Why Teaching Is Attractive: Incentives, Bribery and Desperate Graduates

Everyone knows that there are a high number of people who train as a teacher, and leave within the first few years of their career. In part, I acknowledge that this is because the job is very attractive for a number of reasons and this causes a lot of people to try the career who wouldn’t otherwise. Then, when they realise how awful it really is, they leave.

You have to ask yourself – why are there so many incentives to try this career? Why do people need to be bribed and cajoled into undertaking teacher training? What would happen if there were none of these incentives?

If education could concentrate on retaining the teachers it has rather than desperately trying to recruit replacements, then not only would staff turnover decrease, but I guarantee it would improve achievement in students through hanging on to happy fulfilled productive staff.

Training Bursary
You get a bursary for doing most ITT courses, and even better than that, on the GTP programme you get paid a proper wage. For some people that’s a major consideration when choosing a career to train into, especially in this economic climate. At the end of the day, it’s a down and out bribe for you to do the course. There are plenty of other courses where most of the students self-fund, and that’s a massive indication that it’s worth it.

Training Length
One year, and you’re a teacher. That’s it! Your ITT will either be a separate course you enrol on at the end of your degree, or will be an additional year on your undergraduate degree. Would anyone really go for teaching if the training time was longer? It seems like a very quick fix to a graduate who is stuck for a direction to take, especially with the bursary taken into account.

Degree Subject
It doesn’t really matter what degree subject you’ve taken, you can either squash it and squeeze it to fit one of the subjects, or go primary. As long as you have a basic level of literacy, numeracy and IT skills that’s all that matters. For someone who didn’t know what they were going to do with their degree when they began it, which is pretty much everyone nowadays, then this can be very attractive. The door isn’t closed to anyone, and this should set your alarm bells ringing.

Starting Salary and Golden Hello
The salary is not great in teaching, but it’s not bad either. You can start on at least £20K, but this is after just one year of being paid to train having no previous experience. I can’t think of any other professional career where you can start off like that. Also, you get a golden hello. It’s more bribes isn’t it? The amount of work you will actually have to do is probably worth a much higher salary, and you will very quickly realise that it’s just not worth it.

Jobs Anywhere
There are schools and colleges everywhere all over the country, and this can be a big incentive to try teaching, and of course, it’s not a manufactured bribe type incentive like the ones above. In some post-industrial towns it’s one of the only professional jobs on offer to a graduate. However, be aware that the lack of jobs at the moment might mean you are travelling a long way or even moving to start your first post.

You Know What It Will Be Like
We’ve all been to school and we’ve all seen what teachers do. For some people, the choice to be a teacher is a ‘better the devil you know one’. The assumptions of non-teachers that they know how education works is very dangerous, and there is no exception here. You don’t know what it’s like, not on the other side of the coin you don’t.

Everyone Knows One
A teacher that is. Because it’s a job that everyone tries and then moved out of, everyone knows someone who has tried or is still a teacher. For some, the incentive is, “Well, if they can do it, then so can I.” But if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?

Did you choose your teaching career because of the incentives? Would you have made the same decision without them? Please comment below. 


Anonymous said...

You forgot a HUGE one: job security. Everyone who knows a teacher will have heard their interminable stories of the colleague who is useless, worthless, lazy, can't control the children, is always off sick etc. etc. (And if you know a teacher who doesn't tell those stories - they're one of the useless ones...) Those of us in other professions hear these tales and marvel that such wasters are tolerated when at any "real" job they'd be fired inside their first year, if they even made it that far. By contrast, in teaching, it seems that as long as you can stop yourself from either punching or f**king a child, you can be as hopeless as you like for as long as you like and still be sure you'll pay off the mortgage.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous-- "you can be as hopeless as you like for as long as you like and still be sure you'll pay off the mortgage."

Yes. Because you'll work your way into a senior management role ;)

The Edudicator said...

@anon1 Actually staff turnover is higher than most other careers. I'm not sure how you've come to that conclusion, but it's the complete opposite of what actually happens so I know you're not in teaching.

