Constant reinvention of what’s good means we constantly work in a climate where we feel lacking in experience, however many years we have under our belts. Yes the first few years are really tough and experienced colleagues have a duty to nurture new staff. They don’t get the best climate to undertake this role while we are constantly novices due to inspection frameworks that don’t last a year and curricula that seem to be dreamed up by the Secretary of State one day and changes are announced before the consultation is even over (since publication of DRAFT National curriculum there have been yet more pronouncements on teaching cookery). Children are fat, get the teachers to sort it out.
    I love going to work. I love teaching. I work in a dedicated team. Yet I’m currently surprised it’s only 50% of teachers who do one within the first 5 years.

    • sixfoot2 says:

      “Constant reinvention of what’s good means we constantly work in a climate where we feel lacking in experience, however many years we have under our belts.”

      Absolutely. As an experienced teacher, I am often made to feel inadequate as OFSTED and politics drive what is seen to be ‘outstanding’, and the preferred pedagogies change from year to year. To work with difficult classes for a year – to build up a good relationship with some disaaffected children, win trust, keep them focused, encourage and nurture their confidence – and then to have that rubbished because you haven’t ‘demostrated progress’ in a 30 minute observation… Of course, that is demoralising.

      I say this as someone who does try to keep up with research, reads Hattie, Williams etc. in my spare time, often reflects on my own practice, and is not averse to change. However, there comes a point where you realise that no-one (other than bloggers!) will point out that the Emperor is stark —— naked, as it would be detrimental to their own careers. It takes a lot of soul searching and confidence to believe in yourself as a teacher these days.

      Throw in the daily challenge for many of managing classroom behaviour, the long hours in term time, and add to that the changes to pay and working conditions that are currently being rolled through schools in England… Suddenly, it is not surprising that many teachers change their careers.

      However, blogs such as Learning Spy (which articulate some of my feelings far more fluently than I could hope to do) go some way to convincing me that I am not alone in the world. And as a working parent, having SMT who have been super-flexible with regard to working hours (e.g. not working afternoons in order to collect my own kids from school) has also been a key factor in my ability to keep working in a job which, despite all of the above, still gives me a lot of pleasure at times.

    • EXPERIENCED TEACHER IN ROTHERHITHE says:

      After 25 years of teaching with at least 89% to 100% of my students at both GCSE and A level meeting their targets between A* – C, every year, I am observed by a newly qualified teacher with 3 years experience and he gives me AN INADEQUATE, after 20 minutes lesson observation….Why should I stay in teaching? This is in addition to nagging Head Teachers, HODs, HOYs, parents and students who have too much power and a government that thinks we are all rubbish. I have never been so used and yet so belittled. I am just tired of the whole system

  16. Mary says:

    Interesting discussion. The irony for me is that I’ve been trying to get back into teaching (secondary English) for a while now but it appears to be practically impossible. I left full-time teaching a long time ago in order to do a MA in Literature which I did in a year whilst also teaching a 0.7 timetable. I then moved to the south west, as husband’s job had changed, and did a maternity cover. After this I did various supply/short term contracts, had two children of my own and set up my own resources website *boo hiss I know ;-)* and now find I can’t get back into teaching because the curriculum/specifications/examinations have changed so much. I’m not an NQT so wouldn’t get the support I know I need; on application forms I don’t have any relevant CPD to record; I have no recent teaching referees to use; my supermarket job (because it has fitted in around a whole host of family commitments) doesn’t look great as my current employment; I can’t find any Return to Teaching courses; MAs in Education are only suitable if you’re already teaching and can gain access to schools for the practical aspects (as I’ve learnt to my cost having signed on to one and now deferred due to not having access to any real students!). I’ve been accepted as a GCSE examiner but I think that’s the closest I’m going to come to any students’ work for the forseeable future. Depressing? Yes, absolutely.

  17. Mrs Sue says:

    I’ve been teaching for 35 years and I believe that one of the reasons that so many teachers leave the profession, especially in their early years of teaching, is that many have unrealistic expectations about what it is all about.

    I have been involved in a lot of initial teacher training of those new to the job and one piece of advice I always give is to forget a social or family life for the first year at least. And, each time you change job, get a promotion, take on a new responsibility, again put your life on hold for a while.

    It may not be fair, but teaching is not like any other profession. Your responsibilities to your charges are so important that the effort required to do the best you can cannot be skimped. Planning, thinking, preparation and reflection take time – without the marking, assessment and reporting that follows.

    Perhaps many of us went to schools very different to those in which we are employed. Perhaps situations in school have changed in the intervening period. Or perhap some of us were tempted by long holidays, half-terms and a reasonably good salary and progression structure.

    • Rose Thomson says:

      Thanks for your reflections – I think you have clinched it here. Putting your life on hold and protecting your health to the best of your ability is all you can do. I think the profession and employers should stop obfuscating and man up to the truth .

    • Roger says:

      Work should never be your life and if it is then that is pretty sad! I do supply teaching for the very fact it gives me a life. I have also done full time teaching and know how tough it is but all teachers need to have a more balanced work/ home life. Considering the pretty poor pay of teachers compared to other professionals it is a disgrace that they work the hours they do.

  18. Anonymous F says:

    Hi David,

    I’ve read your two posts about teachers leaving the profession several times and have been mulling them over. I’m in my fifth year of teaching and am working in the third school of my career. My experiences so far have been a mixed bag, but my current school is very well managed and I can’t imagine being any happier anywhere else.
    I absolutely love teaching and spending my day with children. At no point during my 5 years have the children been the cause of my stress, and I worked in a particularly challenging school for 3 years; building the relationships with my class and seeing them make progress is an amazing experience. Having said that, I frequently think about leaving and using my psychology degree to do a Doctorate in Ed Psych because I can’t see how I can keep up this lifestyle and stress for another 30 years (I am 29).
    During term time, it is very difficult to have a decent social life because of workload and I resent that when I see other people my age managing it. Perhaps it is just perception, and ‘grass is always greener’, but it seems others who are similarly or lesser qualified than me earn more money and have a better work-life balance; it’s hard not to feel this is unfair.
    The constant changes made by the DfE mean nothing gets the chance to embed and this is extremely frustrating when you have no control over it, and feel that the decisions they are making are poor and won’t benefit the children. The threat of Ofsted hangs over your head continually; the anticipation of this may be worse than the actual event but it’s always there in the background.
    Having worked in two schools where I received very different observation results, performance related pay worries me a bit – I know I would have earned more in my previous school than my current school because of different expectations in teaching standards. I know I am a better teacher now, and I am extremely glad of this, but it shows the difficulty of having this as a national approach to pay. The article in the Independent today talks about exam results linked to pay, but all that will mean is constant teaching to the test – unfair on pupils and horrendous extra stress to put on us all. Seems like they forget we are only human sometimes.
    Constant pressure to make progress, progress, progress is phenomenal. If I’d known exactly how target driven teaching is, I’m not sure I would have done it. I worked in a recruitment agency briefly and it seems similar to that sales environment of hitting targets to receive a bonus. Sometimes it seems you can do absolutely everything you can to teach a child a skill and it still doesn’t work, but the statistics don’t show that. I teach Y6 and my constant focus is percentages at level 4 and 5, and floor targets and last year’s results at the moment. I don’t like the way the pressure of this can affect teaching content and classroom ethos, as sometimes it is hard not to let the stress creep in.
    I seem to have written a lot of negative bits there! I don’t mean to be – I honestly love the job, and I think you have to in order to stick with it and be a good teacher, but I put so much into it that I worry I will burn out before I get to 35 because of the demands that are put on us as a profession. Perhaps one reason why so many people are leaving is simply because it seems less common to stick with one job these days; my parents had the same jobs for their whole lives but re-training seems to be much easier and more frequent now. Just a thought.
    I rack my brains but have no ideas how teachers could be kept teaching unless there is a huge change in the way schools are compared and held accountable, and if the DfE took advice from educational experts rather than it all hingeing on politics. A DfE that was cross-party and didn’t change after every election might provide some more stability and consistency, as well as being more balanced than suddenly changing to only teach British history.
    I’m sure I haven’t said anything you haven’t already heard lots of times; however, I wanted to email because I’m really enjoying reading your posts via twitter. They always make me reflect on my own practice and I know that the point at which I stop doing that, or stop trying to improve, is the time to quit.

  19. Anonymous writer says:

    Hi Anonymous F,

    Relieved to see I am not the only one with these perceptions. I completely understand everything you’ve said in your post, but even more, I understand the contradiction in feelings between loving teaching, learning and children yet feeling this isn’t sustainable. It’s interesting that neither of us feel comfortable being known.

  20. Lynn says:

    At the point when I left the secondary classroom I was teaching part-time and each year faced a different timetable. Never knowing from one year to the next whether I would have an increased or decreased timetable, or even how many days it would be spread across was frustrating and with a small child I could no longer manage it.
    As well as this though I think I was bored. Others have said how teaching is never boring and day to day I would agree. The days flew by and I never clock-watched. I was an art teacher so the curriculum was fairly flexible and projects were changed every year, different artists chosen to focus on etc. But after a few years being in the same school especially, the routine of the school day and year started to become monotonous.
    As others have said, the overlap of teaching into your private life is also very pervasive. We had very good systems for efficient marking and preparation but I still found the planning and ‘thinking’ a drain which made me apprehensive on Sunday nights or in the last days of a holiday.
    And so although it wasn’t my preferred choice to leave at the time it has in fact been really good for me and I have been able to explore other options.

  21. Toby says:

    David, having visited your school yesterday for the SSAT conference I would say that it appears that your staff are very lucky indeed: I cannot imagine how invigorating it must be to work in an environment where learning and pedagogy are discussed, researched and acted upon wilfully and passionately.

    Perhaps I only have limited experience. I spent 3 years at my first school which suffers from monumental social deprivation. I learned a huge amount about positive relationships and the pastoral side of education, but during those three years I had such limited genuinely positive CPD experience that I felt my teaching was regressing. On my PGCE I was regarded as the ‘academic one’ – the chap who read journals and research and would go on to one day to study for a doctorate. However, by the end of my first year I felt as though I had not developed this at all. By the third year I wanted to leave the profession, but this was nothing to do with the particularly ‘sparky’ students. Why?

    Anecdotes and my own experience suggest to me that career-driven heavy SLTs have much to answer for. My NQT professional development was a box ticking exercise organised, if one can use the term, by a person who’d seemingly hopped through every TLR available without ever pausing for thought over a 30+ year career. In the first six months we’d only covered health & safety and the Bristol Code – what about reflections on our practice and the learning progress of children? I don’t think I’ve ever had school-centred CPD regarding this most central of themes – we’re all assumed to be able to teach (because of the PGCE, that work-heavy but reflective-lite certificate) and told to get on with it. What is it people say about assumptions?

    The experiences I have had of SLTs, along with others, show that just as there are teachers who tick boxes of ‘taught’ content (never mind learned, appreciated, manipulated, evaluated) to pick up their salary, there exist also leaders who are happy to pick up their TLRs with minimal understanding of the requirements of the roles or their direct responsibility to the learning of children. Many of these appear to be teachers who don’t necessarily lack experience, but do lack either the ability, desire or vigour to invest time into professional development. I know of one AH who openly admits that he/she has never had to work so little to earn £50k. Perhaps more leadership teams should take more responsibility for their own professional development, as the R in TLR implies?

    Now, like you say, we lack solid, collated evidence that this goes on everywhere – in fact, I’m sure that it doesn’t. But that some governing bodies, HTs, soon-to-be defunct LEAs and even academy sponsors allow their staff to cross thresholds simply due to experience or box-ticking as opposed to drive, verve and passion demonstrates poor planning, financial mismanagement and a lack of true regard for the professionalisation of teaching. That teachers’ experiences seem to differ so hugely from school-to-school suggests that those up top must be scrutinised for the lack of care paid to their staff, especially those new to the profession.

