Long hours and low pay are forcing young teachers to quit

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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Research raises concerns over a lack of experienced teachers as high workload, low pay and too little CPD are blamed for high rates of burn-out. Pete Henshaw reports

Long hours, low starting salaries and limited access to CPD are creating a risk of teacher burn-out “especially in the early stages of careers”, researchers have said.

A new research paper is warning that teachers in England are working 48.2 hours a week on average – the third highest out of all 36 OECD countries and 19 per cent longer than the average across these jurisdictions.

However, at the same time, high workload is preventing teachers in England from accessing CPD that could help them handle the pressure, with our teachers only accessing four days a year on average compared to an OECD average of 10.5 days.

The upshot is that only 48 per cent of teachers in England have more than 10 years’ experience as young teachers burn-out and leave the profession.

The publication – Teacher Workload and Professional Development in England’s Secondary Schools – has been produced by the independent research organisation the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

It is based on the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Last run in 2013, TALIS involved responses from 100,000 secondary school teachers across its 36 jurisdictions.

The EPI analysis shows that only in Japan and Alberta (Canada) do teachers work longer hours than in England. In fact, half of England’s teachers work between 40 and 58 hours and a fifth work 60 hours or more a week.

However, while time spent teaching lessons in England is around average, the report shows that it is the time spent planning lessons, writing assessments, marking and on other functions including administration “that is driving long working hours in England”.

According to 60 per cent of teachers in England, the high workload is having a serious affect on the amount of CPD they can access.

The report states: “These relatively long working hours are hindering teachers’ access to CPD. Of the 36 jurisdictions in the dataset, England ranked 30th in terms of the average number of days spent in a year on certain types of professional development.”

England’s four-day-a-year average for CPD compares to teachers in Shanghai, who receive an average of 40 days a year.

The report adds: “Teachers in England who feel very well prepared for various aspects of teaching are 20 to 22 per cent less likely to complain of finding their workloads unmanageable than those who do not feel well prepared. This suggests the impact of workload on CPD may be creating a vicious cycle.”

Furthermore, the analysis shows that teachers in England are paid below average when compared to “similarly educated workers in the wider economy”. However, while the average starting salary for a secondary teacher in England is 16 per cent lower than the OECD average, the typical salary after 15 years’ service is four per cent higher.

The report states: “Fast progression in pay over the first years of teaching, generated by previous pay regulations in the state-funded sector, have meant that while young teachers take on slightly more hours than others, their pay has tended to be considerably worse. That combination may be driving turnover rates and the demographics of the teaching workforce in England.”

The TALIS figures show that England had one of the fastest reductions in the proportion of teachers aged over 50 in secondary education between 2005 and 2014. At the same time, England has one of the highest proportions of teachers under 30, and only 48 per cent of its teachers have more than 10 years’ experience compared with an average of 64 per cent across the OECD.

The report adds: “The relatively young teaching workforce in England may therefore be a signal that teachers are experiencing ‘burn-out’, before they even step in to leadership roles.
“This evidence suggests that whether or not a teacher can cope with long working hours is likely to have as great if not a greater influence on whether they remain a teacher for the duration of their career as their effectiveness in the profession.

Combined with extremely low levels of CPD, which might otherwise improve the efficacy of teachers who need support to improve, this does not suggest a labour market that is likely to work effectively for pupils.”

David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, said: “Sometimes policy-makers spend a disproportionate amount of time debating school structural reform and too little time considering how we can improve the quality of teaching. This analysis highlights that the English education system is unusual internationally in its long working hours for teachers, low levels of CPD, and what looks like a high burn-out rate of teachers.

"Combined with relatively low starting pay for teachers, these three features of our school system have clear risks for recruiting, retaining and developing a high-quality teacher workforce. Addressing these challenges should be a major focus for government and school leadership.”

The report’s author Peter Sellen, chief economist at the EPI, added: “Our analysis signals that the extra working hours, combined with lack of CPD access and lower-than-average starting pay, risks leading to a ‘burn-out’ of teachers in England, consistent with other research.

“This effect is demonstrated by the sharp fall in the number of teachers over 50 in secondary education, and the fact England has a much younger and less experienced teacher workforce compared with the rest of the OECD.”

The full report can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/2d2221X


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