This post is part of the Blog Synch where each month teachers write a blog post around a chosen topic check out the website to find out how others have tackled this month’s topic “Wasted investment? Why do so many teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years?”
I have been thinking about this post pretty much since the topic was put up; it’s something that I feel very strongly about, I think it is essential to address it. Some of the incredible posts such as the one written by Gwen are understandably emotive, emotional and powerful after all people’s lives are at stake here. This ‘waste of investment’ is not just a waste of resources in terms of finance, tutor and mentor time etc but most importantly there is a heavy personal cost to each teacher that leaves the profession particularly in the early years of their career. These decisions are rarely made without some emotional cost with far reaching impact on the rest of their career.
I find it intimidating to follow the excellent posts written for this month’s topic, what can I add to the debate? I would like to try and develop a slightly different angle. In fact I will need to take a different tack because I’m not a school teacher, when I retrained 20 years ago to teach I purposely chose to train to teach in post 16 education as I already had concerns about the education system and the way in which it functions. I have however worked as a manager and tutor in Adult and Community Learning based in community colleges so I was both an insider and an outsider giving me a unique opportunity to observe with insight. My last role gave me another unique opportunity to see how schools worked; I engaged with SLT and then later worked with their emerging middle leaders, there was often a chasm between the two.
So we have about half of teachers leaving the profession within the first five years of their career. I confess I haven’t checked the data and will take it on trust because I am not even sure whether the details are important as it is apparent that across the profession and in some schools in particular things are not right. There are a number of factors that many agree contribute to teachers taking the decision to resign let’s just run through them.
- Pay – well to be fair teachers’ pay is comparable to many early stage professional pay scales and as Michael Tidd mentions in his blog pay is not necessarily what motivates people.
- Working hours – mmm this is more difficult this can grind you down certainly during term time but there is an opportunity to redress the balance during the holidays
- Change – well there is a lot of that about and always has been, it’s frustrating to a certain extent but I would be surprised that it would be too much to deal with during the first five years.
- Inspection – yes this is annoying, raises blood pressures and anxiety levels leaving you feeling dis-empowered but it shouldn’t be the end of the world
- They made the wrong decision – teaching is not for them
- They find other opportunities more suited to them
- A major life event makes it impossible to stay with the job
- They become disillusioned because of
- Being micro-managed
- A lack of support from senior management
- Being stifled by systems that put constraints on their creativity and innovation
And I would like to add here as I feel that it is often alluded to but rarely addressed, the brave Gwen being an exception
Apart from pay and points 2 and 3 from Ben’s post I think that the culture, ethos and leadership in the school are key to addressing the issues that lead to disillusion of staff. It is the responsibility of the senior leadership team to ensure that the school including the support, admin and ancillary staff have an emotionally healthy workplace. Unhappy people create unhappy outcomes and education establishments cannot afford to do this as these have a significant impact on significant numbers of children and the way they live their lives.
Let’s look at the issues about being disillusioned – micro-management this often arises from poor management skills and a lack of confidence by the manager to provide scaffolding for people to develop their skills to their full potential … oh that sounds like the skills that good teachers use every day in the classroom so why when it comes to supporting colleagues does this skill vanish. I suppose the manager may have been promoted before they had the chance to develop the skills and or the modelling of those skills by their manager are lacking.
A lack of support from senior management I think that this is an issue in many schools I am not condemning all senior management teams but I have seen a number who become so involved with the pressures of their job that they risk losing touch with the needs of the children in their care. Those needs are addressed on a day to day basis by the teachers it is therefore important to provide an environment that the teachers can do their job effectively. I am not suggesting mollycoddling teachers they are professionals they would be horrified at the thought but what they do have a right to expect is a working environment that allows them to get on with their job, to take risks, to be creative, to feel valued. Equally if staff are ‘ under performing’ they need timely support to develop their potential and in my experience the sooner that happens the easier it is to get back on track. This also provides the individual with some honest information on which to base their decisions about their future.
I have had the privilege of visiting and working with a range of schools and from what I can see if a culture of hard work and respect for others and oneself is promoted along with the freedom to be creative and take risks both students and staff are motivated. From this safe and challenging culture the other things that schools are measured by often tend to fall into place such as Ofsted inspections, exam results and other targets.
In my experience it is the quiet unassuming schools that often achieve this as they are all working together for the benefit of their students and each other; the extrinsic measures of success are rarely their main focus.