DfE not taking adequate steps to tackle teacher retention

People become teachers for various reasons, but they’re all united by their desire to make a positive impact on children’s lives. So, it’s a huge shame that more and more teachers are being pushed out of the profession due to excessive workloads and unrealistic targets.

Speaking to the BBC this week, former teacher Jake Rusby admitted: “I was consumed by the work, I became quite anxious – it took over my life.” In a case that’s all too common, Jake quit working as a teacher after just a few years.

MPs are now calling out the Department of Education (DfE) for “failing to get a grip” on teacher retention in England. In a report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accuses the DfE of not having an effective strategy in place to resolve issues related to retention and development.

The report highlights some alarming statistics. For instance, the number of people who quit teaching – excluding those who retired – rose from 6% (25,260) in 2011 to 8% (34,910) in 2016.

The problem is prevalent in secondary schools in particular, where numbers dropped by 5% (10,800) between 2010 and 2016. This is a worrying trend, especially as secondary school pupil numbers are estimated to increase by 540,000 (19%) between 2017 and 2025.

The PAC argues: “We do not expect the department to prescribe how many hours teachers should work but do expect it to understand and have a view on the relationships between workload and retention.”

The DfE paints a different picture, explaining that there are a record number of teachers in schools, with 32,000 trainees recruited in 2017. A spokeswoman stressed that the body was consulting on plans to enhance and increase development opportunities, while working with teachers, Ofsted and Unions to combat unnecessary workloads.

General secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Paul Whiteman, commented that the report was alarming, but as expected. “On a good day, there’s no better professional to be in,” he acknowledged, but explained how teachers in the UK work more yet earn less than their peers around the world.

There’s no doubt that teaching is a rewarding profession, but reports such as this show that more needs to be done to combat retention rates. It’s positive to see certain regions taking proactive steps to tackle the issue, like Nottingham Schools’ Fair Workload Charter. Drawn up by a number of organisations, the charter sets out how excessive workloads can be reduced, with the aim of helping schools in the area attract and retain the best teachers. Hopefully, initiatives like this will start to be rolled out on a wider scale, which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on teacher retention here in the UK.




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