Where are all the teachers going?

525px-TeacherBritishMuseumThe Telegraph recently reported that the British government is planning to conduct a drive to recruit teachers from abroad, due to a national shortage. Government targets for the recruitment of trainee teachers have not been met, which suggests that it is difficult to make teaching an attractive career prospect. A perceived lack of discipline and cases of violence against them in the news might go some way to explaining why people are reluctant to become teachers, but there are other, more fundamental reasons as well – a lack of support and overwhelming workload, for example. Perhaps most pointedly of all, The Guardian reported that four out of every ten newly qualified teachers leave the profession within a year.

New teachers need a lot of support from their colleagues. They need to be able to ask questions, get advice, to learn how to maintain discipline in the classroom. This kind of support can be difficult for other teaching staff to provide, especially if they are dealing with large workloads of their own.
A school’s behaviour policy can have a substantial impact on the experiences of the newly qualified teacher. The policy must offer a clear code of behaviour and varying levels of sanctions to be applied in the event that the code is not followed. It should be communicated to all pupils and staff in ways that are meaningful and easy to understand. A well-structured senior management team with clearly allocated roles and responsibilities should enforce the school behaviour policy and be available to teachers for support when needed.

The aforementioned overwhelming workloads could also account for the teacher shortage. It is a common misconception that teachers have short days and long holidays. Most professionals in education spend many hours of their ‘free’ time creating lesson plans, developing resources, researching, and marking and evaluating the work of their pupils. In other industries, professionals are compensated handsomely for time spent working long hours. Teachers are paid relatively low wages in conjunction with the number of hours that they are required to work. This suggests that the government should develop ways of either lessening the workload of education providers, or ensuring that they are paid a reasonable rate for their work.

This is an issue that is not going to go away, and it will most likely continue to rise to prominence in the education sector, in the media and in parliament.

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I'm a former English teacher and private tutor who is passionate about education. I've been writing professionally for the past three years and have written educational worksheets for use in schools as well as contributing to an educational journal. I've also written on every other topic under the sun!

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