Why are experienced teachers leaving teaching?

3 Aug

@GuardianTeach asks this question on Twitter, but 140 characters just aren’t enough to list the reasons.

Teaching has become more stressful quite rapidly.  Behaviour is poor and respect is virtually nil.  Behaviour problems from students have been a problem since education began, but the issue now is that teachers are expected to put up with it – even to take the blame for it.  Many find that disruptive students are supported – even encouraged – by their parents and by school management.  If a student disrupts a lesson, the teacher is accountable; not the student.  And students know this, especially when Ofsted visits.  If at school I’d had the opportunity to vent my spleen at the teachers I disliked, with the backing of my parents and the powers that be, I would have grabbed it with both hands.  Any child would!

This disregard for a whole profession is backed by government rhetoric, and the derision to which the profession as a whole is subjected is fuelled by media reports about high salaries, short working days, too many holidays and poor performance.

Older teachers have more years of experience and, in general, know what works and what doesn’t.  In this age of constantly changing government targets and Ofsted’s moving goalposts, older teachers with valid opinions that show new initiatives up for the tosh they are will be seen as disruptive.  Older and experienced teachers won’t be fooled by government statistics and rhetoric and can spot a barmy idea from a hundred paces.   They are the ones who know how this will affect the life chances of the young people they teach, but no one wants to listen to what they have to offer because it doesn’t fit in with the government’s latest grand plan.

Many of these teachers, particularly the ones who voice their concerns, find themselves on the end of a capability charge.  Reasons will be found to get rid of them and younger, less-experienced staff, who are willing to bend to government dogma because they know no different and have their eye on promotion, will see older staff as sceptical and unwilling to change with the times.  A burden dragging down their school.

Furthermore, older and experienced teachers have earned some of the perks that come with their status.  They are more expensive because, until recently, experience in teaching (as with all jobs) has been acknowledged as important and used to train new teachers.  They have been paying into their pensions for much longer and are approaching the age where they will be able to retire in relative comfort, as is their right.  Unlike their younger colleagues, they will have paid less into the pot for a shorter time by the time they leave (at a younger age than those with another few decades to go).

These older teachers are also likely to be higher up the pay scale and, particularly those who have chosen to remain in the classroom rather than climbing the greasy pole to management, may be seen as poor value for money.  And what better way to get rid of an unwanted expense than to subject it to continual negative observations, undermining years of excellent service, as well as self-esteem? An NQT might not be able to teach as effectively, but they earn a fraction of what the experienced teacher earns so are better to hire (and retain) in these cash-strapped times.  NQTs are more likely to bend to pressure, even when it has no benefit for their students.

The above would also explain why so many experienced teachers are either on long-term sick leave with stress and anxiety or have left the profession completely, feeling that their health is deteriorating at too fast a rate to justify hanging on in there.  They know they can no longer make a positive difference to young lives – the reason they went into teaching – because schools are becoming factories for churning out young people with pieces of paper that don’t reflect their actual abilities.  Experienced teachers know that this generation of young people is being cheated of their right to a good education.

As for attracting top graduates to the profession, this is laughable.  Teaching already has many top graduates (I, and many of those with whom I trained, have first and high second class degrees from institutions such as Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Manchester… how high in quality do we need to go?)  What’s being done to retain the excellent teachers already propping up the system?  But then again, we know too much about the reality.  Not many of us remain.

Teaching is no longer about educating: it’s about kowtowing to the desires of politicians who have no idea how to teach, and who have no respect for those who do.  Mr Gove doesn’t want teachers: he wants drones who will agree to use their profession as a tool to make him look good when he goes for the top job.

Older teachers have for too long been overworked and under appreciated – nay, despised – by those for whom they work.  No one wants to hear the truth about what goes on in the classroom; the reality of what teachers are expected to get done when not standing in front of their classes and how much of this is detrimental to good quality education.  Teachers’ families have for too long put up with the stress of being ignored and having to pick up the pieces when it all gets too much.

‘Teaching’ is now a young person’s game (as long as they have no ideals about actually good teaching and just want promotion and status).  Until the system implodes completely and is shown up for what it is, older teachers with a modicum of self-respect will continue to turn away in droves.


18 Responses to “Why are experienced teachers leaving teaching?”

  1. Emma P August 3, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    “Mr Gove doesn’t want teachers: he wants drones who will agree to use their profession as a tool to make him look good when he goes for the top job.”
    If his opposition was Pol Pot, Stalin and a strategically-shaved monkey, I’d vote for the monkey.
    When I quit teaching in 2007, I was 50 and the second-oldest teacher in the school.

  2. lorraine August 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    totally agree,unless you want to be a high flier don’t touch teaching-I wanted to teach to help people cos when I went to uni I was stunned by the snobbery and prejudice I experienced.It is very difficult to be in a profession where caring is over-ridden by ambition.That little boy who was starved by his mother should have been spotted and helped in school but there is no longer the time or tolerance of a caring teacher-explain this Gove.Because you attended a public school and go to dinner parties with your boss is it ok for a child to die?The profession sickens me.

  3. Liz August 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Spot on. I totally agree with every single point made. Been doing it 27 years – fairly certain the next one will be my last….if I manage to get to the end of it.

    • lorraine August 4, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      I’ve managed 22yrs but my god its a different job now,desrtuction of good workers,congrats to all politicians

  4. carol donner August 4, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    There are plenty of experienced teachers who want to teach, but they are on the scrap heap of supply teaching, and even that is being eroded by the use of (cheap) cover supervisors. These experienced teachers cannot get a permanent job. They just get blown out by NQTs and fobbed off with the debrief ‘other candidates matched our requirements better’. In other words other candidates are cheaper!

