According to a recent government report, nearly one-third of teachers who began teaching in state schools in 2010 didn’t make it to 2015 before quitting. Even more alarmingly, 13 per cent of those who handed in their resignation did so within the first year.
While these specific numbers are from England, we’re seeing mirrored circumstances here in Australia. Considering our student numbers are estimated to grow by 26 per cent by 2022, that’s a fairly significant concern. So what is causing this mass exodus and how can it be curbed before we reach a critical shortage of educators across the nation?
It’s hard to capture the needs of all the teachers, but there are three main things that are cited when investigating the core root of educators jumping ship so early on in their careers.
Lack of support
Teaching can be quite a demanding role, particularly when there’s a heavy curriculum to teach in a short time. Combine that with the possibility of having students with behavioural or learning difficulties in the classroom, and it’s clear just how much support is needed to give our teachers the best chance to do a good job.
The problem is, most graduates struggle to find a permanent position straight away. They are more often than not offered a short-term contract, which starts them out on turbulent ground. The lack of induction training and ongoing support that many schools are not able to provide adds further pressure, until it all becomes too much.
Although there’s an idea that teachers enjoy short hours and lots of holidays, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, many educators site their heavy workloads that turn into long hours (and working through their supposed ‘school holidays’) as a major cause of stress.
This is unfortunately largely due to a growing expectation of teachers’ capability to complete marking, reports and more, which is disproportionate with what is actually feasible.
In addition to this, the pressure placed on teachers to be wholly responsible for children is a growing concern. Particularly in primary education, parents are increasingly assuming their children’s teacher will impart crucial disciplinary and life-management skills in lieu of parental responsibility, which has been cited as causing additional stress to teacher workload.
And, of course, there is the issue of salary. Australian teachers are still grossly underpaid, particularly when compared to the pressures and demands that their job generates.
It’s little wonder why, feeling undervalued, under-supported and underpaid, new teachers are leaving the workforce in swarms. If Australia wants to avoid an inevitable shortage in the coming years, action needs to be taken immediately from a policy-led reform.
The government firstly needs to recognise the real concerns that teachers are flagging. This is the only way they can start to equip new teachers and prepare them for the reality of the workforce they are about to join.
With the education of our future generations at risk, the bottom line is that change needs to occur on a big scale – and quickly.
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