    I would also say that the desire among many young teachers for a position of responsibility is an understandable financial one – I started on around £21k and could barely pay my rent for the first year: I couldn’t afford a TV licence, internet access etc., let alone a holiday which we teachers take all the time (First World Problems, I know)… This is something that needs to be looked at as it does affect the decisions staff take, especially in smaller schools where it might be easier for for the HT to allow stacked TLRs, etc.

    Would young teachers get a fairer deal in a school where the staffing structure was based on merit, or perhaps to put it more scarily, ‘business-like’? Maybe – certainly, there might be greater accountability for training and professional development as SLTs might view their staff as assets. This does not mean I’m a Tory (I don’t understand how any history teacher could be) or an advocate of business sponsored academies – far from it. I also cringe at the frightening reports of exam-related pay progression – in the context of this piece that might well lead to more overtly industrialised vacuum-packed examanoids (children) shipped off under a Mr Monopoly SLT.

    So what has this all been about? Where is my answer!? From my point of view a leadership team must be a cohesive unit, focussed on aggregational marginal gains which includes the professional development of their staff to encourage innovation, creativity and pedagogical reflection.

    If I hadn’t left that first school when I did then I would not be teaching now, and that was purely down to mismanagement.

    I am so glad to find out that not every school is like my first experience – but I would bet that for many it is.

  22. Neil Mercer says:

    I finished a PGCE in Secondary history at Oxford Uni in 2003, and went straight into a job at the school I went to as a pupil. By xmas I decided that teaching wasn’t for me, but I struggled through the rest of the year to get full QTS, and because I don’t like quitting halfway through things. Toughest year of my life, without a doubt, and I left in July 2004 feeling a total failure. I have since gone back into teaching in around 2007, starting with some supply which led onto a job in SEN at a school where I’ve been for 3 years.

    I could write thousands of words on why the NQT year was so tough, but you could boil it down to the usual suspects – workload (crippling, depressing, unmanageable) and behaviour (more later on in the year when it really started to wear me down).

    When I left teaching I found it really odd that no-one seemed interested in why I was l leaving, or wanting to do anything to stop me leaving. It seemed such a waste of that expensive qualification (both for me who left a well paid job to teach, and for the govt), but I just knew that a second year at that school would damage me – physically and mentally. There does seem to be an attitude of “if you can’t stand the heat…” which must drive out so many people who just need time and decent support to find their feet.

    You’re absolutely right, it takes years to learn how to be even competent at teaching. A few naturally gifted people are competent early on, but for me classroom management took so, so long to learn, and none of the advice I got in it helped. The only way I got any good at it, was by lots of painful, hard experience – by making every mistake in the book and learning from each one. I came out of Oxford buzzing with fantastic pedagogical ideas and fell flat on my face as nothing that I had been taught actually worked. NQTs should be encouraged to teach in as simple way as possible at first, stick to books, worksheets and writing while they learn how to be the person at the front of the room.

  23. Catriona Stewart says:

    More businesslike . . . Like bankers? Perhaps I am old and idealistic but I went into teaching in the State sector because I wanted a job in public service. The serve bit ismimportant to all good teahcers. Business is not service as it necessitates making more from customers than you provide and I do not like to think of educating the next generation through such an exploitative lens. The NHS and run for profit academies and free schools will find this out before the sun sets on this hideous government.

    I have worked in several primary schools and don’t recognise the lack lack of CPD, discussion of pedagogy and dodgy SLTs described. Maybe this is why we have a low turnover, super retention and most turn over is for promotion. Our SLT have the job of keeping teaching and learning the only business we all discuss in any detail and the priority in all activity. All teachers and support staff lead an area and are supported while not micromanaged. We are very clear that we are not a business and get uppity if business models are suggested. Children are not dishwashers and professional judgement and a diverse range of approaches are needed for different subjects, cohorts and for teaching, managing pupil behaviour and the curriculum.

    A recent Governor questionnaire (on Internet so anonymous) told us morale is very high and people all enjoy work, teaching and non teaching stff alike. We all work very hard (service) but SLT and governors are attentive to small gains (sorry the planning, prep, marking and assessment all has to be done). Small gains, especially in use of ICT hardware and software for teachers, makes a massive difference (not carrying round a knackered old laptop like a dead albatross and having to plug in every morning with varying degrees of success) to workload and the perception of the job as a profession. However we are all frequently depressed by the sorry state of the DFE and what often feels like a government conspiracy to make us demoralised and fed up. Never thought I’d look back at David Blunkett with nostalgia.

  24. Laura McInerney says:

    There’s a lot of research on this. Behaviour, lack of support, loneliness (i.e. not much company from other adults), lack of autonomy are all biggies. As someone said above “it’s not like people expect” is also a big one – many people go into teaching because they think it will satisfy *their* need for respect, control, dominance, progeny. When they realise that it’s actually about respecting the needs of others, and that any respect they might gather is actually from young naive minds rather than the prestigious ones they are seeking, then they leave and try to find the things they were looking for in a more appropriate place.

    One other thing to think about that is less commonly raised but may be important. New entrants are overwhelmingly female. Many women have children and – given that the profession is about children – I wouldn’t be surprised if teachers often had *more* children than women in other professions. Some of those women will take time out of the paid labour market to look after their children – this feeds into the turnover numbers too. [Some men do, of course, take time off from work too when children are young but sadly the number is far far smaller than for women, and given that women are so much a higher percentage of the teaching workforce it seemed relevant here to talk about ‘women’ and ‘men’ rather than ‘parents’ in general – which is actually my preference].

    On TeachFirst, having been through the programme I never at all felt that we were ‘pressured out’ or that teaching was made to seem like a ‘first step’ – I think that’s an unfortunate consequence of the name but not at all the philosophy. What is true about TF is that it takes *young people* and young people are more likely to move jobs – any job – in the start of their career now for a whole variety of reasons.

  25. learningspy says:

    Laura – thanks for that perspective. Can you point me in the direction of some of the research on this?

    I touched on the maternity issue above but yes, you’re right – I hadn’t considered the fact that there are more female teachers. Do we have figures on the ratio?

  26. […] Spy As I was scrolling down David Didau’s blog, an post caught my eye. It is titled “Why do so many teachers leave teaching?” As a future teacher, this immediately made me want to read more and hopefully get an answer to that […]

  27. […] lives of their students, but too many simply don’t survive and, as David Didau has already discussed, up to 50% of them leave within the first five […]

  28. drdropdembeats says:

    Here is some good healthy bias….bland are some of these posts…

    Why do people leave teaching:

    – At the primary level… too much prescribed learning…and not enough exploration of ideas, arts and crafts, sports or morals. i.e. missing the woods, trees and all the marvelous species inside.
    – An erroneous view that ‘academic’ test performance is the best measure of success for young children’s education.
    – Class sizes…
    – Parents…
    – Children
    – SEN…
    – Marking…
    – The idiotic idea that individuals should teach groups…Groups are better at teaching groups…IMO. For example a internet forum will solve most problems quickly….
    – The ridiculous idea that because its a good idea in one setting that it will be a good idea everywhere.
    – Bloated Ofsted
    – Unrealistic expectations
    – Widespread bullying.
    – In addition there is no ‘consultant’ in the word team.
    – Wilshaw and Gove are public enemies

    These are but a few. And I could spend weeks on this…

    Lucky that I like learning.

  29. Mark says:

    @ Mrs Sue

    My wife is a secondary science teacher, chemistry specialist.She is in her 7th year of teaching and it has got dramatically worse in the last 3 years, so you are wrong to suggest that teachers who rail against the 70 hour week had incorrect expectations at the outset.
    She handed her notice in yesterday, she would like her life back.It’s not asking too much is it?

  30. Hetty says:

    Interesting post – I stumbled upon when searching for ‘how to survive my last year of teachiing’ !! Came into the profession late and gave up my life for 5 years as suggested above. Regretted it tremendously as my children grew up downstairs while I worked away in the loft, and then I managed to address some balance by moving to a school closer to home.
    Once when a Head was dumping a ridiculous situation on me they said ‘we are responsible for our own work/life balance’. Right I thought, you want that, you get it. And basically since then I have done enough for the kids to learn – usually a bit more because that bit matters – then I decided for myself when enough was enough.
    What I am saying is don’t let them them push you around – very often SLT have pushed their families into the background, you don’t have to do it too. The Head I referred to above was left by their partner and the children went awol – so remember your kids matter too.
    PS – will do my very best next year but can’t wait to go.

  31. […] almost 1:1.  This means that almost half of those who are qualified to teach are not teaching!  David Didau mentions several reasons that teachers may leave the field.  Women may be taking a break to raise […]

  32. […] Why do so many teachers leave teaching?. […]

  33. Education Onion says:

    A really interesting piece and lends itself well for further study. Whilst undertaking ITT myself 5 years ago it became apparent that behaviour management and pastoral care were severely limited in the ITT curriculum. It was only because I was working in an environment where there were behavioural and pastoral issues that enabled me to find my own way to deal with them as a professional. Another additional factor is life experience as I came into teaching later on (early 30s) and I’m certain that supported me in problem solving and the ability to empathise; two features I feel are essential for teachers.

    From small scale studies I have carried out myself, related to the demands placed on teachers, it would appear that teachers feel unprepared for the demands of teaching that are outside of perceived ‘ideals’ of the profession such as excessive administration, behaviour, pastoral care and aggressive target achievement. All too often support networks are weak and teachers are left to their own devices which can become extremely stressful when newly qualified or practicing in a different place of work. It would appear that ITT needs to embed the practicalities of teaching alongside theory to provide a foundation for practice as theory will struggle to provide a strategy for dealing with the day to day demands of teaching.

  34. […] 13 Reflection Posted on April 27, 2013 by Craig Archer The Learning Spy Blog didn’t have much to do with education technology but everything to do with other aspects of […]

  35. […] this reflection, I checked out a blog called The Learning Spy. The post I read talked about why so many teachers leave their jobs. According to the post, 50% of teachers leave the teaching profession within their first 5 years of […]

  36. […] 2, 2013 by Nicholas Gillock The Learning Spy Blog focused on general aspects of teaching, rather than the realm of educational technology. The […]

  37. Lousie ni says:

    Hi,

    I have really enjoyed reading this thread as I too am thinking about leaving the teaching profession.

    I am in my third year (primary) and have had enough. I love my class to bits and my day to day routing with them and my amazing teaching assistant are the only things that keep me sane. I have a great realtionship with colleagues, get good feedback from observations and in general seen as a good teacher.

    Following on from a previous post, I think it is fair to say that the reason I want to leave is because I love teaching.
    I find I am becoming increasingly resentful of the meetings, paperwork and constant scrutiny of absolutely everything. I can’t think of any other jobs that are scrutinised as much as ours is.
    Going home in tears every night due to work stress and deadlines is not the kind of life I envisaged for myself and I am not willing to continue down this stress riddled road until I burn out.

    Since I have made the decision to leave I feel much happier and more positive about the future. I don’t know what is going to happen work wise but I do know I would much rather work in Tescos than teach at the moment.

    Many people don’t understand the hardships of being a teacher. Holidays? You can keep em. They are not worth it. The pay is not worth it. Even the beautiful smiles of my class are not enough to keep me going anymore.

    Feeling excited about the future.

    • Clare says:

      Louise, you have summed up the exact thoughts and feelings I have. This week I have made the decision to leave and although it’s scary and I have no idea what I want to do now, I too would rather work in Tesco and give up my holidays. I too am now excited about a life away from the stress.

