Every lesson is a battle’: Why teachers are lining up to leave

Ellie Jones, 40, is an assistant secondary headteacher. Most mornings she gets up at 4 to do paperwork, arrives at school for 7.30 and gets home at the earliest around 6pm – often later – despite only teaching 11 hours (half a full timetable) a week. “I probably have around four or five hours sleep a night,” she says. At weekends she tries to have a full day off. She rarely manages it. The Guardian reports.

She is just one of the “outflux” of experienced teachers contributing to the recruitment crisis in schools. According to a recent National Education Union survey, 80% of classroom teachers have seriously considered leaving the profession in the past 12 months because of their workload. And a recent online poll by Teacher Tapp has found that only half of teachers reckon they’ll still be in the job in 10 years.

Such losses are unsustainable for any profession, says Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union: there is a current shortfall of 30,000 in teacher numbers, and though this year the primary recruitment target was met, only 80% of the teachers needed for secondaries were enticed to join the profession. Bousted wants to see a statutory limit on teachers’ working hours, and a revision in what schools must measure.

In the space of 48 hours last week, dozens of teachers who have recently resigned – or plan to before the 31 May deadline they must adhere to if they want to leave at the end of the school year – responded to a Guardian request to share their stories about why they were leaving.

Most cited workload as their number one reason. One primary teacher shared how she was forced to go into school during the holidays to supervise Sats revision. Another told how she sleeps for most of Saturday to recover from the hours she has put in during the week.

Some teachers shared harrowing stories of poor pupil behaviour and lack of support from senior management. “You do your best, but if you have three or four children in a classroom who struggle to be there, every lesson is a battleground,” said a teacher, who has recently left.

Damian Hinds, in his first major speech since taking over as education minister in January, promised major reforms on workload – particularly around marking, planning and data management. But the general secretary of NASUWT, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, Chris Keates, says teachers need more. “It’s no good ministers like Damian Hinds wringing their hands and saying ‘I feel your pain’ over workload. What [teachers] want to see is tangible solutions and action taken.”

Dr Emma Kell, a senior leader at a north London school and the author of the book How to Survive in Teaching, says “Some of the best teachers I’ve worked with are massive perfectionists,” she says. While most concerns are valid, “sometimes you can end up a little bit blinkered. No teacher ever has to pull an all-nighter. You have to be ruthless [and think] ‘the world is not going to end if I don’t finish that marking.’”

Read the full article ‘Every lesson is a battle’: Why teachers are lining up to leave

Have you recently retired or are you planning to leave before the May deadline? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Minigirl

    The world isn’t going to end if you don’t finish your marking? Don’t make me laugh – when SLT pull another ‘unanounced’ book scrutiny the next morning you’re stuffed! Our policy says all books are marked every day – don’t follow it, don’t have a job!

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