Perhaps if you hadn't sworn and actually had some evidence, and weren't clearly a troll, I'd spend more time telling you more.

@anon2 A lot of managers, and education journalists, seem to hold this viewpoint, don't they? :-) I'm still waiting for someone to prove to me that it's true.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not sure how you've come to that conclusion"

As I said - every single teacher of my acquaintance knows *and regularly complains about* at least one member of their staff to whom this applies. Granted, MOST teachers are hard-working, dedicated, over-worked, under-valued etc. etc. etc. But they ALL (in my experience) have at least one colleague who is swinging the lead, to an extent that would be impossible in almost any other sector than education.

"I know you're not in teaching"

Did my use of the phrase 'Those of us in other professions' give it away?

To be clear - you're denying that the perception of job security attracts people to teaching? Really? Have you ever *asked* anyone? Job security in a recession is, to quote one of my best friends, "one of the few benefits of this job that stops me packing it in and going to work on the checkout in Tesco's".

The Edudicator said...

Of course I've asked someone, that's how I know NQTs are used as cannon fodder in the worst managed schools: do a year, mental breakdown, get a new NQT. That's not secure at all.

I think your acquaintances are doing unto others before it's done unto them. Lots of people in education mouth off like that, it's called targeting and it's done by bullies. I've never met anyone who just 'toes the line' like you describe.

Perhaps people are attracted by the job security because they have your view. It's not true, but it could be an attraction for someone who doesn't know that, so maybe I should have included it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean it was secure for NQTs. Again, the anecdotal evidence I get is that NQTs give junior doctors a run for their money when it comes to stress and workload. The perception is the security comes once one manages to get one's "feet under the table". *Any* profession is a crapshoot in its first year or two. Half my graduating class of chemical engineers didn't even bother applying for engineering positions - they'd had enough of engineering before they even *started* and went straight into accountancy or similar. Half the rest did engineering for a year or three and then got the hell out to do a PGCE (!), run a consultancy or in one case teach salsa dancing (! again).

The complaining the people I'm talking about do is not done to other teachers. As I understand it doing so in the workplace, or even with other colleagues outside the workplace, is frowned upon. Hence why when they get together with old school/university friends, they vent. Not sure how telling friends about workshy colleagues makes you a bully, but I guess you're the expert.

It could be an attraction for someone who doesn't know? You yourself said in your post, and I quote: "The assumptions of non-teachers that they know how education works is very dangerous". That should have been "assumption", but you are of course right. And the assumption of job security is another one, and yes, maybe you should have included it.

I *think* I said that in the first line of my first post. :-)

Anonymous said...

Actually, I have a question: it's an old question, and it's one I've asked every teacher I know (this number is not quite into three figures).

How many times in your career have you seen a qualified teacher dismissed for something NOT related to sex or violence?

I've received many, many answers of "none". Some took a good deal of time to think about it, too. I've received precisely two answers of "one". In both instances, the offences were ones of financial impropriety with school funds. Nobody I know has ever known more than one qualified teacher of their acquaintance be dismissed, other than for offences related to violence or sexual impropriety. I hold my hand up and admit freely this is entirely anecdotal data from a probably highly non-representative sample of teachers between their mid thirties and mid forties in mostly reasonably pleasant schools.

But your post is not about the truth of what it is to be a teacher - it's about the PERCEPTION of what it is to be a teacher which tempts people to try it. And the apparent impossibility of getting sacked for being useless is a big draw for those who recognise, perhaps even only dimly, perhaps not consciously, that they are in fact useless.

Pelham said...

Perhaps we could extend this debate by establishing just what we mean by a 'useless' teacher. I have certainly seen a bevy of teachers that, at various times, could be considered 'useless', but it strikes me that they could be separated into three categories:

Firstly, teachers who are not up to the job-- some who were never fit for it in the first place, or through age, wear and tear, or the (perhaps understandable) cynicism of experience, are proving to be profoundly unsuited for the task. NQTs or newish teachers who find themselves in this position in the early years of their career tend, from my experience, to pack things in of their own accord quite quickly: they're absolutely miserable, for a start.