      • lead-lady says:

        Good luck all you stressed out teachers
        I’ve been there- I burnt out and came through it. It took me 3 years to get over the stress but i’m happy now having started my own modest business from nothing, walking dogs. I’ll never be rich but I feel so free

    • disillusuined says:

      I’ve been teaching teaching for 12 years now. I totally agree with all you’ve said. It’s so scary to leave though. I have hung on and on for years, struggling, fighting, been made to feel worthless even though the teaching has been good. My school systematically bullies staff out. The ethos is always ‘who’s next?’ There is only so much one person can do. Such unrealistic expectations. Lack of support etc. Can there be a life after 12 years? Teachers can never work fast enough as there is always so much to do. The brain and hands panic. If only people knew how teachers are treated they would not believe it! Then if a lesson ob goes wrong – wow head on the line ready to be chopped.

  38. dish13 says:

    I agree, particularly, with Uphill Struggle’s comments, being an experienced teacher who worked at the same school for 16 years, where there was a professional learning community and I was well respected in my job. I moved to care for aging parents, after being hired on the spot due to the sudden resignation of the previous teacher, and the fact that I was National Board Certified. My experience at my new school was very humbling with minimal support. My evaluation took the form of a seeming forced resignation. I wonder if principals consider it more work to develop the talent at hand rather than discarding it to start over from scratch? And this is to say nothing of the destruction it wreaks tearing that teacher away from the students he/she has bonded with or helped.

  39. artymekjd says:

    Goodness reading through all of these posts are so refreshing and have made me feel so much better!!
    I am a secondary art teacher in my 5th year and 2nd school.
    I work in a lovely little school in Kent which I love being a part of and cant imagine that i would want to leave for another school any time soon.
    I have been seriously thinking of leaving the profession for the past two years as I have been really rather unhappy.

    For me it boils down to work load, plain and simple.
    I can cope with being observed and having targets. I can deal with bad behaviour and SLT who are not consistent etc etc etc.

    For me to be able to do my job properly in any given day I will have had to spend hours at home in evenings and weekend planning the things that I turn up to school to deliver (not to mention marking) If I dont spend the time at home preparing the things that my job is all about then I will have nothing to teach the kids except the things in my head.

    THIS CANT BE RIGHT!!! I get three frees a week. Thats three hours to plan and mark for 22 lessons a week. This is of course me pretending that I dont have to input data, reply to copious amounts of emails, phone parents, create stock orders for the art room and all the rest of the stuff we meet in the day that isnt teaching and learning.

    How can it be remotely ok that for me to be able to do the job thats asked I have to prepare for 90% of the job at home?

    I worked out the other night that if I (or you) did one hour a day extra work it works out a whole days labour (and I do mean labour) for free a week. And you can bet your bottom dollar a) most of us do more than that a week just to ‘get by’ day to day and b) any other profession would tell you where to stick it if you asked this if them.

    I feel so very strongly about this. I love the kids dearly and love love love my subject. But I am sick of sitting at home feeling genuinely guilty in my tummy that Im not fdoing school stuff. I mean its saturday night now and in th back of my head my brains saying ‘hurry up. youve got that year 7 project to plan for next term’

    So for me thats why I am personally going to leave. I can work as hard as the rest of them but when I get home I want to be able to live for me and not constantly for my job.

    @lynn I wish we knew each other and could sit down for a coffee, what you said struck such a cord with me!! :)

  40. Neil says:

    I have to laugh when I read some of the responses in this. I have now been teaching for 32 years. For the vast majority of those years I have enjoyed it and been successful. However – the landscape has changed beyond recognition in that time. So – what has been the major factor of change? Well people – shocking as it may seem, without a shadow of a doubt – for me it has been the work ethic of the children
    If I compare the early days with more a more modern situation. When I first started, you could set homework for pupils and it would, by and large, be done. There would be no X Box, playstation, internet, mobile phones etc etc to get in the way. If a pupils did not do their homework, you could put in place realistic sanctions and be backed up by the parents – unlike today.
    The government insist on setting out to create an education system with those ‘old fashioned’ values. Unfortunately this merely highlights just how out of touch they are as those values no longer exist. They – as with previous governments before them – take the easy way out and just blame the teacher. I am used to it. All I have ever done for my 32 years is exactly what the government of the time directed me to do. I remember them bringing in the National Curriculum, all the coursework, the BTECs etc etc and now I am being blamed for them. When the next generation of pupils fail due to the spectacular lack of preparation time that the latest selection of modifications enforced by Gove and co. hit home, I am pretty sure that this will all be my fault too.
    It is a shame that the people who put all this rubbish in place just get to clear off and hide – they don’t have to take the flak fro all of the catastrophic , ill conceived, calamitous and rushed policies they force upon our pupils.
    I am glad that I am at the end of my career rather than the start as I genuinely cannot see a route through all of this ridiculous red tape and short sightedness. While ever education is a political plaything it will always fail.

  41. Matt says:

    This conversation is one that seems to be on the lips of a lot of teachers I speak to at the moment. Having worked in an inner-city school for the past 6 years (5 of them as a head of year) I recognise my own experience in a lot of the posts on here. As a PGCE student I certainly fell in to the ‘get the qualification behind you’ group, which I think was a bi-product of the 6 grand bursary, golden handshakes and misty eyed ‘make a difference’ advertising that was just starting at that point. Though I never came in expecting anything other than a bumpy ride.

    I have been lucky to work with some incredibly passionate and hard working teachers and SLs who supported me from something resembling a new born lamb confronted with a pack of hungry wolves to a passable excuse for a ‘good’ teacher. At 30 I just feel adequate at my job and like many others there have been many days when I feel I’d fall in to the hypothetical OFSTED grading of ‘not fit to teach’.

    Having followed my year group through to year 11, I have decided it is time to move on. I am well thought of in the school I am at (at least I hope I am, otherwise there are some good liars around) and earn what I think is a very fair wage. I find it hard to put my finger on the exact reason for wanting to leave so I’ll put it in the catch all category of ‘burn out’. Because of the variety of people in teaching I think that the reasons people leave the profession are equally as varied and therefore can’t be oversimplified. Certainly it is a multi faceted attack testing your emotional resolve, ability to function under pressure, capacity to work hard and organisational skills. For many it can be hard to justify cutting corners with workload or pastoral responsibilities when you are dealing with young people’s welfare and development. Often you can put in a 60 hour week and feel like you’ve barely even completed the most basic responsibilities of your role, let alone added any value to anything. I wonder if lingering guilt or feeling you’re doing an inadequate job is a reason for people leaving teaching.

    I agree with people who say there should be greater support for teachers in the early years of the profession. As we have established this may need to be more targeted to the individual than some of the whole school CPD that generally takes place. The possible downsides I see with this are:
    1) funding (a bit of a dirty word at the moment)
    2) senior staff having the ability / time to identify and support staff with this
    3) staff understanding that asking for support isn’t a sign that you’re crap
    Ideally a dedicated member of staff (who has experience of teaching but who has a very limited timetable) would oversee and signpost relevant CPD for all staff, and although this happens in some schools, I’m sure it’s exception rather than the rule.

    I’m waffling now. Learning Spy, what has prompted your excellent blog on this? Are you considering a change? Writing an award winning PHD? Getting our ideas to take to the Government and set up your own thinktank? Let me know.

  42. Stockholm Syndrome says:

    I think this quote says it all: (And not trying being disrespectful to the poster)

    “I have been involved in a lot of initial teacher training of those new to the job and one piece of advice I always give is to forget a social or family life for the first year at least. And, each time you change job, get a promotion, take on a new responsibility, again put your life on hold for a while.”

    In a profession designed to help children do their best, the best advice we can give a teacher is to ignore their duty to their own children?

    And somehow, someway, we think this is a good thing?

    Stockholm Syndrome anyone?

  43. Katie says:

    I can only speak for myself, and I have only been teaching one year, but I can tell you that it was not an enjoyable experience. It was so hard, and there was so much pressure on me to perform at a level of teachers who had been doing this for 40 years. I never felt supported. Instead, I felt judged, critiqued, and looked down on because I was a novice teacher. The mentoring program was a joke, and I did not receive much support from administration or parents. So much pressure is placed on new teachers, and I think the idea of a lifelong career in this field is not only daunting but depressing. I know exactly why teachers are leaving. We are not welcomed into the career. We are sneered at and criticized until we decide we’ve had enough of making 30K a year and being sad to go to work every day.

    • Megan Seacord says:

      30k as a first-year teacher? Sign me up!

      • sixfoot2 says:

        For a first year teacher, after 3 years’ at uni + one year post graduate certificate of teaching, the starting salary is approx £22k outside of London. Until this year, the salary rose in 6 annual increments up a nationally agreed payscale to approx £32k.

        Katie is unusual in earning £30k a year – perhaps she’s in London and being paid some sort of retention point or started further up the payscale because of other qualifications/ relevant experience.

        If you’d like to sign up Megan, check out
        http://www.education.gov.uk/get-into-teaching?&gclid=CPHx5JCZ9rgCFSTKtAodWysAnQ

        • Megan Seacord says:

          I am a fourth-year Teacher of English in Scotland now after three years’ teaching in England so I know both national payspine very well. That is why I was so astounded at the aforementioned woman’s pay.

  44. Lord Lumey says:

    I’ve been teaching 3 years. I am burnt out and demoralised. I could be a better teacher but I’m not given any training to become better. In the meantime, I’m buried underneath unrealistic expectations. I love working with children, but I have to leave. Whilst statistics may be sparse, I know many others who trained alongside me who are leaving the profession for similar reasons.

  45. […] and it was easy to find something that interested me. I came across the post titled, “Why do so many teachers leave teaching?” This really shocked me because I wasn’t aware that in the first 5 years of teaching […]

  46. […] few months ago I wrote a post which asked, why so many teachers left teaching. In it I considered the possible reasons for the shocking statistic that 50% of teachers leave the […]

  47. I’m so glad someone is having this discussion and not just leaving the government to sweep it under the carpet! I was an English teacher for four years in a large challenging comprehensive. I was nurtured, mentored and promoted. But it was hard and while i did feel supported within the school i felt as though it certainly had an expiry date as i was displaying symptoms of stress. I think it is demoralising when the government uses the profession as a whipping post and is constantly shifting the goal posts. Why can’t they take a leaf out of Finland’s book; respect teachers/schools enough to trust that we can manage to do a good job.
    I now live and teach in an International School in Spain and in the last 3 years have been given no professional development in fact i’ve not even been observed. So while this is obviously going from one extreme to the other, it does make me see the teaching and learning that i experienced in the UK as exciting and innovative as opposed to what i see here as being out-dated and dull. Yet at the same time i feel relieved that i am not held accountable to a government that uses the profession as a scape-goat.

  48. T says:

    I’ve been teaching full time since 1995. It’s a very easy answer as to why so many teachers leave the profession. I apologise in advance if I repeat somebody’s else’s comments – as not had time to read all the above (I’m sure) excellent points.

    The fact is: The demands in terms of time are NOT sustainable. The phrase, “Every child matters” was quoted a lot with the last Government. As staff we joke, “Every child matters – accept for your own children.” Fact is: If you are in a relationship/have a family; they suffer. Planning so that lessons are differentiated; planning ensuring different learning styles; planning AFL opportunities; ensuring good progress in 20 minutes (that’s what Ofsted want to see in their brief observations); Marking involving How To Improve; emailing/phoning parents; Ofsted inspections; tracking students’ progress (analysing Free School Meals; Children In Care; IEPs; Low/Middle/High achievers; Gifted & Talented. Are they making the expected progress?); targets – the relentless, “Class X did not achieve their expected grades – what are you doing about it? What have you NOT done?” (no mention of the students being lazy). Regular assessments recorded onto ICT; extra events in the calender. Notice nothing mentioned so far involves the actual art of having energy to bounce around the class TEACHING and INSPIRING. Good teachers (and that’s MOST of us) will be bouncing around the classroom; on feet all day; being positive in the face of rude students and managing poor behaviour. Don’t forget duties before/break/after school.

