'Unmanageable' workload forcing teachers to consider leaving profession - study


Four in five teachers have thought about leaving the profession as concerns about workload escalate, a study of education staff has shown. 

Members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) union, holding their annual conference in Liverpool from Monday, said a lack of respect for the profession was likely dissuading people from entering the industry. 

The study of around 900 ATL members found 93% cited workload as the main reason for people not wanting to enter the teaching profession, while 91% identified a poor work-life balance as the main contributor. 

Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: "The Government has missed its teacher trainee recruitment targets for the last four years and record numbers are leaving the profession.  

"The Government must take heed of what teachers say is fuelling the crisis and admit that tackling the shortage is about making the profession a more attractive one to join, and stay in." 

According to the survey, some 83% of members said they had considered leaving the profession and among those, almost nine in 10 (87%) said this was due to workload.  

Anecdotal evidence during the survey found an English teacher from Oxfordshire who said the "relentless workload" contributed to the breakdown in her marriage, while a senior member of staff from a Merseyside primary said: "In 23 years of teaching I have never felt so pressured and unable to achieve, both in terms of my work and family life. I worry greatly about the mental health of everyone involved in education... both teachers and children." 

To cope with staff shortages in schools, almost a third (31%) said existing teachers are being re-deployed, often to teach subjects in which they do not hold a degree. 

The ATL general secretary said: "So far the Government's response has been inadequate, relying on expensive gimmicks like 'Troops to Teachers' that cost £10 million and resulted in just 41 veteran recruits. They haven't created a coherent teacher education programme, for initial teacher training or continued professional development. 

"The situation is becoming a vicious circle - the abysmal work-life balance puts people off and then teacher shortages contribute to an unmanageable workload, making more teachers want to leave. 

"There has to be a serious attempt to reduce teacher workload and to treat teachers as professionals, with the respect and salaries they deserve. The Government has to accept we are facing a crisis and put credible measures in place that will produce systemic change." 

The ATL's conference in Liverpool runs until Wednesday. 

A Department for Education spokesman said: "No-one is more determined to raise the status of teachers than this Government and we want to work constructively with the sector and unions to do so.

"Our White Paper includes a range of reforms to recognise teaching as the high-skilled, high-status profession it is.

"Despite claims to the contrary, teaching remains hugely popular, with UCAS figures showing a rise in teacher training applications and acceptances, and over a thousand more graduates training to teach secondary subjects compared to last year.

"We will always listen to the concerns of the sector and only last week accepted in full the recommendations of three sector-led groups on workload that will help schools bring about real change, such as drastically cutting down the data they collect and ending the duplication of tasks, so that teachers can focus on what matters most - teaching."