‘I’ve quit teaching without a job to go to – I just can’t handle the workload anymore’

 After 20 years at the same school, this school leader has reached breaking point. Here, he reflects on the relentless workload and bittersweet ending to his teaching career in the Tes.

At Christmas, I will have worked in my current school for 20 years. I’ve often joked that if I was a stick of rock, the name of the school would run through the middle. I’ve been a teacher, held a variety of leadership positions, and seen us in just about every Ofsted category.

The life of a deputy headteacher in a small school is a busy one. No two days are the same and there are few teachers to share the workload. My role includes leading on curriculum and data, being the designated school lead for looked-after children, exams officer for Joint Council for Qualifications centres, quality assurance for several different vocational qualifications, and many lesser roles (showing parents around, fire marshall, school PR, etc).

On the day before the half-term break, I had my performance management meeting. While setting my targets for next year, we had a discussion about the data I had exported from the system for a report.  It quickly dawned on me that the expectation was for me to go through the data line by line – despite having a data manager. Suddenly, the penny dropped about the hours I was doing.

Perhaps the phrase: “what would you like me not to do to fit this in?” wasn’t the best response but sometimes you have to stop and think about your personal health and wellbeing. We agreed that I would go home and think about my position and how I felt about the job.

I’ve thought briefly about leaving in the past, but my love of the school and the students had always been enough to make me stop.

It’s hard to turn your back on a school you’ve worked at for 20 years (with a £60K salary) without good reason, especially when you enjoy your job, are good at it and are well respected by colleagues and students.

The most frustrating thing about being in my position is the seeing the same story play out in schools across the country.  Most schools are stuck in a rut, unable to see any way other than what they do now.  I’m waiting for a sheep or two to break away from the flock and try something different, but with the Department for Education wolf nipping at their heels, I don’t expect it to happen anytime soon. 

Read the full article ‘I’ve quit teaching without a job to go to – I just can’t handle the workload anymore’

Have you done the same? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: Employment, Health, Leadership, Mental Health and Teaching.


  1. Frustrated head

    I am afraid as a Principal I am doing the same thing this summer. It is time for my family and me, I cannot keep firefighting the way I am with so little resource, time to let someone else have a go.

  2. Nobody

    Taught from 1994 until 2012 – then the Head of the school found me rocking on the floor of the classroom in tears. It was the second morning back after Christmas, my world collapsed.

    I found it increasingly impossible to keep on top of the demands of senior managements. This school had me in for three weeks of the summer term, and had an expectation I would be in over the other holidays.

    I’d always considered myself to be dynamic, fun and effective in class. Results were good, relationships were excellent, behaviour was well managed. Parents liked me, children liked me, colleagues liked me.

    Five years, three suicide attempts, an extended period sedated, therapists, psychotherapists and a psychiatrist later…

    I’m angry. Education has become toxic and somebody should be paying for the misery my family and I have had to endure because of it. I’m now a discharged bankrupt with six year old clothes because I have not had any income. My wife is on medication due to the stress of keeping a roof over our heads.

    I’m really angry.

    But I was good at teaching because I loved doing it. So here’s me, getting a pencil case ready and looking forward to a day doing supply. At best I get two days a week because I’m refusing to do extended placements involving planning and meetings.

    I really love being a teacher. I really hate education and the spineless way senior management teams crush their staff to meet pointless Ofsted criteria. We aren’t doing this to make schools better, we’re doing it to justify their jobs. Three-coloured marking policies for children who can read? Yes, I’m angry.

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