Older 'Useless Teachers' may find themselves quietly given financial incentives to retire early or move on to other careers (the most humane option, in my view); be 'coached' or 'managed' in such a way that is legally just short of harrassment/constructive dismissal, followed by inevitable resignation; or given a good reference, and encouraged to engage their dubious talents elsewhere (ethically reprehensible, but my hunch being that this is no longer as common as some would suspect).

The second category are good teachers rendered temporarily useless by useless management, poor pupil behaviour, and ridiculous workplace demands; leaving a dysfunctional environment, and finding themselves in a better school, they become the excellent instructors they could have been all along.

The final category is the most dangerous: the Ambitious Useless Teacher. He/she finds themselves in a classroom only as a initial stepping-stone to Bigger and Better Things. They learn very little of the craft of teaching, for their only interest is in absorbing current orthodoxies to spout at interviews for the next rung of the career ladder. They leave the classroom as quickly as they entered it, giving nothing of value to their pupils as they muddle through Middle Management for the golden crown of Headship (or other, more exaulted, and far-removed-from-the-classroom roles). They are Useless Teachers because they were never really interested in teaching in the first place.

The great irony in all of this is that none of these positions are truly secure: teachers will tell of their unrelenting angst at being 'caught out' by ever-shifting goalposts; Middle Management is bullied by Senior Management with threats to their position and career progression; and Heads find the security of their jobs relying on the wise and ever-reliable judgements of OfSTED.

Funny how none of this makes it into Teacher Training Advertisements...

The Edudicator said...

It's harder to get rid of an established teacher, which is why you get the high number of NQTs getting booted out of the profession for minor offenses. I wrote about it more here:

"How many times in your career have you seen a qualified teacher dismissed for something NOT related to sex or violence?"

I've spoken to hundreds of people like this. I'm one of them.

Anonymous said...

Hang on, there seems to be some inconsistency here. On the one hand, when I offered the hypothesis that the job security was another thing that might attract people, you said:

"it's the complete opposite of what actually happens so I know you're not in teaching. "

"Perhaps people are attracted by the job security because they have your view. It's not true..."

And on the other, you now show me that BEFORE all that, YOU said:

"it is too difficult to fire incapable established teachers"

And: "Once you have [become established then become useless] it is very difficult for management to do anything about it".

Thus making my point, rather.

So... going by your first comment, you have now got sufficient evidence to satisfy yourself that you yourself are not in teaching.

And you're accusing ME of trolling?

The Edudicator said...

It's not secure for new teachers so someone new going into the profession would not be attracted by the job security.

I'm agreeing with you in part - it's hard to get rid of an established teacher.

It's a myth that there are a lot of incompetent teachers that deserve to lose their job.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you didn't read my post on Friday. Perhaps you didn't understand it.
Either way, once more:

"your post is not about the truth of what it is to be a teacher - it's about the PERCEPTION of what it is to be a teacher which tempts people to try it. And the apparent impossibility of getting sacked for being useless is a big draw for those who recognise, perhaps even only dimly, perhaps not consciously, that they are in fact useless"

It may, as you report, not be secure for new teachers. Whether it is or not IS IRRELEVANT.

What matters is what people think BEFORE they get into it. And nobody gets into it thinking they'll be sacked in their first or second year. Everyone assumes they'll be able to hack it at least that long (even if they know a lot of other people can't), and that once they've got their feet under the table they'll be set for life even if they kick back and stop working.

Also, and finally: define "a lot". My estimate, based as I have previously said entirely on anecdotal evidence, is that in the average high school there are one or two teachers so useless, so egregiously damaging to children's education, that they should be sacked on the spot. In other words, approximately one to two per cent of the profession. That's not "a lot", on one level.