    ALL the ideas from Ofsted (notice they seem to call the shots these days) I agree with IN THEORY. But, if I am expected to do all the administration that Ofsted expect, you need to HALVE my teaching load. Yes, literally HALVE my teaching timetable. Will schools be funded to double the number of teachers? No. Fact is, so much of my weekends and holidays are used to get up to date with the admin, recording, tracking etc.

    THIS is why teachers are leaving the profession. Halve the work load expected. It’s not sustainable.

    Teachers used to run so many extra curricular events. Do things lunch times/after school – giving students a well-rounded and fun education. Teachers are so bogged down with all the spreadsheets and blame for students not doing well, that we’re just too tired. Too tired in class. Very cynical of Ofsted. I’m waffling now and this is becoming quite unprofessional. But these are the reasons. I’ve mentored many colleagues who have moved from industry – thinking teaching would be a great career move. They’re shocked by the work load. Some quit after only a few years. Some quit the training course. Their reasons: Not worth it.

    Welcome to teaching in 2013.

    • disillusioned says:

      You have it in a nutshell! I’ve been teaching for 12 years and finding it hard to accept that i probably should leave. It’s scary but my health has been starting to suffer as i keep getting ill. I’m also finding it hard to keep up, there is no support only heads trying to find weaknesses to pick on. I’m a fighter and hate to think i’m a quitter but it’s hard.

  49. jacqui says:

    I am married to a good man… He has been teaching for over 20 years. He wants to leave… Why? He is fed up with constant interference from Michael Gove; he has seen his subject area( design and tech) starved of money;he is teaching in a school which failed OFSTED- not his doing but more to do with not having a permanent head in post for 18 months and a switch to a 2 tier system from a middle school system which was badly handled by the education department of the local council; he has seen increasing bad behaviour amongst pupils;he is now dealing with a new head who is unsympathetic and not supportive. I have seen him go from a confident and caring teacher to someone who doubts his ability and who has had periods off for stress. He asked to go part time in order to stay in the profession and has been refused… I don’t know why young people are not staying in the profession but I can tell you why my husband in his early 50s wants to leave…

  50. Neil 2 says:

    Well reading everyone’s comments has been a source of great solidarity. Thank you. I’ve recently left teaching after 5 years in primary education and my reason is simply the size of the workload. I knew I was entering a challenging profession which would use up a large part of my life, but I didn’t expect to be working 70 hours every week. The result of this is that life has become little more than working, eating and sleeping. For me, there has to be more to life. I knew that having given the profession 5 years of my life (including my PGCE course) that things would not get significantly better. In addition, if the aim is for me to teach inspirational lessons, which reflect the real world, then I need to go out and experience some of the real world in my free time.
    How to solve the problem? A steady and structured introduction to the classroom. Perhaps over as long a period as the five years suggested earlier. Less experienced teachers working with more experienced teachers, lots of watching colleagues teach and being advised by supportive colleagues. A reduction in teaching hours wouldn’t go amiss either. Sadly, I do not see the situation getting better because there are lots of people who want to become teachers. While there are enough people working under the current conditions, I do not think the situation will show significant improvement. I admire those able to work under such heavy and varied workloads and the country should be eternally grateful. However, perhaps if there were less of you the lot of teachers in this country would be better?

  51. Shit schools says:

    This is absolutely spot on. Class sizes are massive in the UK. Any child with any sort of need for attention is completely discriminated against.

  52. […] a future educator, I was shocked when I read that 50% of teachers quit within their first 5 years of teaching. Those are not very encouraging statistics for many […]

  53. […] experiences of people close to me. This post was related to a previous post by this blogger called Why so many teachers left teaching, which described the massive amounts of teachers who leave the profession within the first five […]

  54. marg says:

    I taught for 5 years then gave up. Initially I went on maternity leave but I just couldn’t face going back. I was, I think, a good teacher but received absolutely no support, the staff were cliquey and the workload was too big for the salary paid. Now I do private tutoring, exam marking and work a couple of hours a week in a private tuition centre. The pay is decent for a part-time wage, akin to what I would earn as a 0.5 teacher but there’s no holiday pay or pension. Despite that I wouldn’t go back to working in schools- it’s a thankless job and life’s too short.

    • MJ says:

      I am in exactly the same position as you, Marg – quit and now work for myself as a personal tutor. Ironically, I now do far more teaching than I did when I was a ‘proper teacher’, free from the stresses of pointless paper work and box ticking. I work with lovely families who appreciate the help I give their children and I never have to put up with behavioural issues (something I cannot imagine anyone entering the teaching profession for). Money was an issue at first, but it has taught me that the more you have, the more you spend. If you adapt and do without the things you never needed in the first place, life becomes far more simplistic and, ultimately, far more enjoyable.

      You mention the ‘cliquey’ nature of the staff – in my experience, all too true. Schools can be a very hostile and unpleasant environment to work in. I am sure there are many lovely schools in the UK – schools that are meeting pupils needs and providing a rewarding career for their staff members. Obviously we were never fortunate enough to experience them!

  55. […] few months ago I wrote a post which asked, why so many teachers left teaching. In it I considered the possible reasons for the shocking statistic that 50% of teachers leave the […]

  56. Cindy says:

    I just quit teaching middle school after a month! I realized waaaaay too quickly that the 70-hr week wasn’t for me. It boiled down to stress levels, hours, and general inability to like anything about my job. I was very very disappointed. Needless to say, I am happy and feel a tremendous sense of peace now that this episode is over. Teachers need to cut their workload in half to make it remotely worth it on a financial and emotional level. I’m glad I got out before the profession ate me up alive!

  57. Cat says:

    I realise that it is some time after the initial post, but I feel strongly about many of the issues raised in these posts. I retrained as a teacher and I am now in my second year. I had a successful NQT year and enjoyed the year, although the workload was immense. I am in my second year in the same school under new management and it is a completely different experience. Extremely poor management from a temporary head, coupled with an inexperienced deputy, mean that it is a completely different school. In my previous career I managed different projects and departments and I can say that I have never experienced such poor management practices. Teachers and TAs are frequently in tears and no one is sure, from one day to the next, what they are required to do. The timetable has changed 3 times in 5 weeks and is still not set, we have not had a staff meeting in all that time and key information has been sent to parents before teachers are even told and so mixed messages are imparted as teachers relate original agreed plans. It is a mess. I am sorry I entered the teaching profession and feel extremely sad that children are exposed to this incompetence. Maybe not every school is like this but I now have a very poor view of the teaching profession. Certainly the managers (head and deputy) I have met are not equipped to steer a school towards a success that at its core has the children’s learning as its priority.

  58. Lucy says:

    As a teacher in my 5th year I’ve found everyone’s comments incredibly helpful. Despite remaining passionate about my time with the children in class, I simply no longer have the energy or willpower to consistently put school first at the expensive of everything else. Due to the fact it’s sunday night and I haven’t finished planning I don’t have the time to comment further(well I have to another job first!)

  59. At least here in Finland it’s a tabu that a teacher leaves school. I did that after six years for many reasons, but the main points in short: poor leadership, female-dominated working environment (talking behind ones back etc.), lack of change (for example no promotions), increasing number of pupils with special needs in “normal” class and maybe the biggest reason of all: having one class’ management. It’s so consuming worrying about pupils’ absences, conditions at home, smoking, bullying, learning difficulties etc. I read somewhere, that empathic teachers have a difficult time working at school. Many teachers work and use antidepressants, but I didn’t want to do that. It gives me anxiety to even think of going back to school. So now I’m a customer service manager and (adult) trainer in an ICT company (ICT was my major in university). One of my former colleagues is still there, because he can’t find any other job and he is miserable and run-down all the time. It’s heart-breaking!

  60. […] not too different to the number of teachers who leave the profession from all roots and seeing as 50% of teachers leave within 5 years, maybe this question is moot? For me though, the real lesson PGCE providers can learn is in the […]

  61. Cisco says:

    I am an unemployed qualified teacher who has been out of work for the past 3 years due to illness, which was brought on by the crap that I received whilst teaching, especially in my last school where I only lasted 1 year. I had no life other than teaching, working/marking every night after school, every weekend, and prepping for lessons every holiday.
    It does not help when you have a shit SLT and head of department at the school who did not support you or train you in areas that needed improving, given that it was my first full year after gaining NQT status.
    It did not help when students refused to turn up to detentions or if they had to spend a day in the seclusion room. They would phone their parents to tell them that they did not want to spend a day in seclusion, and the parents would get them off the hook. It’s absolutely crazy the amount of power school kids have now, but too many schools are letting kids get away with murder!
    I am sure that there are too many schools out there which are mediocre but try to be better than they actually are when Ofsted visit!
    To conclude, teachers are leaving the profession because of crap SLT, kids having more power than teachers, and yes, as per other comments, class sizes are too large, and dependent on the subject, some teachers spend too long marking and thus do not have any other life. Despite this, I still want to return to some sort of teaching, but schools and supply agencies will not touch me because they think, and a stress think that you are not up to speed with current curricula. This again is crap!
    So, if you are thinking of leaving teaching for a couple of years break with the aim of returning, don’t. Remember, the Department of Education and TDA only offer SKE training for Maths, English, Science & MFL teachers who want to return, and they are now scaling back on the funding for these as well.

  62. Ant says:

    I echo a lot of the comments made above, particularly with regard to stress and workload. I completed my PGCE in French, German and Italian July 2008 and completed my NQT and following year in the same school. In search of a change, I decided to enter the primary sector as an MFL co-ordinator. I love being with the children, but find it very cliqué as mentioned above. It seems that because I am a “secondary teacher” I am not qualified to do the job, even though I can!! My point is, despite loving spending time with the children, the stress of observations, unrealistic dada targets based on FFT, constant learning walks, feelings of anxiety at going home to write reports, go to meetings until 6pm, marking and assessing. I do the bare minimum at home now, as I deserve to have a life. I will complete the planning briefly and do it as I go along. Mr Gove can get stuffed!! No idea how ANYONE can do this until 68!!! That’s why I’m searching for jobs outside teaching.

  63. Janie says:

    American teacher here. I’m 29 years in, and have been told across the board by my previous bosses, students, parents, and coworkers that I am an excellent teacher. (I say this up front to belay the inevitable glut of comments from non-teachers that seem to crop up in any discussion like this, dismissing me out of hand as being a lazy government hack, and therefore part of the problem rather than the solution.)

    I need to teach another 6 to 8 years to get my retirement. I am excited in my classroom every day, and love working with my students. It is incredibly engaging work, and being with the students is a gift. YET… if I could retire tomorrow, I would.

    The simple reason is the garbage that comes down from above. Government mandates require us to teach to a poorly-designed test. And then bosses come and go every three to five years, each bringing his or her own “magic bullet” to transform the schools. (Never mind that my test scores are fine, that I teach well and engage the students, that I don’t have classroom management problems.) When good, talented people are required by politics to “convert” to a new educational religion every year or two, how are they to feel respected?

    Just a small but telling example: It is time for us to write our goals for the state’s new teacher evaluation system. I decided to make my goals about designing challenging work for the advanced kids within my non-ability-grouped classes. (Ability grouping is politically incorrect, and while I think most kids are challenged by my curriculum, the top ones are not. I’m always looking to engage them at the appropriate level.)

    When I showed my goals to my new principal, who taught for just a few years and who barely knows my name, he said that he didn’t think they were valid; that I should be developing units that align with the buzzwords being bandied about by the new superintendent (the new principal’s new boss, who has spent less than 4 hours in my building over the last 17 months).

    So, in a nutshell, that sums up my frustration: my decades of experience and expertise mean nothing to “the man.” The system wants me to be a yes-man, a drone. And, as a free-thinking human being, I find drone status de-incentivizing.

    Above all, we are asking teachers to be slaves to an ever-changing legion of poor masters. I truly believe that no good can befall a smart, analytical mind that chooses the teaching profession.

