Tackling the mass exodus of teachers in schools
Many teachers across the world are leaving the profession, but stemming the tide requires the effort of multiple parties. Source: Shutterstock

Teaching is seen as a noble yet challenging profession, but many schools are grappling with the issue of teacher retention.

In Australia, news.com.au reported that the number of teachers leaving the profession is sparking a “crisis”, with an estimated 40 percent of new teachers leaving the profession within five years.

The report adds that veteran teachers are also leaving the profession in frustration.

Some of the most commonly cited reasons for leaving include the growing burden of administrative tasks, dealing with difficult students and abusive parents, and diminishing hours for teaching.

This situation is reflected across several other countries, including England.

A report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) noted that “only 60 percent of teachers remained in state-funded schools five years after starting. For ‘high-priority’ subjects like physics and maths, this five-year retention drops to just 50 percent.”

The Guardian reported that overwork and lack of support are driving teachers across England out of the profession much faster than they can be replaced.

“A lack of teachers means classes are getting bigger. Bigger classes are harder to control. Losing control stops teachers teaching. With less teaching time, students make less progress. And that can be catastrophic for teachers,” it said.

Despite a retention and recruitment crisis in the teaching profession, staff development budgets have fallen by 12 percent in secondary schools and seven percent in primary schools, as highlighted in research findings from the Teacher Development Trust.

Meanwhile, in the US, last year’s data from the US Census Bureau noted that “Teachers are leaving their jobs for other careers at a rate that has grown steadily every year in the past three years.”

National expert on teachers, Dr Richard Ingersoll, who is from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, conducted a longitudinal study on the elementary and secondary teaching force over the last 30 years and found that 44 percent of new teachers leave within five years.

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) notes that some of the reasons for the turnover include “a lack of administrative support, working in districts with lower salaries, dissatisfactions with testing and accountability pressures, lack of opportunities for advancement, and dissatisfaction with working conditions”.

Supporting teachers to improve teacher retention

While reasons for the high turnover of teachers vary between countries, efforts to tackle the issue must be tailored according to the needs of each country.

In the US, the LPI proposes that policymakers should get at the heart of the key factors associated with the turnover, including improving teacher’s compensation, teacher preparation and support, and teaching conditions.

In the UK, the Department of Education is working towards removing unnecessary workload for teachers and leaders to help them focus on their teaching and development, in addition to working with the profession, teaching unions, Ofsted and more to reduce unnecessary workload for teachers.

Meanwhile, the Graduate School of Education and Human Development suggests that creating a supportive management environment, establishing a mentoring programme to help experienced and new teachers; improving the work environment and providing leadership opportunities are some of the ways to improve teacher retention.

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