Ten Statistics That Should Be Researched: Number 3 Number of teacher training drop outs

What’s the retention rate on PGCE courses as compared to other vocational post-graduate degrees? I understand that lecturers are not subject to the same amount of pressure re: retention rates as teachers in FE are, but surely it’s something that they must keep track of? And something that still appears on lecturers performance targets, albeit with a lesser weighting?

It’s got to be a worse state of affairs than on other courses. For every teacher I know, I know one other person who tried a PCGE and quit halfway through. On my own teacher training, those who had dropped out were referred to as ‘Missing In Action’ and a big joke was made of it, as if it was funny that so many were leaving.

Some people suggest that the amount of financial backing you get for doing a PGCE makes it attractive to many, but when the reality of the poor behaviour and high work load is realised, people leave. My response is that even with a bribe people who are obviously deemed capable of doing the course at interviews are being put off even completing the thing.

Are the people left on the course at the end the ‘winners’ who have succeeded in a dangerous environment where so many have failed? Are there other training courses that are so tough that only a handful complete them: special forces training in the army for example? Does training to be a teacher really have to be that difficult?

If the intention is to weed out those who aren’t strong enough to do the job at this early stage, then why are so many more having problems during NQT years and later on in their careers due to poor working conditions? I think an analysis of drop outs at the ITT, NQT and later career stages will show that the numbers that leave only increases. In short, it seems, the more you learn about this job, the less you want to do it.

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PGCE dropout said...

A very thought provoking piece. My friend told me before I started my PGCE that completing the course is rather like the aftermath of a nuclear war; there are no winners or losers, just survivors. I managed to get through my lower primary PGCE by the skin of my teeth. The workload was utterly ridiculous; the support was non-existant; the pressure was unbearable. The constant self appraisal and feeling of never being quite up to what was expected was crushing.

I hated the feeling of never being able to be free of thinking about the job. When I got finished on a Friday, the feeling of relief to have got through the week lasted only a few hours before the heavy burden of planning for the next descended upon me. My weekends were doomed by the prospect of having a mountain of preparation to get through.

I completed the PGCE in 2009, and even now I still wake up in the morning feeling relieved that I don't have to go into school. There were aspects of the job I enjoyed, but the downsides were so stressful that I am still troubled by the experience.

I am no shirker. I have worked in an industrial job since graduating in 1988, but the PGCE was the hardest and most stressful thing I have ever done. My heart goes out to anyone currently doing a PGCE who hates it as much as I did.

To anyone who has had their confidence knocked as severely as mine was, I suggest that you consider getting a CELTA qualification. This is a month long course that qualifies you to teach English to adults either abroad or in UK language classes. Even if you don't use the qualification, you will find it a much more supportive environment than on the PGCE; it will rebuild your confidence and make you realise what a lot of nonsense is spouted both in schools and on PGCE courses.

The Edudicator said...

Hello, thank you very much for the praise. I think the best teachers go for alternatives to teaching like the one you suggested, because they can command better working conditions. Putting teachers through what you described doesn't increase standards by ensuring only the best get through, it causes a talent drain.

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