Responding to a study on the teacher workforce published today by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“This report supports what our members have been saying for some time – that teacher recruitment is a pipeline leaking at both ends. The government is still failing to provide enough newly qualified teachers for our growing school population. But there is also a serious retention problem, with too many experienced teachers leaving prematurely.
“The number of teachers leaving the profession has risen since 2010, to more than 10% of both secondary and primary teachers. NFER suggest that this is due to very low levels of job satisfaction and an unsustainable work-life balance. This reflects what we hear from our members, and given that teachers in this country work longer hours for less money than their international peers, it is hardly surprising.
“Currently teachers work an average of 54 hours a week and school leaders over 60. And all under the pressure of an ever more punitive accountability system where one bad year of test results can destroy a career. NAHT believes that school accountability is at the heart of the teacher recruitment and retention crisis. Government is responding but wide reform is needed if we are to ensure that the profession is attractive.
“Ofsted’s new accountability framework for September 2019 presents a golden opportunity to cut back a major source of stress. The scale of the changes being proposed is necessary but implementation in the time available will simply add to the problem. Failing to provide enough time to make change will only add to the stress and workload as schools rush to prepare themselves.
“That is why we are calling on Ofsted to press pause on its plans for a short time. Our Improving School Accountability report makes nine sensible recommendations for change, and these proposals have widespread support; we continue to call upon Ofsted to agree an implementation timetable that will not be counter-productive.
“On a good day, teaching is one of the most rewarding careers imaginable. The trouble is, there just aren’t enough good days. For many teachers and school leaders, the enormous privilege of helping young people learn and grow can be outweighed by the pressure and workload of the profession they’ve chosen.
“Teachers are graduates who have many career choices open to them. They go into teaching with passion, because they care and want to make a difference, but we have to treat them well and respect their need for a proper work-life balance if we expect them to stay.”
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