The Great Resignation is a phrase usually associated with office workers, but recent stats indicate that the next Great Resignation could be among teaching staff. A survey conducted by the National Education Union (NEU) found that a fifth of teachers (22%) said they would leave within two years. An estimated 44% of teachers in England are planning to quit by 2027.
Why are teachers leaving the profession?
Statistics published by the DfE reveal that of teachers who qualified in 2014, just 67% were still in service after five years in 2019.
The high drop-out rates suggest that attempts to tackle teacher workload - seen as a main obstacle to teacher retention - is failing.
Teachers’ mental health is being damaged by working excessive and long hours, causing stress and burnout. Research by the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union revealed that, nine out of ten teachers (91%) reported that their workload has increased in the last year, according to the Union’s Big Question Survey 2022.
In the private sector, The Great Resignation has come about partly due to employees wanting the flexibility of remote working and flexible hours. In the private sector, companies are trialling four-day weeks with no reduction in pay and are offering flexible hybrid-working.
And, while the world around us has changed considerably, the fundamentals of education have not shifted in the same way. Professionals, including teachers, are looking at flexible working as a key priority in their career decisions and job search. Teaching is generally a sector where these new types of working cannot be offered.
Career Progression and Salaries
School teachers are currently paid over £9,000 more than college teachers on average, despite many college lecturers being more specialist and having industry experience. FE salaries are also often lower than those in industries.
Jade Blackburn, Director of Human Resources at Waltham Forest College, reveals:
"We know that teachers have concerns about an ever increasing workload and that salaries in the FE sector are being outstripped by salaries on offer back in ‘industry’ – this is a particular challenge in the construction trades and IT & Digital."
Staff that leave the profession often report that their college or school had limited career development and training options. And when it is there for the taking, a lack of time and a heavy workload can prevent FE tutors from taking-up continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities.
The perception of teaching
Although teachers in the UK battled on as key workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, there is an issue with perception, which is common in countries including the UK and US.
Teaching and marking are what most people think of when they think of a career in education, but there are a whole host of other parts of the role that many outside the sector do not appreciate, which can often be surprising and very challenging to new teachers coming into the profession. This includes admin, lesson preparation, assessments, record keeping, exams, and pastoral care. They also often don’t consider the more personal skill element of teaching, such as managing the emotional charge of a room of 30 (often young) minds or the emotional intelligence of what it takes to drive and motivate each member of a class.
In the 2018 Global Teacher Status Index, the countries that most respect their teachers are China, Taiwan and Malaysia. In these countries, the teaching profession is seen as on par with doctors.
What is the sector doing about it?
When it comes to The Great Teacher Resignation, how we can attract and retain the next generation of FE staff is a key question.
Improving salaries, benefits & career development
The Association of Colleges (AOC) is pushing for the government to work with the FE sector so that colleges can pay their staff better and support them with their development. Some colleges have introduced a salary overhaul in certain subject areas.
Waltham Forest College, is one example of an FE institution looking at the issue of salary and career development. As Jade Blackburn explains:
“Our turnover of teaching staff is lower than the sector average, but we’re not complacent – we have introduced recruitment and retention payments for new joiners in hard to fill roles, we’re reviewing our overall benefits package and ensuring staff have access to good quality CPD so that our first and foremost succession planning tool is to grow and develop our own staff into future teachers, managers and leaders.”
Those working outside of the education sector are not aware of the generous annual leave entitlement that comes with FE. Although this is dependent on the type of role, most are entitled to around 38 days holiday per year, plus bank holidays. This is significantly higher than the basic 20-to-25-day standard allowance. FE providers could be more transparent about this benefit, as well as other benefits such as pensions. College staff have access to the Teacher Pension Scheme, which compares favourably to almost all private sector schemes.
Reviewing teacher workload
Waltham Forest College is looking into the issue of workload. As Jade Blackburn explains,
“We’ve heard the concerns about workload and are continuing to work together to create workable, long term solutions to reduce workload - particularly administrative burdens on teachers.”
Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of teachers is also key to retaining staff and is an area that is being developed.
The use of mentoring and coaching for teachers is widespread. Mentors and coaches may offer support to new teachers as part of an induction process or to existing teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning.
Promoting flexible opportunities
Although FE workloads are demanding, teachers and assessors can often choose between working full-time, part-time, compressed hours, evenings or even on a casual, hourly basis. This leaves significant scope for flexibility in working hours. Nowadays, there is an opportunity for FE colleges to promote flexible working and home working options where possible.
Attracting new staff to the sector
There is an opportunity for FE institutions to adopt some of the tactics that the private sector uses in their candidate attraction and one such example is reviewing their employer brand.
FE colleges are diversifying where posts are advertised to reach a wider talent pool. They are also broadening their use of social media, working in partnership with industry to offer specialist delivery and engaging with specialist recruitment agencies to headhunt teachers and trainees.
Other key areas for teacher attraction can include growing a pipeline by promoting vacancies to existing staff and students completing their studies and alumni, as well as promoting FE jobs to parents at student open evenings.
Finally, inconsistency in management styles between different schools and colleges is a real challenge. Good onboarding and ensuring a consistent and robust induction process for all staff can go some way to address this.
So, while there might be a Great Teacher Resignation about to happen, teaching remains an attractive and fulfilling profession. As schools and colleges continue to take action to improve teacher workload and staff wellbeing, real progress can be made.
If colleges work proactively with the sector to understand the drivers behind current issues and improve their policies and interventions, attracting teachers and retaining them will no longer be the issue they are today.