New teachers already demotivated about teaching at the start of their careers

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Press release
23 February 2017 by ATL Media Office
Three-quarters of trainee and student and newly qualified teachers (NQTs) say they have already considered leaving the teaching profession, according to a survey by ATL.

Three-quarters (73%) of trainee and student and newly qualified teachers (NQTs) say they have already considered leaving the teaching profession, according to a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Almost 80% (76%) say they have considered leaving teaching because their workload is too high and 26% said it is because of the increasing expectation to take part in out-of-school hour's activities. Thirty per cent said it was due to 'teacher bashing' in the press and a lack of respect for the profession; 25% said they were fed up with constant attacks on teachers' terms and conditions, and a further 25% said challenging pupil behaviour has made them consider leaving teaching.

Over half (54%) said they did not think they would still be teaching in ten years' time and almost a quarter (24%) said they did not think they would be teaching in five years' time.

A trainee in his third year at a primary school in Bedfordshire said: "My peers and I are often told to be prepared to be disappointed, stressed, and to quit. There is very little positivity in the profession at the moment. Teachers feel undermined and unappreciated. I think teachers are concerned for those coming into the profession as they don't wish for others to be as stressed and disillusioned as they are."

Unsurprisingly, workload was what they disliked most about teaching, cited by 87%. Sixty-three per cent dislike the impact of Ofsted on their school, 57% dislike the constant changes in teaching, and almost 50% (48%) are not happy about the pressures of high-stakes exams and assessments. Fifty-six per cent dislike marking, 53% the lack of time to reflect on practice and 48% dislike challenging pupil behaviour.

An NQT in a secondary school said: "Planning takes all weekend and I spend hours marking. Although there are wonderful 'light bulb' moments, there are not usually enough of these to wipe out the downsides. At the start of my second term as a NQ I am exhausted and starting to be demoralised."

The things they enjoy most about being a teacher are when a pupil has a 'light-bulb' moment (79%), and helping pupils enjoy what they are learning (76%).

Eighty per cent of respondents wanted to become a teacher because they enjoy working with young people; 75% want to make a difference and 57% like the idea of variety with each day being different.

Eight-in-ten (79%) of respondents said they do not have a good work/life balance, with 81% stating they do not have enough time to participate in hobbies; 80% do not get enough time to relax; 76% are not able to see friends, and 68% do not get enough time to spend with their partner.

An NQT in a primary school said: "I saw this as a vocation, a lifelong dream following a successful, non-teaching career elsewhere. I now have no time to spend with family or even speak to them. I can't sleep, have no social life but still love 'teaching'; it's the rest of it that's unbearable."

Respondents said the changes that would most benefit their teaching are more time to plan, prepare and assess (83%), less marking and assessment (71%), more freedom in how they teach (47%), and spending less time focused on exams and tests (46%).

When asked what would improve their work/life balance, less work to do in the evenings, at weekends and during holidays was deemed most important, followed by less unnecessary paperwork, and more planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time.

During term time, over a quarter (28%) work more than ten hours a week at weekends and almost half (46%) work between six and ten hours at weekends.

An NQT in a secondary school said: "I enjoy the work and the challenge, but am shocked at how many hours I work at weekends and on my two "days off".

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: "New teachers, like their more experienced colleagues, are enthusiastic and caring professionals who want time to do their job well and have a reasonable work/life balance. It's incredibly sad to hear that so many are already disillusioned so early on in their careers, but it is understandable given the pressure and stress of a high workload.

"Unless the Government makes changes to address teachers' workloads, we fear thousands of great teachers will leave the profession.

"Our trainee and student and newly qualified members have told us they want the Government to improve the experience of teaching, with the majority saying they'd like ministers to consult meaningfully with the profession, allow teachers more autonomy over what and how they teach, and to also review the current inspection system. We only hope that minsters finally sit-up and listen and tackle the looming teacher shortage crisis before it is too late."

Further information:

ATL surveyed 889 trainee and student teachers and newly qualified teachers who are training to work in or are working in primary and secondary schools and academies, sixth-form and FE colleges in England between November 2014 and January 2015. To view the full release and stats click here.

Notes to editors

  1. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing approximately 170,000 teachers, headteachers, lecturers and support staff in maintained and independent nurseries, schools, sixth form, tertiary and further education colleges in the United Kingdom.
  2. ATL exists to help members, as their careers develop, through first rate research, advice, information and legal advice.
  3. ATL is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). ATL is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.