  64. Dawn Stemmer says:

    WOW! I’m not a teacher, I came across this site whilst researching stress within the teaching system.
    I am a clinical complementary therapist and after working in the NHS supporting patients, visitors and staff and teaching them to regain control of all their unwanted feelings, emotions, and sensations I became very much aware that some of my private clients (Teachers & GPs) were attending my sessions in great distress and high anxiety.
    I have been running an 8 week programme in Mindfulness for Health & Well-being at my clinic for the general public and the results have been amazing.
    So I thought after going into schools and giving the staff short 15 minutes of massage during Stress_Week in the workplace and listening to how difficult and stressful they find it.
    I would design a programme for the teachers… “After Stress-Free School Club for Mindful Teachers”.

    So having read most of this site, please would you be so kind as to give me your thoughts on this subject… Let me know if I was coming into your school to help you reduce your stress levels using a series of Mindfulness Practice, Breath Work and Massage… Just what you would like to hear or experience.

    Sorry I can’t improve the system or the Government… but when the teachers are calm, in control and not brow beaten then hopefully a little bit of me time after school will enable you all to sort the mess out and do what you love best… Teach the kids.

  65. Clare says:

    I love teaching, I love working with children and ensuring they have a fun, fulfilling and worthwhile day. The planning, the endless changes in focus, the constant attacks and digs at the profession, the average 4 meetings a week I attend on top of my working day is beginning to make me feel exhausted, devalued and like no matter what we do it will never be right. I’m losing my mojo and it’s making me feel after just ten years in, I should quit.

  66. I’m quitting. I love children, I love teaching, I love watching children develop, but I’m not prepared to put myself through the rest of the rubbish that comes with it. I don’t think its a good idea to be this exhausted all the time, my health has to be a priority.

  67. Jojos says:

    I am currently considering leaving teaching. I am 45 and have been teaching for 12 years. It is a job I have loved and probably worked too hard at. I’m not quite sure why but the job has changed dramatically over the last few years. Over that period a new principal arrived and an ineffective SLT team evolved. Our school now bends over backwards to appease the children whilst at the same time blames the teachers. Parents complain about every little thing and teachers are required to justify themselves at all times. I blame parents who mollycoddle their kids and phone up, or write letters of complaint about the most ridiculous things such as ” my child thinks you don’t like her.” Teachers are required to produce excellent results despite the ability of the class they teach. I teach two A level and 3 GCSE classes and the amount of planning, preparation and marking time I have amounts to 6: 30 minute periods per week. Normally I have to cover at least one period a week. As I teach English and Media the marking is phenomenal. However I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t for all the crap that goes with teaching. I am sick of having to justify myself in regards to marks students have achieved in controlled assessments to parents who “just want” their ” child to be happy”. I feel almost bullied at times by parents, students and SLT. Although I know I am a very good teacher who gets excellent results, the negatives are now outweighing the things I love about my job. I recently was accused of pushing a child off her chair! An outrageous lie that was proven to be so. However, it caused me a great deal of stress and annoyance. Parents need to stop believing everything their child says and start working with the teachers. Society needs to respect what we are trying to do. Principals and senior management teams need to stop being so frightened of parents and stand up to them. Students need to be better disciplined and less placated. I am now looking for a change of career, something I feel sad about but know I have to, for the sake of my health.
    D

  68. sushe says:

    I’ve just come across this post having started my day as usual at 4.30 am to work to try & fit it in (I tend to stop work around midnight exhausted having spent no time with my young children which appears to be the norm). My colleagues (non parents), joke that my children don’t know who I am, I laugh, but as my youngest who used to be clingy to me can now only be comforted by his father, this is a painful truth.
    Sorry I am waffling, I have taught for 15 years in secondary schools & sixth form colleges, I briefly had a much lower paid job with a very young family for a couple of years then returned to teaching on a maternity cover. This was the worst mistake ever. Like everyone else on here, I love the teaching, the students, my subject. My immediate colleagues are lovely & we are all very supportive of one another. However, having thought that changing from a 60 hour a week minimum wage with no holidays, pension or sick pay (I worked for myself, no work, no pay), returning to teaching would free up some quality time with my children, I was sadly mistaken. I am know looking for anything I can do, I am finding it hard because many employers see years of teaching, which they think is an easy 9-3 job & tons of holidays, and think if you can’t hack that, you won’t survive in the “real world” with no useful skills. I will find something else, because I have to. My family are too important.

  69. Sune2Bxteechur says:

    I used to love my job but now I no longer recognise it and feel like I cannot carry on. I am tired of feeling like a failure and tired of the pressure. I honestly used to be a happy person before I became a teacher. My school has let me down a lot over the years and the truth is the management DON’T CARE about the staff. This is not just me lashing out, a former assistant head from the school told me this and explained it very clearly. I am going to leave now and do something else…anything at all but this soul destroying job. I am sick of the criticism, the constant checks, the working late every day, the blame….the list is endless (just like the workload). The government meddling has destroyed education and the lives of teachers and students and this is not on. If I ever meet Michael Gove I will be sure to explain this to him in a language he may understand. Good luck to everyone staying in the job, you have my respect and best wishes :)

  70. […] 1. Why do so many teachers leave teaching? 22 February – 35,592 views […]

  71. RCN says:

    After approaching 20 years in teaching (in schools and colleges) it’s time for me to move on. I currently work in an FE college. Our SLT appear to have no consistent sense of educational principle, only a knee jerk twitch for whatever they perceive to be the directives of government and no creative ideas to achieve them but for dumb, full frontal, labour intensive and costly assault. OfStEd tell me that my principal shows inspirational leadership but I know of no teaching staff who agree. In truth they are really a very dogged follower and believer, it seems, in the circular logic of the relationship between their huge salary and sense of unique ability. An ability manifest so far in the institution of several IT systems with overlapping functionality and no consensus on which to use for what. I’m angry.

    Then there’s the workload, alluded to in posts above, and the prostration before student voice, as if “more breaks, later starts, earlier finishes, more fun” had served our charges so well in their endeavours so far. I’m also anxious and depressed at having to perform in this mess for people who couldn’t do my job for toffee and have no principled vision of what it should involve.

    Fortunately I have a plan. I’m off to take my officially “good” and sometimes “outstanding” teaching in a different direction.

  72. Muhammad Imran says:

    Ouch….I completed my NQT last year as an RE teacher but then was encouraged to switch to English because my school has tried for years without success to recruit English teachers. Following a recent 20 minute OFSTED inspection, I am now in need ‘of improvement’. No doubt I have underestimated the difficulty of the switch and so it’s back to the proverbial drawing board as I struggle to become an English teacher. But all the above posts make me wonder if there’s any life left in teaching. Where is the light??????
    Muhammad

  73. anonymous possum says:

    Muhammad – move to a job where you can teach RE. That is what you trained to do.

  74. Great article.I am glad that people especially we in the profession have started talking about this. The problem of teachers leaving should not put on the government alone; we should also look inward. Most teachers today are not passionate about the vocation again. Our task as teachers is to come up with training that will re ignite the fire again

  75. Ben says:

    I quit my head of departmentjob after 11 years as a teacher because I missed both my daughters birthdays for the second year in a row and when Ispoke to the head about it was subjected to 7 formal observations in 2 days, none of which I receivedfeedback for

  76. Mark says:

    For any prospective teacher out there- please read my tale and learn from my mistakes:

    I graduated from a 3 year Primary Education degree in 2012 with a First Class Honours and, after much blood, sweat and tears, an ‘Outstanding’ rating during my final placement. I of course felt on top of the world, full of enthusiasm for my first teaching post, and I was offered and accepted the first post that I went for due to the lack of positions advertised when I graduated. 6 weeks later I resigned from my NQT year after a half-term of what can only be described as hell: 60 hour working weeks, awful behaviour, criticial and unsupportive management, crippling workload…the list goes on. I understand that no amount of training can prepare you for life in the classroom, and that my experience is possibly atypical of lost of NQTs’ experiences, but nonetheless, no one should have to go through that.

    After being judged as ‘inadequate’ because my Year 1 class didn’t demonstrate ‘significant’ progress during a 30 minute observation of a PE lesson, I finally plucked up the courage to hand in my notice. Some said I should have stuck it out, by why!?! All my peers seemed to be enjoying life in graduate schemes, had money and time to spend at weekends, and were working hard, but not consumed 24/7 by their job…who could blame me for wanting to join them?? Imagine if this experience happened in a private company’s training scheme…they would never have any staff!

    My point is, whilst the job market is tough, do not fall into the same trap I did. Research your school. Ask the right questions re: support for NQTs during interview. Visit websites such as TES or a union website and understand what you should expect. Try to speak for teachers that work there.

    I cannot imagine, even after a very successful year-long spell on a Graduate scheme with a tuition company, any other career apart from teaching, and I have now accepted a position as an NQT in another school. However, I suspect that many careers are ruined by horrendous NQT years across the country, and I suspect my tale is similar to many. Wish me luck……..

  77. Mr Secret says:

    As with the others within this blog, I have been teaching for over 25 yrs and am always looking for other opportunities out of the profession. I feel swamped with the multitude of tasks and as have many within school collapsed through stress. We have many teachers in the school and locally that have been signed off or have never reappeared.
    As a middle manager the tasks as quite wide ranging most of which are things learnt on the hop. I also cringe to think back to when I first started. I am also in admiration for those teachers I see that do an incredible job. I feel like a juggler that has been asked to juggle 12 balls but has then had to be forced to have an arm amputated as part of the job. I am so passionate about my subject but have seen such a decline in pupils ambition and proactiveness. The biggest thrill is showing a student the ability they have, in the past it has been immense to see them grasp it and run independently so you are holding on for dear life. It appears these days it is ok so I can do it so what, just tell me what you want me to do for you. For you!!! getting across it is for them they are not doing me a favour, the expectation though that when a pupil has been off task and you have invested so much time at the deteriement of others, maybe you need to try some different strategies. What are we saying, don’t work get all the attention whilst those that are motivated are side lined because all need to been on task. Our looming OFSTED is coming we are seeing how the bench mark for lesson obs is raising, how school standards seem to be an ever climbing set of expectations. A less of outstanding making rapid progress in one lesson.
    Where has the value and most important value gone of not educating just for the subject but socially and morally. Surely we do the job

    Whoops lost the reply.. to continue.. where has the opportunity and recognised value of making a difference to a person socially and morally. I love my school with a passion but am continuiously looking to find a way out. If we look at money our wages are not fantastic considering we are slaves to the profession throughout the academic calender and beyond, family life is resented and balanced with work. The potetnial of what we have to offer is not recognised as there is a short sighted view of our poor education system, based upon stats (stats can work however you want them to), remeber though these stats change, suddendly the EB now not so. Somebody needs to get a hold of this, as this profession should be the envy but is a nightmare of frustration and feeling of inadequateness.

  78. Ral says:

    I’m going to show this to my husband, as he thinks that the reason I’m so unhappy is because of the school I’m in.

    I’ve taught for 10 years and am ‘officially’ a good teacher. I’ve always accepted the fact that my own life came second to the job, but that was countered bythe fact I loved the job.

    However, after my second child I went .08 because I was sick of having to take huge chunks of time out of the weekends. I’m currently on a TLR but really wondering whether to just give it up, as I’m working longer and longer and still barely seeing my children. To be honest, I’m thinking more and more about other jobs I could do – which is why I found this website.

    I do think that it’s getting harder and harder for those of us with families to do the job. I always wanted to progress in my career, but to do that, either my children or my students will suffer. I’m really struggling to ome to terms with the idea that I will have to give up a role that I’ve worked my arse off for, but the increased pressure on UPS teachers means that doing TLR work on top is just too much. I just don;t care enough about liasing with other schools and tracking data and organising stuff; I just want my classes to get the best results they can.

