Interview with ‘Inspirational Teacher of the Year’, Abi Steady (Part Two)

It was recently announced that we’ll need 750,000 more school places by 2025 to support the pupil population. Following on from last week’s interview in which she talked about the importance of getting the right team in place in an SEN school, Abi Steady, Deputy Head at Ashmount School and winner of the ‘Inspirational Teacher of the Year’ award at the Leicester Mercury School Awards, shares her thoughts about how to stop the leakage of teachers in the industry.

More pupils, more teachers

We’re already facing a teacher shortage and the only way we’re going to bridge the gap is by first stopping the leakage. There are some fantastic teachers out there who are tipping out of the system within two or three years primarily because they feel unappreciated and burnt out.

I seek to lead by example in demonstrating how outstanding teaching can be achieved alongside a balanced and fulfilling life outside of school. In addition to my work and family life I also run a gym in the evenings and at the weekends and compete, both nationally and internationally, in a variety of martial arts. I urge trainee teachers, NQTs and experienced teachers alike to protect the time they give to non-work related activities. Teaching can so easily become an all-consuming and therefore overwhelming career. As such, I feel protecting your team’s work-life balance is key in growing experienced and enthusiastic teaching staff.

Providing the right support

It’s really important to work alongside all of our teachers, particularly in their first few years as NQTs and RQTs, to help them develop the systems and processes that will enable them to be successful over the longer term. Helping them to get the job done quickly and effectively, and to be able to cope with the workload, makes the job infinitely more enjoyable.

I emphasise to all new teachers the value and importance of partnering with teachers that are already managing their workloads well. At Ashmount we also encourage teachers to involve themselves in a variety of activities out of school to help them maintain a healthy work-life balance. It’s all too easy to feel trapped by the demands of teaching which, if not managed appropriately, can become a very real challenge to the well-being of both individuals and families.

Leadership teams leading the way

I think there’s certainly a growing sense that teachers feel uncomfortable admitting that they aren’t coping, particularly in outstanding schools. The resultant isolation and fear of ‘being found out’ is another reason teachers cite for leaving the profession. I believe that leadership teams have a responsibility to protect their staff team from the pressures of Ofsted, testing and the like so that teachers feel less overwhelmed by it all. Teachers, particularly NQTs, should always feel that they can approach their leadership team without risk of condemnation if they’re struggling and should receive a comprehensive package of support to help them get back on top.

Retaining teachers would certainly be easier if we had a clearer understanding of what teaching will look like as a career moving forwards. With issues surrounding academisation and pupil testing very much in the news everything seems very uncertain, especially surrounding what will happen within education in the next few years. If we could safeguard teachers’ pay and conditions it would certainly make teaching a more attractive proposition. Such clarity would definitely help schools to attract and retain the right people.

If we can help to make teaching a more rewarding profession, celebrating the successes and hard work of our teachers the way we should, then the focus will shift from replacing lost teachers to growing the teacher population.

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