Good Teachers Leaving The Profession: The Extent Of The Talent Drain In Education

In the media, alongside all the teacher bashing and cries from those at the top that they want teachers’ heads on a spike, you will often hear about new initiatives designed to recruit and retain better staff. Most recently, there have been suggestions that the difficulty bof the key skills tests for teachers should be increased.

There is also a perception that there are hundreds of rubbish teachers, hardly doing any work at all, failing students all over the place, having a grand old time of things and getting away with it. Anyone working in education will be able to tell you that the reverse is true: teaching is filled with staff who work themselves into the ground, despite being treated terribly on all sides from managers, students and parents.

My point is that there is a perception that there is a lack of talent in teaching, and that the staff we have now need to be booted out and replaced with something better. What I believe is actually happening is a talent drain: it appears to have the same effect, which is a low standard of performance in staff, but it occurs for completely opposing reasons.

Teaching is actually rubbish and the standard of it needs to improve. It’s not because the wrong people are coming into the industry and are sticking in it like a barnacle on the side of a very cushy ship.

It’s because of this: passionate, talented, able students are choosing to become teachers. The working conditions of teachers are so shocking that they are leaving the industry for something better. Those that are less able and have less options are staying.

By poor working conditions I mean that the workload is too high, the status and pay is too low and, most significantly, there is an epidemic of workplace bullying. Bullying occurs more often for student teachers and NQTs because it is easier to get rid of someone at that stage that you have a slight dislike for, rather than take a chance and be stuck with them further down the line when they may possibly be less than 100% perfect.

New and talented teachers are realising at an early stage that this is going on, and either chose to leave for something better, or more likely, are forced to leave through mental health issues, capability proceedings and compromise agreements. Some are now being put off in advance of starting their ITT programmes, as they are being warned off by other teachers.

Improving teachers working conditions will attract and retain a better quality of employee. It will improve teachers’ performance by allowing talented staff to thrive, rather than only allowing untouchable, dog eat dog, spin doctor type teachers to survive. You could even argue that success as a teacher simply happens at random, through being lucky enough to avoid being bullied by nothing more than chance.

There is a definite attempt to come down harder on teachers in order to raise performance. This will actually achieve the opposite, making working conditions worse, which will in turn make more talented staff leave, or never join in the first place. This will over time erode performance and mean more and more teachers are not up to standard.

Do you agree? Have you witnessed a talented teacher leaving the profession? Were you a teacher who has left and found success somewhere else? I’d love to hear from you, please comment below.


Rory Bremner said...

I couldn't agree more. I have chosen to become a supply teacher teacher as I could no longer bear the workload that was required to be considered a "good" or "outstanding" teacher. Indeed, it's ironic that we as teachers sometimes rail against the parents who spend no time reading or nurturing their children, while, concurrently, our profession prevent us from nurturing ours.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the lottery in teaching environments.
I have witnessed a once decent professional setting becoming a place where you dread coming in to work. Naturally, this hasn't raised results...

Anonymous said...

Whenever some plutocratic corporate job is advertised, or some plum overpaid quango sinecure is filled, we hear the old refrain: "We have to pay this sort of money/give these sort of perks to attract the top talent".

What a waste-- as the education sector demonstrates, what you really need is massive amounts of paperwork, hours filled with pointless data-crunching, low social status, verbal abuse, a constant level of underlying anxiety (with a whiff of manic depression)and a bald git shouting "YOU LOT DON'T KNOW WHAT STRESS IS!" every now and then. Throw in some pointless computer tests(now made that bit harder!) and I despair of ever finding a job again: I'll have to fight way through hundreds of Oxbridge graduates, first-class degrees in hand, clamouring for every position in every inner-city comp.

Rant over... back to marking...

The Edudicator said...

Thanks for the excellent responses to this post, all of you.

@Rory I think there's a lot of aspects of teaching that causes students to suffer, for example, the fact that they are exposed to mentally ill and desperate adults.

@anon1 I'm now convinced that anyone who's successful in education has just done so out of pure luck.

@anon2 It's bribery isn't it? You have to ask yourself - why do I need a bribe in order to choose this career?

Anonymous said...

I have quickly scanned your post and I feel like crying with relief. I have been teaching for 10 years and have just handed in my letter of resignation. I'm planning on doing supply teaching if I can't find another suitable job in the mean time.
Originally I had planned on resigning once I had a new job in place but the six teachers who moved on prior to me didn't seem to find things any better in their new placements. I thought that if I worked harder, worked smarter, and/or changed my attitude things would be better. But every time I climbed that mountain I was beaten down by a barrage of Ofsted jargon, learning walks, observations, threats, paperwork and pointless meetings held by a management team who seem to be struggling as much as we are to keep abreast of what we are meant to be doing.
I am now struggling to hang in until the end of the Spring term. I'm dealing with sleepless nights, anxiety and depression and to be honest, the more that is expected of me, the less I am doing.
I can not express how angry I am that we, as teachers, are not sticking together to overcome the damage that Ofsted is causing. I can not express how angry I am that this profession has come to this. I can not express how angry I am that I can no longer fight this battle and that I have quit. I am angry because it is all so wrong.
Thank you for this blog, hopefully this will help unite teachers and bring back some respect for ourselves and our profession.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those who dipped a toe into teaching and have left before I barely got my feet wet! I was in the further education sector but I daresay its no different to being in the school system.

My students were what kept me going for that one term. They told me they appreciated what I was doing. They also said I made them work far harder than anyone else ever hard, but oddly, they liked it! And more importantly felt they had learnt something that would help them in life in general and also in their chosen career.

What I didn't like was the serious lack of support, guidance or even just checking I knew what I was doing. I could have been teaching those students any old rubbish (not that I would have done!). I was brought in part way through the term, the unit I was teaching had been started but there was no scheme of work or lesson plans and the poor students didn't even know what the unit was about!

But, it was the lack of any form of personal life that made me decide not to continue teaching once I had finished. As there was no SoW, I had to write each week's lesson from scratch every week. Which meant no weekends or evenings. I had nightmares that I wouldn't have a lesson prepared in time and then of course I had marking. And I had to write the assessments myself which I feel is very bad from quality perspective.

Admittedly, when I embarked on my PGCE it was with a view to trying to get into "training" sector rather than the teaching (college/school) sector. I am not in training yet but hopefully one day I will.

I just find the whole education sector hypocritical. In teacher training course, it is drummed into us student teachers, that we must always be careful of the pupils/students wellbeing. Are they happy? Are they challenged in their work, but without it overwhelming them?

Why can't that be applied to the teachers too?

The Edudicator said...

Hello, thanks for commenting. I worked in FE too.

I know what you mean about hypocrisy, there's things done to teachers that would get you lynched if you did them to students.

You sound like another talented professional leaving teaching for better working conditions because you're good enough to do so.

The Edudicator said...

I seem to have missed replying to some commenters somehow!

@Rory Workload is a massive issue, and the common perception is that it's not high enough!

@Anon1 There's no acknowledgement that low staff morale means low achievement. Low staff morale is seen as a good thing.

@Anon2 Bald git, haha! Yeah it's not an attractive career for those with ability.

Nikhil Deb Nath said...

Well what a relief seeing many people in my position. I'm nearly at my tether at my workplace and feel such a lovely profession has been put under threat and maybe further damaged. Many creative and inspiring teachers are leaving, and I feel the children of the future will end up becoming robots who are full of nonsense and not get anywhere in life. What a waste! Why does it have to be like this?

The Edudicator said...

Thanks for reading. I'm hearing more and more from people who are leaving, rather than those who want to stay but are getting treated badly.

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