  79. Blue says:

    I’m in my second term of NQT year. I’m looking for some hope. I have read little to give me that hope. I have two young children who I miss so much as I’m working every hour, 7 days a week – I usually sleep between 4am-6am. I know this is making my energy levels worse and not conducive to any positive coping mechanism – but like you all out there…I’m planning my socks off and trying to find my way in this new career. I’m not a youngster…I’m only just 40 and was so excited to start making a difference to young lives, not realising I would miss the lives of my own children passing by as I leave at 7am and return at 7pm to listen to them read before I start all of this planning again. I’ve yet to be observed as anything! I’ve seen little experienced teaching practice as I had the placement from hell in my PGCE (but got through). I’m failing NQT. I feel like an absolute personal failure. This will mentally cripple me and strip me of the person I used to be. I feel like I’m letting my class, parents, employer, parents, husband, my son and daughter down.
    How do I feel better?

    • teacher 16yrs says:

      You are NOT a failure! Nothing is ever good enough in Ed. I’ve always achieved a ‘good’ but it is still not good enough! Constant criticism, overload. Seriously get some sleep, it’s only a job! I’ve got a young kid too and recently cried when I got home to late to say goodnight :( I love teaching and the kids, but the job is and has always been since I’ve done it too much work and pressure. I used to cry as an NQT as I was too tired to go out on a Friday night!! Do not let it lower your self esteem! It’s not you!! Its the job!! You could teach privately like many others on here? It’s the way to go!! As long as you have QTS, your degree you surely don’t need an NQT year? Your health, family and your life is your priority! Do you really want to be in a job that has and will continue to treat you like this? Maybe it is not for you? Doesn’t make you a failure. You can’t be anyway as you have qualifications. Get through the year if you can? Keep lessons simple, focussed and achieve objectives. Enjoy it more! Pretend they are observing because you are so amazing or pretend they’re not there! Have a laugh with the kids, relax etc. Have a cut off time to leave work, e.g. 4pm, keep socializing in work to minimum, work smartly, take time out to make a plan of what you can do to feel better! Include time to yourself, seeing friends etc! :) Good luck :)

  80. teacher for 16yrs says:

    Yes its hideous and nobody believes you or understands as teaching is viewed as a ‘perfect career’ !! Wouldn’t recommend it to anyone – ruins your life!!

    • vsmithson says:

      I agree, I’ve been teaching for 13 years now and it is killing me. The expectations are ludicrous , teachers are exploited and frankly manipulated. It is a job with a shelf life which I wish id known before I went into it. The heads etc have no conscience. Teachers are treated like machines, they receive no support, they are put upon like no other profession and they are the least respected not only by the general public, but by parents, employers, government… well let’s face it we get respect from no where. I have been told that I am not a failure but a success at having survived it so long compared to the statistics. I know NQTS who are crying and overloaded in their first term. We are not allowed, god forbid to have a life, we say no to things we would actually like to do because of the work load, because of the repetition and the form filling, statistic crunching nonsense that no one even looks at, yes we are accountable, don’t we know it! Who is accountable for the unfair and immoral way we are treated? Why has it not been picked up that teachers are leaving, why doesn’t some one high up look at the statistics of the average age teacher still in employment and WHY? WHY are so many going off sick? It speaks for itself but then I guess the truth Is hard for anyone to swallow, a nation run by people in charge who treat teachers, who are real people, the way they do are bringing up the next generation with morals like that.

  81. teacher for 16yrs says:

    Got to the point I was working so many hours (like Louise) You would be better off in Tescos! As the salary doesn’t equate to the hours you do! Tescos you are paid for the hours you do and there’s a cut off!! So you can have a life too!

  82. […] views are pretty accurately summed up in this piece by David Didau. The comments section that follows that piece is a vivid reminder that the horror […]

  83. sj sheen says:

    i am not sure why ppl are leaving. i qualified with a 2:1 in 2011. have not taught since. it is depressing as i grew 2 children and s
    upported my husband before at 43 i finally went to uni. im primary and live in a small part of uk but i apply for schools all over. please will someone give me a chance. (primary)

  84. […] link to a guardian article on why do so many teachers leave teaching […]

  85. Andrew says:

    I began teaching in the US (one year and had enough) and left at came to the UK in 2006 where I’ve been teaching ever since. I taught at a secondary school for four years in North Essex, before it merged with another and became one academy with 1,700 students. Let me tell you, I look back and think why did I stay there so long. Everything I hate about teaching was there, such as the social cliques, the favourites getting away with everything, back-stabbing senior staff, 25 year old SMT, etc. I left in Dec. 2012 and began my MA. Now, I only teach two days a week at a different school while I’m doing my post-graduate work, guess what, I am ready to leave.

  86. […] Whatever the reasons for it, one of the results of burnout is that around half of teachers leave the profession within five years. […]

  87. ian swift says:

    I entered teaching in england just 4 weeks ago and already near a mental breakdown. The behaviour of the students is shocking, i’m constantly been supervised and nothing i do is ever good enough. The timetable is a mess,i’ve classes once-twice a week so it’s hard to build relationships with them and i constantly feel more experienced colleagues are looking down at me. To get class control is near impossible and i’m sick of every1 telling me to do this and that yet the strategies never work. Support from staff is not great either in places. In essence the experience has been horrible and daunting, my boss was angry at me on several ocassions for getting too angry in an out of control classroom but what else was i supposed to do?? There’s only so much any1 can take and i’ve heard several colleagues say the same thing as me plus i know several friends from college who already handed their notice in. I for 1 can understand why so many people leave just after a month in the job.

    • Andrew says:

      Hi
      I can understand what you are saying. Sounds like the place I taught for nearly eight years in Clacton-on-Sea. I do supply now which is really paying the bills. However, at this academy I taught in, the kids were out of control. They only responded to certain people. I would fill out paperwork on these kids but for what. Certain people whose face didn’t fit were given the kids that no one wanted to teach. It was horrible.

      • ian swift says:

        yes and not only that but the attitude amongst the staff I’m entering is very off putting to new people. Like some are lovely but my subject department seem to get along quite well with each other but to newbies like me they are in the attitude that I’ll be pushed out. They mention the others that came and went before me-2 women and a man have already being pushed out of my department in the last year and the department didn’t seem to click with them. I feel like I’m the new expendable person now and I’m next to go-it’s horrible. Like i feel like an outsider and there’s like 10 of us or so, there’s this 1 girl who’s well in there with the head of department and i get this vibe from her since day 1 she wants me gone. I’ve tried give her an olive branch by chatting to her several times about trivial stuff and she just keeps it professional, even though she’s my age i feel intimated by her and she’s so nice to the rest of the ones, they socialise with each other-it’s really just not a nice atmosphere i’m getting in the school. I’ve tried adding her and 1 of the other girls on facebook but they rejected my request even though they are all friends with each other, it’s so unwelcoming and i feel uncomfortable around them now which in itself is never good for a work environment.

        • Andrew says:

          Hi Ian
          I’m really sorry you’re having such a difficult time. The academy I used to work in got to be extremely gossipy and full of backbiting. This happened after it became an academy. This new head that came in 2011 is very homophobic and made a few people’s lives difficult before I left. The new staff and certain others thought it was just an extension to university or secondary school but seemed to be the ones that got on well. Lots of teachers entering through the backdoor and it seemed everyone was related or had friends in high places that could get them jobs. However, I’ve been gone for almost two year and I rarely see anyone I taught with (mainly because I’ve moved 30 miles away), but when I do, I ignore them but they seem to get upset at that. They didn’t want anything to do with me or other people when we were working very hard over there but get offended if we don’t acknowledge them.

          • ian swift says:

            Yea i suppose all schools are gossipy- but there’s just this 1 teacher i told you off and i get such a hostile vibe from her. It’s like her and her groupies have formed a gang and I’m not getting in-it’s terribly petty and makes me feel awkward. Like come on if u seen some1 everyday and they sent u fb request and u reject it how the hell is that gonna make me feel? As aforementioned my timetable too is more a glorified babysitting timetable than actual teaching, i don’t feel the school even needs me t be honest.

          • Andrew says:

            Ian, you need to hand in your notice. The place will get you or get to you if you stay. That is what happened to me in Clacton. I left before they were able to get me but because I stayed so long, it really made me so depressed that I had to end up in therapy.

          • ian swift says:

            Yea mates are telling me to hand in my notice too, what gets me is how my school was graded as outstanding when the behavior is shocking, it goes to show you how ofsted is the biggest joke in all of the uk and its grading of a school in reality is pure false advertising and not reflective of what really happens behind closed doors. I had another bad class today who i struggled to control, when i told their teacher she put it on me for ‘not giving proper instructions’ when it was clearly written on power point,and made excuses for them. The system is a joke, the kids in English schools are cheeky brats who know they can get away with anything and the authorities in the schools have little power to change the behaviour. That’s where it’s all gone wrong- you certainly wouldn’t have had this problem 25-30 years ago. Give teachers back their power, if a student is consistently bad bring back corporal punishment-that would surely turn things around.

  88. karen says:

    Although I’m do not have any nvqs only 3yrs ta/ one to one support experience off working with young children with learning and behaviour problems I worked in a primary school and see how hard the teachers work and the lack of support they get I worked alongside hard working people that worked outside their payed hours sadly I had to leave due to family circumstances but would love to be able to get back into working alongside people that are passionate hard working people I’m sorry that this may not really have. Anything to do with what you have said I just felt I needed to say something.

  89. Tom Staszewski says:

    Teacher advocate defends today’s teachers. We should be thanking our teachers not criticizing them. Author Tom Staszewski, Total Teaching: Your Passion Makes It Happen. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.

    Copies are available through the publisher Rowman and Littlefield and also at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com or from Rowman & Littlefield Education Phone: (301) 459-3366, http://www.rowmaneducation.com Customer Service, Toll free: (800) 462-6420, custserv@rowman.com

    Total Teaching: Your Passion Makes It Happen
    By Dr. Tom Staszewski

    From the first-year teacher to the most experienced veteran, this book will provide an inspiring message that yes, indeed…teaching is the most noble profession. It serves as an acknowledgement of the importance of teachers and recognizes that ‘teaching is the profession that has created all other professions.’ This book provides real-life tools, tips and strategies to have a successful school year and to persevere beyond the challenges associated with the profession. This inspiring book is filled with insightful and meaningful stories and examples, it provides a motivational pep talk to help teachers stay focused, to succeed in the classroom, to maintain the passion that brought them into the profession and develop a plan to be the best that they can be!

    As featured in http://www.teacherscount.org TeachersCount is working to create a permanent culture of teacher appreciation in the United States.
    Total Teaching: Your Passion Makes It Happen, By Tom Staszewski, Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Education Available for purchase on Barnes and Noble.com or http://www.rowmaneducation.com

    Teaching standards have risen and so have teacher stress levels. The pressure imposed on teachers by administrators, parents, and students, often creates feelings of teacher self-doubt. Luckily, Total Teaching by Tom Staszewski offers those in this much beleaguered profession both guidance and inspiration.
    Offering constructive advice and teaching tools, Total Teaching provides readers with a source of hope. Staszewski provides tips and proven strategies for success that are applicable both inside and outside the classroom. If you are looking for a gift for a special teacher, or looking to purchase a bit of personal inspiration, TOTAL TEACHING will help shine some light at the end of your tunnel.

    Frequently asked questions about Total Teaching…Your Passion Makes it Happen,
    written by Dr. Tom Staszewski, tomstasz@neo.rr.com

    What prompted you to write the book?