It is thousands and thousands of people, though, and small as they may be as a proportion of the total, they have an entirely disproportionate effect on the public perception of what you do. You only need a couple of people dashing out the gate at 15:30 to make parents think you're all it.

The Edudicator said...

It's a complex issue isn't it?

That's essentially how I came to agree with you, I said 'Perhaps people are attracted by the job security because they have your view. It's not true, but it could be an attraction for someone who doesn't know that.'

Are you really getting so upset about potential recruit's perception of job security when you've nothing to do with the career itself? It seems a bit odd.

There's probably 1-2% of people in every profession that deserve the sack but don't get it. Again, it seems odd that you're so bothered about the teachers who are in that situation.

Anonymous said...

Personal information alert: I lived with a teacher. Note the use of the past tense.

"it seems odd that you're so bothered about the teachers who are in that situation"

I'm not. I'm bothered about the people covering for them. The people working extra hours because they're not working at all. The people coaching the useless ones in their spare time to get them through Ofsted. The people taking on their classes at late notice when they go off with "stress" because their performance has been questioned.

And I'm bothered about the people THOSE people leave at home when they're at work long after they should have left - their partners and children. The people who don't see them even when they're at home because they're writing lessons plans for other people too incompetent to do it for themselves. The relationships they can't maintain because they're too busy covering the backsides of people who don't deserve a job in McDonalds.

I'd have run annual poll of the teaching staff in every school with one question: who on the teaching staff is the most useless? No elaboration, no qualification, just that question. And the person with the most votes gets sacked. Once a year, every year.

Every school has these people, and everyone in the school knows who they are - kids included. Yet they still have jobs, and in the main, relationships.

Yes, I'm bitter.

The Edudicator said...

Wow. How do you feel about the people covering for the 1-2% in other careers? I think the workload in teaching is ridiculous for anyone, whether they are covering for someone or not.

I think your acquaintances are looking for a reason why they're snowed under in work, and have come to the wrong conclusion.

Anonymous said...

"How do you feel about the people covering for the 1-2% in other careers?"

In other careers the 1-2% are sacked, sharpish. In my business, if you're not making money for the company you're costing the company money, and there's no room for people who don't contribute. I've seen it. I've *done* it. One way or another, they're "managed out", within weeks or months. Here's a giggle - when the last person I had to "manage out" of their role left and finally realised after three managed exits from different business that a career in engineering design wasn't for them, which career do you suppose they went into? Can you guess?

I don't think my friends are under any illusions about why they're snowed under in work. However, they don't moan that much about the other reasons, because those things (standards, "initiatives", more or less clueless management etc.) are regarded, I think, like weather - they're just *there*, and not limited to teaching.

But what vexes all of them, what comes up again and again and again and what sets teaching apart from the other professions is the ability of *every* *single* teacher to name *at least* one of their colleagues who is literally worse than useless - someone who not only doesn't DO work, but actually CAUSES additional work for their colleagues. This isn't like the weather, because it would be easy to fix. Everyone knows who these people are. Management know who they are, the other teachers know who they are, hell, the KIDS know who they are. And year by year, they're still getting paid, sometimes not even for turning up if they can get a compliant GP to write "stress" on a sicknote.

My friends aren't coming to the wrong conclusion, they're complaining that one of the biggest problems they have is also the most easily solved, and yet it's ignored or people pretend it doesn't exist. Much as you are doing.

Anonymous said...

From Frank Chalk's blog:
"I pointed out that job security counted for a lot these days and teaching was pretty safe. They agreed, although James pointed out that this would not be the case in a few years time when most schools had become Academies and could hire and fire teachers much easier.

He paused and added:

"Accountability and professionalism are all very well, but once they go too far and the job just becomes unpleasant then you'll only recruit those who can't do anything else"

The Edudicator said...

I love Frank Chalk! Most schools are academies now, so there you go.

The Edudicator said...

Schools aren't businesses. Stress is a real illness and GPs don't just sign people off work with it because they want a holiday. I don't think that sets teaching apart from any other career - by your own statistics a poor performer in every school is still a small percentage.

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