    • lorraine August 4, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      this is ridiculous!who do we approach to LISTEN

  5. Stressed Teacher August 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    This 1996 warning from Ted Wragg makes it plain why teaching is in the state it is now. The groundwork was laid a long time ago, beginning quite slowly then, when the rot had set in, progressing at a rapid pace. It hasn’t finished yet, but the reputation of teaching is such that no one will listen or believe us.


    • lorraine August 5, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

      so,when is gove/Cameron coming into class?

  6. kelloggs36 September 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    What I found very creepy on the 1996 post, was that he mentioned the length of time whole class teaching would be dictated, and lo and behold, yes, too long talking has been deemed inadequate by ofsted, so his scenario is spot on!

  7. ellen mchugh September 30, 2013 at 12:40 am #

    So true…. after 27 years of teaching I was replaced as the Reading Coach by a twenty something. I was moved back into a classroom. I hadn’t taught my own class in 19 years! Why was it done to make me retire. I am in year 29. I am being treated for a major bout of depression. I would gladly retire— I just don’t have the age. Where would I find a job at age 50 making 100,00. I work in NYC. Bloomberg doesn’t want anyone older than 40!

    • lorraine October 6, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      This is so widespread! I have been put back in class after just 10 years and am finding it incredibly tough-totally feel for you,what can we do? This needs addressing because it is so wrong!

  8. Dai December 16, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    Thatcher started this with her so called National Curriculum. Blair and Brown did little to stop the rot and know we have schools competing for children rather then being institutions of education. The people who send their kids to the best schools do not care, or have any empathy with what is going on elsewhere. If a school isn’t good enough for your child it is not good enough for any child. There should be no such thing as a bad school, but as long as our politicians send their kids to the best schools, there will be others that will fall well short of a decent standard. Cut classroom sizes, spend more time teaching, less time testing, and writing the endless reports. Most of the students in Goves school days sat two exams. O’level and A’level.

  9. Zeph March 4, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    I am happy to have found your blog. Much of what you discuss here goes on at the college also. As college instructors our job has become all about making the kiddies happy rather than teaching them anything. Our worth as instructors is based on the student evaluations of the teacher, which amounts to nothing more than a popularity contest. Overall, the instructors who do the least work and do not push the students are the ones who get the highest scores and are therefore considered to be “good” teachers. Those of of us who score average or just below are considered to be “bad” and are not given the opportunities the “good” teachers are given. This is despite the fact that peer and administrative observations may (and in my case, ARE) be indicative of a high level of competency.

    Furthermore, the students have been known to complain about their grades, to report to the Dean when the big bad professor imparted top them a scientific truth that upsets them, and to make threats when they are unhappy with some aspect of the course. They take little to no responsibility for their learning, but instructors are somehow supposed to pound knowledge into their thick skulls and to cave into their blackmail tactics.

    There is no academic integrity and no respect for the hardest woking among us.

  10. RosieRenold May 3, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    I was married to a dedicated teacher of 40 years experience until he retired and then sadly he died 3 years ago
    I am the mother of our son who has been in the profession for 5years and now is leaving because of the meaningless observations data entries excessive stress and totally unreasonable number of hours
    I want my son to have a life!
    As for the policies for me it is simple
    Are pupils now just a commodity with a monetary value masked by progress for The Academy System?
    I do not know but feel both angry and sad for the whole of what was The Teaching Profession

  11. headteacher1729 August 16, 2016 at 11:07 pm #

    I wish I had found your blog earlier. You seem to be spot on. I am not a head (just made this alias for fun. It was going to lead to a day adtkc blog but I haven’t the time
    I have to spend my time fighting off the lies from SMT).
    I am an experienced teacher being stitched up, at this very moment.

    • lozhbd September 9, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

      I so feel your pain! After 20 years in class-chose to stay teaching- I’m overlooked and ignored when explain why buying another damned scheme is wrong!!! Love being in class but the stupidity of young SMT is wearing.

  12. Robert Eggett May 7, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

    I’ve just left the profession after 22 years service. These 22 years had been spent in inner city schools, 12 years in one that underwent special measures and the following 10 divided up in challenging schools all of which had notices for improvement. I kept with it. I did it for the children, my colleagues and as a sense of self-pride and not ever wanting to show weakness and simply “give up”. I did not even know how much I earned nor was I bothered by remuneration or going through threshold, etc. The job was reward enough. But in just the last couple of years, I’ve had to do the one thing I vowed to myself I’d never do…and I have left.
    I cannot stand in front of a class and preach the doctrines given to me by “senior management”. I cannot brush aside why little Johnny asks why he has an asterisk next to his name on the seating plan because he is labelled FSM and so “must be” of a lower intelligence and so if I plan in and show extra support for him and he gets a high grade pass, the school will receive a lovely pat on the back.
    I cannot give any more hours of my life to any more acronyms and “DIRT” mark endless pieces of work that will not impact on the next lesson.
    I enrolled to become a “school teacher” not an ‘associate’ in an “academy” run by despotic, maniacal SLT that all seem to be moulded from the same mould. I went through the middle leader route. I did my MA in leadership and management, I was to become an assistant Head, but I took the reverse step and went back in to the classroom, leaving my TLR 1 position. Unfortunately, now even just being in the classroom doing what I love has left me disillusioned, frustrated, upset and unhappy.
    Such a pity.


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    […] and do Math, but where are they? What happened to the experienced teachers? Well, according to the “AngryExTeacher”, experienced teachers are leaving the profession either by quitting or retiring because teaching […]

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