    In this era of policy change and educational reform at the K-12 level, suddenly “everybody” has become an expert on our school systems. In my opinion, there is a great amount of unjustified criticism that is unfairly being leveled against our schools and our teachers. Most of the criticism is unfounded, baseless, undeserved and distorted. Many critics of our school systems have never set foot in a classroom to see what’s going on —other than their own experience as a former student—and their criticism is erroneous and counterproductive. If they (critics) would take the time to better understand just how hard the teaching profession really is, they would change their criticism to face the reality of today’s schools and society at large. I believe that most critics would find it difficult to even make it through even one day in the life of a typical teacher. The essence behind the book is that today’s teachers are under a lot of pressure and scrutiny and there is a need for more support, recognition and appreciation for the good that they are providing for society. So the point of my book is to inform the uninformed about how difficult it is to teach in many of today’s schools. And to provide recognition to educators and to thank teachers for the positive difference they are making in society. I’ve always said that our schools are a reflection of society and society at large has changed and undergone a dramatic shift from previous generations. The book also focuses on the success stories and “what’s right” with our schools rather than “what’s wrong” with our schools. Unlike previous generations…in many homes today, whether it be a single parent household or with both parents home…many parents send their kids to school unfed, unprepared and with little or no basic skills and often with no social skills, etc.

    In my previous work as a motivational speaker and professional development trainer, I have personally worked with thousands and thousands of teachers statewide and nationwide and I have found them to be hard-working, dedicated, industrious and committed to the success of their students. It’s about time that someone has taken a stand to recognize and acknowledge the value to society that teachers are providing and to thank them for their dedication.

  90. AN other says:

    It’s rather ironic that I found this post whilst looking for stories of how people have successfully left teaching. I teach Maths in England and have been looking for a viable way out of teaching virtually since I finished my PGCE 7 years ago.
    I could write a multi-thousand word essay on the evils I have encountered within these 7 years, suffice to say that after 2 years in my first school I was having suicidal thoughts on my drive in to work each day – just so I wouldn’t have to face it. I did supply for about 6 months after that and seeing how different schools operated kept me in the profession. I took up another permanent post and rediscovered the reason why I’d gone into teaching in the first place. I was rated regularly Outstanding and Good with outstanding features. I climbed the ladder and was appointed as second in department. Slowly, however, things changed. What had once been the criteria for outstanding was now only good with a similar slide down the scale. But it was ok as I was still mostly Good or at least Satisfactory with good features. Then satisfactory wasn’t good enough any more and was changed to “requires improvement” the most pernicious and degrading phrase the government and Ofsted have ever come up with. So I came under intense scrutniy again. Labelled a failing teacher. Told that I wasnt working hard enough, I needed to commit more to the job to meet the grade.
    I spiralled again. If you’re told your crap often enough, you begin to believe it yourself, it becomes a self-fulfilling statement. Every waking moment (at home and at school) was filled with guilt that I wasn’t chipping away at the mountain of work created by my job. I was having my home-life with my family ruined by my job because, if I wasn’t working, I was worrying about work.
    It wasn’t until 3 members of my family were diagnosed with cancer within 6 months of each other that things broke. I was told I couldn’t let these “extraneous events” affect my work. I walked away. I was willing to commit financial suicide – bankrupty, losing the house, the car, all personal possessions and permanent credit blacklisting rather than face another day in job where i was not even recognised as a person just to pay the bills.
    Why do teachers leave the profession? Because of shit like this. We are people not automatons. We should not be expected to be a teacher 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We should not be expected to commit out entire lives to it at the expense of every other aspect of lving. It is a job, it pays the bills. We should not have to face constant degredation by our managers, by the media, by the government and by the pupils.
    I now teach in an FE college (where the pressures are slightly less although on the increase – particularly in my subject) but it is merely a stopgap until I can find a financially viable route out. I hate this job and I actively discourage anybody I encounter from even considering teaching in this country. Because of this I will never been anything other than a “requires improvement” teacher. I will not allow my home life to be ruined by the ridiculous demands of a job which has no positive aspects for me anymore.

  91. Tom says:

    Right folks, here we go.

    I am a PGCE student (Secondary MFL and EAL) who signed up because he wanted a job where he could make positive contributions to the lives of children, share his passion for the subject he loves and to work in an exciting, fast paced environment. I want to work hard and I want to see children succeed and develop as a result of my efforts.

    However, I have become increasingly wary of continuing a career in teaching when I finish the course. Just before Christmas my enthusiasm was extremely worn down by the workload (obviously not the same as a NQT or later teacher, but high for a beginner) and the lack of time I had for anything outside of the PGCE, eating (though not properly a lot of the time!) and sleeping (minimal). In fact, there wasn’t even enough time for the proper reflection that is required of you in the PGCE (although probably exacerbated by my 3 hour per day commute on four modes of transport). I was fully expecting this to be a year of intense, hard work and accept that this is the case – rightly or wrongly – but this kind of constant, unmanageable workload where I feel I can’t do anything to the best of my ability because there is so much of it is not what I want for my life (especially so if I start a family in a few years).

    The workload isn’t the only issue. It is safe to say that the vast majority of my coursemates are disillusioned with the target-driven culture they found in their placement schools. The head of department in my first placement was very preoccupied with ways of inflating his pupils’ grades and making his department look good for the SLT and OFSTED, while his teaching of the French language even to me as an inexperienced teacher was clearly lacking. Much of the system has become essentially fraudulent (‘re-doing’ of controlled assessments several times is an example of this) and instead of teaching children valuable life lessons, figures and stats become the priority at the expense of a good education. Categorically, I am NOT in teaching for this and am too principled and idealistic to be a part of it and I’m worried that I’ll find it difficult to actually find a school that matches, at least in part, my ideals and provides adequate support.

    So I’m asking two questions:

    1. Can anyone share with me some positive experiences (there’s a lot of negativity on here!)

    2. What career alternatives could I have (maybe in education, but maybe in youth work, local government or charity sector) if I choose not to teach?

    Thank you!

    • David Didau says:

      Tom, I’m sorry to hear you’re thinking of quitting. In answer to your first question there are plenty of schools which don’t take the approach to education you describe. When it comes time for you to apply for job, make sure you visit schools in advance, talk to them about their values and make sure you don’t accept a job in a school which doesn’t share your beliefs and isn’t committed to supporting you.

      • Andrew says:

        Yes, but even if you do visit the schools (like I did), they will just show you the good part but leave out many of the negatives. I started doing supply after leaving the school I taught at for eight year. I did regular cover two days a week at another school from May to July 2013. It was great and really enjoyed teaching the kids. They offered me a part time two day a week contract. I accepted thinking that I would enjoy teaching there. Then once I accepted, they gave me all of the classes no one wanted to teach. In the end, it was just as bad the other place.

  92. Jenny says:

    Hi this makes for very interesting reading. My husband had a bad training experiences and poor leadership in subsequent schools, he is now off with depression and stress and has resigned. He is seeking other jobs but is finding this difficult. I too am a teacher and was lucky in my experience up until I fell pregnant when several hideous meetings took place claiming that I suddenly could not do my job anymore since falling pregnant?
    I gave up my leadership role to go part time to be with my son but every meeting or change in route is extremely stressful as politics are in play all the time. Despite having been consistently graded outstanding in every school and going through threshold nobody wants a part time teacher!
    It seems that in order to be outstanding you have to work from 6am until midnight, as I know NQT’s that do just to stay ahead. Ironically teaching and being a parent don’t seem to mix yet how many times have we seen children who are suffering from not being at home or having parents who spend time reading or on homework? I would leave the profession but I know I am good at what I do and believe that I do make a difference no matter how small.
    Ofsted pressure is the biggest killer in the profession and I am fed up of hearing the phrase “you need to play the game” when it comes to Ofsted – teaching is not a game it is the future of many generations.

    • ian swift says:

      Exactly Ofsted is a wart on the face of the English education system, it should be done away with immediately. After all look at Ireland-there is no Ofsted there and their education system is regarded in higher esteem than the English 1 plus teachers there are nowhere near as stressed but are allowed to get on with their work without silly impossible hoops to jump through. Look at the difference in drop out rates between teachers is UK and Ireland and you’ll see my point.

  93. Skimble says:

    Think what it would cost if no one dropped out and everyone taught until age 67.

    • ian swift says:

      You are missing the entire point. The fact is that people will always drop out of professions but the rate of teacher drop outs within the U.K. is alarmingly high, if 4-5 out of every ten are leaving within the 1st 5 years then it doesn’t take a mathematician to know that this figure is way too high and it is evident that something is clearly very wrong within the system. Not only that but I have read that the government’s struggle to fill teacher training courses in the U.k so it seems that perhaps even young people are been warned off the profession. The U.K. now as it stands has a shortage of teachers [I know for England anyway] and is forced to try to recruit from other countries[English schools are now fill of Irish, Canadians or Australians]. What’s ironic is that they don’t appreciate the teachers they do have and many are forced out of the job every year. I know of a rough school in kent where 19 staff members all left at the same time last year.

      • Andrew says:

        Clacton Coastal Academy always has a big turnover, mainly because people are being forced out due to bullying, etc. Young eager enthusiastic who have only been there one year become senior management only to bully other staff. Homophobia is a big problem there amoung the staff members. Top heavy SLT but no one know what they are doing because there is no direction. This is only some of the things that go on there and other schools throughout the country. Schools such as CCA can’t keep teachers but put on a false performance for Ofsted or in the media to make the school look better than it is.

        • ian swift says:

          With my school it was bad management in the school that has it screwed, for instance I started in January and was thrown into classes with no experience and they ate me alive. If I went to the boss he did little and even blamed the behaviour on me. This went on for 2 good months b4 I finally took the plunge and started punishing kids myself and im seen improvement. But now because of the trouble I had initially im been pushed out of the school even though im finally getting class control and the kids to respond…

      • i am not sure that UK has a shortage of teachers ? Just look at the TES unemployment forum. This is my own experience too, one head I know told me she had 83 applicants for a pt job covering maternity, she said that a few yrs ago she would have struggled to fill the position.
        I tell myself that i want a teaching job so much, after being 28k in debt, 4 yrs of study and no job but after reading the what its like i am not sure. I coped ok on placements but did give up my life tbh

        • ian swift says:

          Depends where you are but in the South of England there is a shortage for certain subjects anyway- sure if they have to go to Canada and Ireland to recruit it obviously means a shortage.

  94. […] Why do so many teachers leave teaching […]

  95. D Steward says:

    All interesting accounts. I have found the worst thing about teaching is Head Teachers/Governors. Between them they control the school and most are on one big power trip with no interest in teaching or anything other than their own interest. As a teacher I have been treat with total contempt by both, after all you can be replaced.

  96. Rob Shaw says:

    Does anyone know who i could contact to make a Freedom of Information request concerning the number of teachers currently off work with stress related illness. 3 0r 4 from my wifes school in last couple years

  97. Another story to add to your list. I qualified as a Secondary Art & Design teacher. I love Art! Unfortunately I was never able to find a job in this subject area. A Math colleague informed me in my first year in the profession that apparently we are in abundance. Due to our lack of academic skills we never go further than HOD. This ensures limited movement and fewer posts.
    I moved into Additional Learning Needs again it was implied by my peers that this area was for people with limited academic skills! :) I kept smiling though! I eventually found a job in a place that was ok, not fantastic but OK!!! I was told that if I wanted to keep my job during my NQT year I needed to lie to the ESIS inspector. I was to tell her that the school was fully supporting me or I wouldn’t keep my job. I had no NQT time or PPA at all in first year. (This is not an exaggeration I mean nothing) The ESIS comment was outstanding teacher of SEN.
    I had to go and see the Head teacher at the end of the year to tell him I hadn’t received any training out of my NQT money. He paid for me to do an SEN Diploma which was a result of sorts. I passed with mostly B grades for my essays. It was extremely difficult as my son was 2 and I am a single parent. On a Tues each week during term time I left him at 8 am and didn’t see him until 5pm the following evening. I had all the research and reading to do, the essays and case studies to produce and in addition I was jumping through every hoop my HOD put in place. This included giving up my lunchtime every day to provide pastoral pupil support. At the end of four years after being on 4 temporary contracts I was replaced by an NQT under a different job description.
    I decided to take a year out. This year I worked for a female Head teacher who did not investigate when a male member of staff sent me a picture of his penis because he had left!!!!! lolololololol She allowed the Deputy Headteacher to bully me because she didn’t want to deal with it (said deputy is being investigated for the third time for hitting a child I think!) She herself called me in the office and demanded to know why I would not come into work on my days off or supervise children in my lunchtime. I was not paid at all for 2 months and was missing £850 for a further 4 months. My comment during the Estyn inspection there was Outstanding no areas for improvement.
    Turns out my son has an ALN and from a parents point of view the two schools he has been in SUCK for want of a better description. Life is a funny old thing and I do not understand it at all. I have chosen to leave this school and go back on supply. I’m not hopeful about my teaching career.

