England’s teachers resigning in record numbers

Teachers in England are resigning in record numbers, according to official figures released by the Department for Education (DfE).

The most recent DfE workforce survey shows 40,000 teachers resigned from state schools last year, comprising almost 9% of the entire workforce.

This is the highest number of resignations on record since the department started publishing the annual workforce survey in 2011.

The Londoners spoke with two young teachers at a primary and secondary school to find out more about why this is the case, and the impact it is having on children in the capital.

The first primary teacher we spoke to from London has been working for several years at her current school, where many pupils have special educational needs, and “support from parents is poor”.

The National Education Union said the recent strikes were over a “toxic mix of low pay and excessive workload”, which seemed to reflect this teacher’s experiences.

She explained: “It’s tough with the amount of work we put in and the expectations of working outside of work hours.”

Things seem to be particularly difficult for young people entering the teaching profession.

She explained that despite the long hours, young teachers in London struggle with saving money and being able to pay rent, with many, including her, having to stay at home with their parents.

She added: “There’s a culture of guilt on the weekends and this belief that you could be doing more.”

According to her, this is a key part of the reason why a record number of teachers resigned from state schools last year.

On top of this, teachers have to provide evidence of each student’s learning which she claimed can be time consuming and wasteful.

The teacher explained that years two and six, the SATs years, can be moderated, meaning she has had to prepare evidence for these years showing that every child is working at the right standard.

However, there was a lack of communication about how she should gather that information which resulted in a last minute scramble to get everything in place, which took away from her actual teaching at a very important time.

She added: “There’s not much trust or faith in teachers. There’s a lot of evidencing and having to prove yourself which is a big waste of time.”

In another example, she explained that ‘knowledge organisers’ were introduced at the end of each topic to sum up everything learned.

Her school had realised pupils were not gaining anything from this but continued to push for them as they knew it would look good to Ofsted.

Looking to the future, she said that her and her young colleagues had been having conversations about how teaching could possibly be a feasible career if they decide to have children of their own.

Even if she were to go part-time, she believes this would be a struggle.

Teacher resignations seem to have correlated with a steep rise in vacant teaching positions since 2020, with 2,100 vacancies in 2022.

Subsequently, there has also been an increase in temporary-filled positions, with 3,000 cover teachers being brought in to manage understaffing in 2022.

The second teacher we spoke to was an early career secondary teacher whose school is currently dealing with a staff turnover crisis.

Nine early career teachers (ECTs) have been hired, with a third of these less experienced new staff being put in his department.

This turnover of teachers is affecting students, he said.

He added: “Especially where teachers leave in the middle of the year, there is a lot of cover which does not create the best learning environment.

“I spoke to one student recently who didn’t even know who their English teacher was as they had different supply teachers for so long.

“They became very unfamiliar with the curriculum, and the general chaos can create more behavioural problems.”

He said there needs to be far more appreciation of the efforts of teachers and that this needs to translate into an acceptable pay increase.

This teacher was grateful that he was able to live at home with his parents, as he said it would be impossible to move out and make ends meet on his current salary.

He said: “While I love teaching and I do it for the students, there does come a point where you have to think about yourself and whether the pay will ever get better.”

Teachers who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) took place in walkouts on Wednesday and Friday last week, in the latest round of industrial action over pay disputes.

Thousands of those on strike marched in Westminster and rallied in Parliament Square. 

Further industrial action has today been voted for by the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASWUT), again, over pay concerns.

However, the Government has since confirmed teachers will receive a 6.5% pay rise.

Between disruption to education from teacher turnover and the strike days themselves, the education of pupils’ is undoubtedly suffering, and without a new pay offer on the table it appears that this is likely to continue.

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