Over four in ten state school teachers plan to quit within five years

Close to half of the state-school teachers in England who took part in a new survey say they will no longer be working in education by 2027.

The latest annual survey of 1,788 NEU teaching union members – run in February and March – found that 44 per cent plan to leave within five years, with 22 per cent intending to leave within two years.

The figures are up on last year, when 14 per cent said they would leave within two years and 41 per cent within five years.

However, before the Covid pandemic in 2019, 51 per cent said they planned to leave within five years and 21 per cent within two.

Official national statistics show that the two-year retention rate subsequent to qualifying is 80.5 per cent. Department for Education statistics also show that 41 per cent of teachers leave within 10 years, but this just looks at newly qualified teachers, while the NEU’s survey covers members at all stages of their careers.

Unmanageable workloads

Responding to the survey, over half (52 per cent) of teachers said their workload was either “unmanageable” or “unmanageable most of the time”, up from 35 per cent in 2021.

When asked, workload was the overwhelming motivation for 65 per cent of teachers in English state schools who expect to go within two years, and 63 per cent of those departing within five years.

Teachers could select three options from a list of 15, with “the feeling that the education profession is not valued or trusted by the government and media” being the next most popular, selected by 38 per cent of English state-school teachers planning to leave within five years.

This was followed by accountability (35 per cent), pay (25 per cent) and retirement (26 per cent).

Recruitment issues

Teachers responding were asked about support-staff posts being unfilled, with 74 per cent of teachers in state-funded special schools and pupil referral units (PRUs) feel that the situation had worsened since March 2020.

The same was said by 66 per cent of secondary school teachers and 56 per cent of primary school teachers.

Similarly, 67 per cent of secondary teachers felt the picture on unfilled teaching posts had worsened, compared with 59 per cent of those in special schools and PRUs and 44 per cent of those in primaries.

Teachers close to burnout

Looking at wellbeing, two-thirds of those in state-funded schools in England said they feel stressed at least 60 per cent of the time, once “I have not thought about this” answers are discounted from the results.

And 41 per cent said they felt stressed at work 80 per cent of the time, compared with 15 per cent who felt stressed less than 40 per cent of the time.

Asked to list the three most important things that could be done to improve their wellbeing, a clear majority of 71 per cent said a reduction in the volume of work.

‘Change must come from the top’

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said the situation was “unsustainable” and could only lead to burnout.

She said that the government should not just accept that high workload was a “problem”, but that it had “played a starring role” in many of the contributing factors.

She added: “Let us be in no doubt. Teaching is a great and fulfilling job, and people go into the profession because they want to make a difference.

“Yet the government makes this more difficult, and if we are to collectively do the right thing for young people then we must be able to deliver the education they deserve. That change must come from the top.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said the government recognized the pressure that staff in schools and colleges have been under and was “enormously grateful” to them for their efforts, resilience, and service.

They added: “Teaching remains an attractive and fulfilling profession. The number of teachers in our schools remains high, with more than 461,000 teachers working in schools across the country – 20,000 more than in 2010.

We have taken and will continue to take action to improve teacher and leader workload and wellbeing, working proactively with the sector to understand the drivers behind such issues and improve our policies and interventions. “

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