  98. james says:

    Im not surprised by this article, my mum is a teacher and she warned me many years ago never go into the profession. There is no respect from parents, the kids and society. maybe this is one of the reasons why britain is doing so badly in international education league tables. The number of teachers leaving the profession will continue to climb. Society needs a different attitude towards learning.

  99. Burnt out husk! says:

    By the time Friday comes I feel physically sick with the effort I have put in to ‘positively behaviour manage’ my class of 34 year 5’s. I’ve been teaching 8 years and feel like a burnt out husk. I’ve never got less than good observations from anyone including ofsted, but feel I just can’t keep going. I don’t even know why. I don’t take piles of work home, and I don’t spend hours making resources. But then again upon saying that i havent had a lunch or coffee break in 8 years either and i always work on a sunday afternoon!

    But the parents are abusive, I’m constantly being told I’m lazy by non teaching friends and the government, I’m not allowed to raise my voice or berrate children who are badly behaved and rude. It’s constantly don’t do this and don’t do that. I’m fed up of being teacher, social worker, counsellor, parent figure, babysitter, friend, police officer, Sargent major, waitress and servant. I’m physically exhausted at the end of every day. Kids now days are generally extremely rude and know their power. I’ve been yelled at in the playground, physically threatened, sworn at and that’s just the parents!! I’ve had kids stare up at me and grin whilst their mummy is yelling abuse at me. I’m constantly being bombarded with the fact that we have to spiritually and morally raise these children whilst providing them with an outstanding education … Sorry I didn’t realise it was my job to make a child moral … Does this mean parents can fully wash their hands of responsibility for their children now? Cos afterall if little angel ends up being immoral it will be all my fault! Do you know what the saddest part is? I’ve gone from desperately wanting my own children to taking double contraception because I really do not want them anymore. I can’t do this job and come home to more kids. I just can’t. We have all the responsibility and none of the power or respect. I have often used the phrase ‘I am treated like an 18th century servant in a house full of rich aristocrats’ if I do anything to upset little angel then I am spoken to and treated by the parents as if I am a lower class waste of space that is teaching because I am there to serve them and courtesy to every demand and whim they throw at me.

    When I was a kid if the teacher had said I had done something bad then I was punished at home. My parents never even questioned the teacher. There was no excuse for my poor behaviour.

    I just feel incapable of doing my job well.

    Mr Gove has decided that children should be at school for 10 hours per day and have all the ‘opportunities’ he had in boarding school. Does he not realise that the ‘opportunities’ he got were his parents telling him loud and clear that they didn’t want him? Some parents actually want to see their kids after school, not write to them! Congratulations mr gove, you’re destroying education and brilliant teachers.

  100. […] the period between 2007 and early 2013, according to TES. But for those in active employment, about 50% leave the job within the first five years. During the 2010-11 work year, almost 48,000 teachers left their jobs allegedly as a result of […]

  101. ian swift says:

    sounds very like the school i’m in and my situation with behaviour but hey don’t lose hope-some schools just don’t suit certain people for different reasons[school politics, smt, the behaviour, colleagues, the atmosphere, the support system…] and can put you off the job for life. Sometimes all it takes is a different school and things can improve dramatically- I’ve seen this with colleagues in my current school that I hate and plan to exit soon yet ironically 1 colleague who left her last school because she hated it now loves this school which I detest! All schools are different remember. I’m the same as you-it’s not the paperwork or workload as I don’t have alot-it’s just the bad behaviour and the kids I don’t click with and I don’t agree with the bureaucracy of the school on behaviour management which makes my job impossible-hang in there try a new school if you hate it or even try supply for a while because life is too short to stay somewhere you hate.

  102. ian swift says:

    Sounds like me, yes I started so willing as well but behaviour too crippled me within 4 months and I wanted out and I saw this happen to others as well. What the cruel mentality is in many schools is either sink or swim and many sink-the young enthuastic nqt comes into the classroom in a tough school little realising that a lot of college was a waste and would in no way prepare you for been thrown in a classroom with 30 kids. What’s worse is that support systems in schools can be terrible and if your kids are misbehaving no1 will save you.

  103. D J Steward says:

    Hi

    After 8 years of trying to find a full time teaching post I have given up; ‘moved on’. Undertook Supply Work for 4 years and was treated very poorly; students, resident teachers, parents, governors and top of the list Head Teachers treated me like a third class failure. More than one Head Teacher stated that as a Supply Teacher I was a drain on their school; asserted that Supply Teachers should work for free!

    I have observed first hand, many ‘experienced’ teachers, being paid a good wage and yet have both low expectations for both them selves and their pupils; their main aim was to survive in the teaching profession as they were in for the ‘long haul’, ie ‘work just hard enough to get to the end of the week’. Many teachers will openly assert just how well paid and secure the job is and lets be honest the holidays are very good.

    As to why I have failed to secure a single interview for any teaching post, Head Teachers and Governors offered the feedback that scientist are not required, especially those with a PhD. Apparently, I would be unable to get down to the level of the pupils! The fact that I trained as a Primary Teacher, hold a First Class degree in History (BA) in addition to a BSc and a PhD, appears to be lost on school governors; perhaps the real reason is that I am a ‘man’ and most primary schools are 100% female.

    • Andrew says:

      Try being a teacher from North America. I’ve lived in the UK for almost ten years and let me tell you teaching in the UK sucks. Kids and staff alike mock you and after a while, it hurts. This happened at my old school and has been happening where I work at now (or worked). I loved doing supply. After leaving my old school in order to purse my postgraduate degree, I made a living doing supply and really felt appreciated it. Then I was taken on by a school that I did regular supply at for two days a week (very convenient, so that I thought). However, problems began such as being treated like a second class person, mocked, portrayed as a joke by staff and teachers, having to attend meetings for every little thing, and to top everything off, being placed on suspension pending an investigation. I go back tomorrow for a meeting about what I supposedly did but will probably tender my resignation and request to terminate my contract early, which is an option. The supposed investigation was something minor but of course was blown out of proportion. I was assured it wouldn’t lead to bad reference or dismissal but how can I go back and work with those people and kids after this? I’ll go back to doing supply.

    • AM says:

      Or perhaps your arrogance is offputting?

  104. teacher says:

    http://www.facebook/leavingteaching great page for ideas and support for those teachers thinking of
    leaving the job

  105. IS says:

    Yikes! I thought things were only bad in the U.S. where on top of all the b.s. you have all mentioned with painstaking detail we have the added pressure of out -of -control school violence. After 17 years of domestic service – not in the same distric – I have decided to “have at it” overseas as an ESL teacher. And apart from some of my colleagues it doesnt look like the administrative staff will miss meet at all. :)

  106. Luis says:

    I’m also leaving teaching. I came to the UK to retrain and become a Maths teacher. The experience has been terrible from day 1. However, I always knew my vocation was teaching.

    I love tutoring. All the problems of teaching disappear when I’m a tutor.
    I believe it is so because when I tutor I make the rules which a client may accept or not. This feeling of control, of doing what I feel is best – not what I’m told to do or what OFSTED wants – is precious. There is no bad behaviour, no unnecessary meetings or pointless tasks. Tutoring is more like teaching than teaching is.

    Hence, I am creating my tutoring and school intervention business in London and Kent. I know what works and I want to do what works. Just what works. The results will do the talking for me.

    If you are flexible regarding working hours, have great subject knowledge and have an exceptional ability for developing others’ learning, join me – check out my website http://www.prelude-education.co.uk. I’m a great believer in the power of cooperation – people coming together to develop something they believe in. I believe in better education by sticking to classical principles rather than modern pedagogic theory.

  107. […] Why do so many teachers leave teaching? 27th February 2013 – 45,862 […]

  108. I really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. I assure this would be beneficial for most of the people.

  109. […] teachers feel unhappy, overworked and inclined to quit.  404,600 trained teachers under 60 are no longer teaching (almost as many as are (451,000)).  In an NUT survey “90% of respondents had considered […]

  110. […] can be little doubt of the toxic and pernicious effects of teachers’ workload (this post from 2012 on why teachers leave teaching is far and away still my post popular post and the some of the comments left make me despair.) In a […]

  111. t0t4lly says:

    i have 5 year old twins, boys, and even as a committed Christian I would not be sure about whether teaching or drug dealing would be the better ‘profession’. It is horrible what we have done to this profession. We would all be WAY better off home schooling if our governments and big businesses hadn’t ensured that a family can no longer live off a single income ( as was possible not no long ago).

  112. mark fagan says:

    The movie ‘the breakfast club’ perfectly sums up why there are so many disillusioned teachers when it examines a character who like many on this board is fed up of teaching, it explains quite well why there are so many[but not all that leave] who walk from the profession with the following quote:

    ”You took a teaching position, ’cause
    you thought it’d be fun, right?
    Thought you could have summer
    vacations off…and then you found
    out it was actually work…and that
    really bummed you out.”

    Yes this rings true in that so many teachers and indeed the outside world in general look to teaching as a safe career for all the wrong reasons – 13 weeks holidays in the U.K[ IN IRELAND AND OTHER COUNTRIES IT CAN EVEN BE HIGHER.] Yes i have often heard so many people go on about teaching as the dream job for that reason and that ”its a 9- 3.30 job and you have weekends off”.But you only have to read this board to see that image blown apart and to see that teaching in reality is a tough, relentless, time consuming job which can easily take over your life. Not only have you got targets to reach, there are countless lessons to plan, tonnes of marking, ofsted always looming, meeting to attend, parent complaints,inspections, slt on your back 24/7 and watching the progress of your students, bad behaviour and poor support in some schools, those cherished ‘holidays’ and ‘weekends’ often become filled with work related tasks such as paperwork or marking… Get my drift- that’s the question answered-why do so many people quit teaching? Because they have no idea what teaching actually involves and how stressful a job it is.

    • Andrew says:

      I don’t think there is a teacher who expects teaching to be easy. I also believe that most teachers believe that that holiday time will be used for prepping or recuperating from the previous year and getting their energy back.

      What drives teachers out of the profession is the expectations from lazy headteachers and other people including the 25 year olds who worm their way to the top and have never taught a low set in their life but claim to be the experts in behaviour management. There is also the feeling of being smothered by everything else, poor behaviour, lack of respect from parents, community, and students, being made to be a parent to all kids except your own, and finally, useless meetings being planned by morons who want to kiss backsides.

      With everything mentioned above, there is no time to teach and connect with your students. This is exactly the reason why I left will never ever teach in another British school again. What I mentioned earlier describes a certain secondary school in Clacton-on-Sea very well.

      I also want to point out the fact that teachers get sick of all the petty juvenile behaviour and backbiting that they encounter from fellow teachers. Many teachers, forget that they have left secondary school but still act like they are there. “Oh so and so spoke to me in a rude way today”. I also want to point out that it is apparently, according to some headteachers and teaching staff, it is unethical for people to want to go to work, teach, do their jobs, and leave work behind. That isn’t being a “team player” .

      What I described aboves is what I encountered every single day and it seems to me that many of the teachers I worked with at this particular Clacton school became teachers because they couldn’t get enough of sixth form or they were too stupid to make it anywhere else. That my friend describes many headteachers and teachers and the professional people who are leaving teaching to pursue other degrees or higher degrees like I am doing, don’t want to be bothered with this because they don’t need it.

      Have a nice day.

Constructive feedback is always appreciated

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